Gravesend, a town in Kent in the South East of England, welcomed its first Sikhs in the 1950’s. Most of the Sikhs in Gravesend arrived during the 1960’s, and there has been a steady increase in numbers ever since. Now, there are estimated to be about 15,000 Sikhs in the area, over 15 per cent of the population of Gravesham, which now includes Gravesend.
Up to the late 1960’s, Sikhs gathered in a house in Edwin Street for religious services, and then moved to the Gurdwara in Clarence Place, previously a Church, which was the focus of the community until 2010.
By the late 1990’s, the community had outgrown these premises, and the Gurdwara purchased an area of land off Saddington Street, adjacent to their existing football field, Sports Centre and Education Centre. This would make it possible to combine all the main activities on one site.
The Gurdwara Committee worked closely with the wider community to develop the brief for the project to construct a new Gurdwara on the site. It was clear from the beginning that the community wanted the building to reflect Indian cultural origins, and at the same time provide facilities suitable for Sikhs living in modern day Britain.
The 8.5 acre site offered the chance to create a landmark project reflecting the growing confidence of British Sikhs.
Under the leadership, foresight and ambition of the late Gurdev Singh Raipur, then President, the Gurdwara Committee appointed Calfordseaden as Architects for the development, with local resident Harbhajan Singh Biring (Teja) as the lead architect. The project, funded entirely by the local community, was completed under, then President Jaspal Singh Dhesi.
The Gurdwara set up their own construction company, GNG Construction Ltd, to take advantage of skills that existed in the local community. However, for the detailed stonework and woodcarving, specialist companies in India were identified to provide the relevant expertise.