Rome, through its soldiers who did garrison duty after the conquest
of Britain, first brought Christianity to our land. Though much is vague
about this early church we know that it gave us our first martyr, St..
Alban, and that three bishops from this country attended the Council of
Arles, in the South of France, in 314A.D. Disaster came when the Roman
legions were withdrawn about 400 AD. and the pagan Saxons overran the
Rome, through St. Gregory the Great and St.. Augustine brought
Christianity again in 597 AD. to south-eastern England and this gift was
supplemented by that coming from the North, brought by the missionaries
from Ireland and Scotland. St.. Augustine first based his work in
Canterbury, the royal centre of the time, and later was able to branch
out and to found churches under St.. Justus at Rochester, St.. Mellitus
in London and St.. Paulinus in York.
St.. Augustine founded the diocese of London in 604 AD. and made St..
Mellitus, who was one of the second band of Benedictine monks sent by
St.. Gregory to help him its first Bishop. His reign of ten years was
terminated when, following on the death of St.. Ethelbert of Kent, the
pagan Saxons drove him from his diocese and the next bishop was not
appointed for forty years. This was Cedd, whose consecration had been by
the Bishop of Lindisfarne, Holy Island, off the coast of Northumberland,
and his successor was Wini; and then came St.. Erkenwald, who was buried
c.690 AD in his cathedral church of St.. Paul’s. He had been the
founder of a monastery for men at Chertsey, and for women at Barking, of
which his sister St.. Ethelburga was first Abbess. So, perhaps a ripple
of Christianity had already reached the embryo Acton.
Towards the end of the Saxon period, 1000AD, the parish boundaries of
London and of much of the east and southeast of England were practically
settled. The diocese of London had been endowed with large properties in
Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Essex. These properties were later
subdivided into common-lands and prebendal estates for the upkeep of the
canons of St.. Paul’s Cathedral. It is known that nine prebendal
estates were made from the manor of Willesden alone.
Of the beginnings of Acton nothing definite is known. From its name
Acton, ac being Anglo-Saxon for oak, and ton for town
or village, it is permissible to conjecture that the site was once
an oak forest, and the name still persists in Oak Way, Oakley Avenue,
Old Oak Common Lane, Oakdene etc.
Two Roman roads cross near Acton, and an early settlement could be
expected on the mound, above the stream, which ran down and joined the
Stamford Brook, but, except its name, no trace of its Anglo-Saxon
history has come down to us.
By Norman times the land was divided into fiefs and manors, and one
reference says, "a part of the parish of Acton, with the parish of
Ealing, became a part of the manor of Fulham and was granted to the
Bishop of London. In the reign of King Henry III (1216-72), Galfry de
Lucy, Dean of St.. Paul’s, founded a chantry in St.. Paul’s
cathedral Church. A Chantry was the name in the Middle Ages, given to
the endowment of a priest in order that he might say Mass daily for the
repose of the soul of the founder and his relatives and later it became
in incorrect abbreviation of Chantry Chapel where the Mass was said. To
endow this Chantry, Galfry de Lucy gave his manor, house and lands in
the parish of Acton to the Bishop of London but reserved 100 shillings
per annum to the priest saying Mass at the Chantry for his soul and the
soul of Eustace de Fauconberg, a former Bishop of London, and his
Later by a deed signed on 28 may 1244, Peter son of Aluf, confirmed a
gift, that had been made by Gregory, son of Walter, of three messages in
the parish of Acton to the Dean and Chapter of St.. Paul’s for the
continued maintenance of a chaplain for this Chantry.
These lands were probably Acton or Berrymede Priory and Friars Place.
The former was situated behind the present Town Hall and roughly
enclosed by Berrymede Gardens, Avenue Road, and Winchester Street; the
latter was in the neighbourhood of the Western region Acton Station and
its position is still recalled in the names Friary Road, Friars Place
and Friars Way.
This Gregory, the son of Walter, (Gregory Fitzwalter), was probably
the first Rector, as given on the list inside the western door of the
present St.. Mary’s Church.
When the first church was erected and the first Mass said is
conjectural and it is probable that edifice after edifice was built on
the site of the present St.. Mary’s Church, from wood to stone to
The first church of which there is any record was built in 1220 AD
but beyond the list of Rectors:
1244. Gregory Fitzwalter
1290. John de Acton
1320. Ralph de Acton
1336. Adam Pykeman
1361. Richard de Pertenhale
1366. William de Coleyne
1393. Richard Thurston
1400. John Wyrsatt
1400. John Wyghton
1439. John Dalby
1443. John Berdeville
1452. John Isaac
1486. John Byrde
There seems to be little information available.
In 1327 AD at the taxation of the diocese of London the church at
Acton was valued at 20 marks. In March 1327, Stephen Gravesend, Bishop
of London, confirmed a grant, made by Adam de Herwinton, Clerk to the
Prior and Convent of St.. Bartholomew in West Smith field, of certain
lands and tenements which he held in the parish of Acton of the Bishop
of London and the produce from these lands was probably used to maintain
a Chantry priest in St. Bartholomew’s Priory.
In 1486 John Byrde became Rector and had a very long ministry of 56
How can we picture Acton at the beginning of Father John Byrde’s
ministry, probably as a small village clustered about its parish church,
with two fairly large "Manors" adjoining, whose produce went
to help maintain the chantry-priests in old St. Paul’s Cathedral and
St. Bartholomew’s Priory, the raising of pigs made easy by the
proximity of the oak forests. The people were united by one loyalty to
Pope and King all known to their parish priest, who was their true
"Father in God".
In 1534 the change began. Henry VIII broke with the Pope, over the
question of the divorce from Queen Katherine, and in June 1534 the Act
of Supremacy was passed. Its beginning states: "Be it enacted by
the authority of this present parliament that the King, our Sovereign
Lord, his heirs and successors Kings of this realm, shall be taken,
accepted and reputed the only Supreme Head in earth of the Church of
England, called Ecclesia Anglicana.
We do not know the thoughts of Fr. John Byrde on the change but it
was brought home forcibly to the holders of the lands of Acton Priory
and Friars Place by a change of landlords, form that of the Bishop of
London to that of the King and then to Lord John Russell, who later
acquired the estates of Woburn and Tavistock Abbeys and was soon to be
Duke of Bedford and left his name locally in Bedford Park. Perhaps at
first there was a small change in the usual manner of life in Acton, but
the proximity to London must have caused all the news to be fresh and
Many of the bishops and abbots conformed, being dominated by the
power and majesty of the King to whom many owed their position, but the
Bishop of Rochester (St. John Fisher) and Sir Thomas More (now canonised)
refused to accept the Oath of Supremacy and, after imprisonment in the
Tower, were martyred on Tower Hill in 1535, and six Carthusians were
hanged at Tyburn, now Marble Arch, among them John Hall, vicar of
Isleworth, and Richard Reynolds, confessor to the Syon Monastery,
From 1534-1539 the Mass was retained in Henry’s system of religion
but the Suppression of the Monasteries brought such a sense of loss to
the common people that it led to the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, and
then the replacing of the Mass in Latin by the Prayer Book in English to
the Western Rising in 1549. Leadership was lacking, as many of the
nobles and those wishing to rise in the social scale accepted the wealth
and lands of the monasteries and later, the Trade Guilds. So by 1558 at
the accession of Elizabeth there were two divergent parties in the
country, one still hoping for the return of the Old Faith and the other
already violently anti-clerical and determined to hold what they had
The break was widened under Elizabeth. A new Act of Supremacy was
passed declaring the Queen to be Head of the Church, as her father had
claimed, and this was followed by an Act of Uniformity of Religion. To
enforce this all persons were required to attend their parish church,
Catholic altars were to be removed and, to abolish the Mass completely,
a revised Book of Common Prayer, in English, was to be brought into use
by 24 June 1559. These changes were probably carried out locally during
the rectorship of Hugo Turnbull (1542-1563).
So the Mass ended in St. Mary’s Church, Acton, but the structure of
the building remained, until a rebuilding took place about 1583, when
John Kendall was rector.
* * * * *
Change bred further change and by 1642 the Puritans had become a
power in the land and were challenging that of the King, then Charles I.
After the Battle of Brentford a body of Puritan Parliamentarian soldiers
took up their quarters in Acton. They took possession of the rectory,
the Rev Daniel Featley being Rector, and apparently acted in a state of
iconoclastic fury, for after consuming all his food, they burnt his
barns and stables. They then proceeded to force an entrance into the
Parish Church and laid desecrating hands on everything, overturned and
defaced the font, smashed the windows, tore down the chancel-rails and
rood screen and, having carried them into the High Street, burnt them.
All this because the Puritan soldiers objected to the Rector allowing
"pottage" in the Church. "Pottage" was their
nickname for the use of "The Book of Common Prayer".
In 1865 the old parish church was pulled down and the present St.
Mary’s Church erected.
Catholics in England suffered under the Penal Laws from 1559-1829.
From 1559 –1700 the persecution was very active and brutal, though
somewhat intermittent, and was intended to cripple the Catholic body and
stamp out that religion. From 1700-1829 it became more merely repressive
in its nature and gradually the most extreme penalties were eased.
Perhaps a short list of some of the Penal Laws may help in
understanding why the outward practice of Catholicism disappeared from
Acton and England and practising Catholics unless they were very wealthy
or influential went "underground".
£100 fine and 1 year’s imprisonment for saying or
£20 a month for not attending an Anglican Church.
High Treason to be or to make a convert. Penalty =
hanging, drawing and quartering, loss of property and attaint of blood.
The hanging, drawing and quartering was usually carried
out at Tyburn Tree, now Marble Arch, and this was within walking
distance of Acton.
High Treason for a Jesuit or a Seminary priest to be
within the realm and a felony to shelter them.
Convicted recusants to communicate in the Anglican Church
of forfeit £20 for the 1st offence, £40 for the second and
£60 for the third offence.
A recusant was one who had been convicted of not attending
or refusing to attend service in the Anglican Church. Even in Charles II
reign (1630-1685) there was a total of 10,236 convicted recusants in a
return of 23 counties.
£100 fine if a recusant was found within 10 miles of
The whole of Acton is well within this limit.
Every convicted recusant was disabled from prosecuting or
defending any action in the civil courts.
Catholics were forbidden to hold an army commission or any
other public or municipal office or to be executors or guardians,
lawyers, physicians and apothecaries.
Catholics were prevented from sitting in Parliament by the
imposition of Oaths.
No Catholic who refused the Oaths could purchase or
inherit land, it passed to the Protestant next of kin.
Any Catholic keeping a school to be imprisoned for life.
£100 reward for the conviction of a Catholic for sending
children abroad to be educated.
£100 reward for the apprehension of a priest.
This reward brought into being the profitable occupation of
Pursuivant, anyone who made or increased his income by claiming the
statutory reward for the arrest of priests. The operation was so
lucrative that the pursuivants or informers formed themselves into
bands. Sometimes they found it more profitable to offer a priest freedom
for a certain sum and continue the blackmail. The priest found it wiser
to submit to this, as the law gave him no protection and, when in
prison, the greed and rapacity of the keepers were equal to if not
greater than that of the pursuivants.
There is, however, one outstanding recusant in the history of Acton,
James Radcliffe, 3rd and last Earl of Derwentwater. Descended
from a long line of Catholic ancestors, dwelling in Northumberland and
Westmoreland. He was sent to France in 1702, aged 13 years, with his
brother Charles aged 11 years, and lived at St. Germaine-en-Laye, until
he reached his majority with his cousin, James Edward Stuart, known to
English history as "The Old Pretender". In 1710 he returned to
England and visited his estates in Northumberland and Cumberland and
included Derwentwater. Upon his marriage in 1712 with Anna Maria, eldest
daughter of Sir John Webb Bart. of Canford in Dorset and Hatherhope, in
Gloucestershire, whom he had known from childhood for she was educated
at the English Augustinian Convent in Paris. He did a lot of rebuilding
to the ancestral home at Dilston and in the meantime resided at
Hatherhope, except when he was at Acton. The house at Acton had been
built by Sir Henry Garway in 1638 and was, for a time, the residence of
Major Philip Skippen, one of Cromwell’s Parliamentary Generals.
In 1715 James Radcliffe became involved in the Jacobite uprising in
Scotland, with the object of restoring the Stuarts to the throne but the
rebellion failed and the Earl of Derwentwater and his brother Charles
surrendered at Preston and were brought to London for trial. Charles
escaped and reached France but Lord Derwentwater was impeached for High
Treason and tried before the Court of High Commission, sitting in
Westminster Hall, the Lord Chancellor, (Cowper), presiding as Lord High
Steward. He was found guilty and condemned on 9 February 1716, the
"It is adjudged by this court, that you, James Derwentwater,
return to the Prison of the Tower from whence you came, from thence you
must be drawn to the place of execution; when you come there, you must
be hanged by the neck, but not till you are dead; for you must be cut
down alive; then your bowels must be taken out and burnt before your
face; then your head must be severed from your body and your body
divided into four quarters and these must be at the King’s disposal.
And God Almighty be merciful to your soul."
This sentence was later commuted to death by the headman’s axe.
At his trial and twice afterwards in the Tower he was offered his
life if he would acknowledge the Hanoverian title and conform to the
Protestant Religion. The Earl, without hesitation, refused the terms and
declared that he would sooner part with his life than his faith. He, and
Lord Kenmure, were executed on Tower Hill early on the morning of 24
February 1716, and while on the scaffold he was again offered his life
if he would change his faith, to which he replied: "Life on these
terms would be too dear a purchase."
But the interest for Acton lies in a nameless obelisk, which for
years stood in a dell in the grounds of Derwentwater House, and has
since been removed and re-erected on the North side of Acton park. On
its removal a gun-metal plate was placed on it, claiming that it had
been erected by Lady Derwentwater as a memorial to her husband. This
plate was soon stolen and was later replaced by a wooden one.
There are four conflicting accounts of the burial of the Earl:
His last request in the Tower was to be buried at Dilston. This
was refused by the Authorities.
He was buried secretly in St. Giles in the Fields, where many
recusants dwelt and later re-interred at Dilsten.
His body was taken to the surgery of a Mr Metcalfe and embalmed,
then to Dagenham Park, near Romford, and then to Dilston. When the body
was embalmed the heart was removed and remained in Mr Metcalfe’s house
for four months. Then it was taken to Pontoise, to the Convent of the
English Benedictine nuns and finally to the English Augustinian
Canonesses in Paris to whom he had bequeathed it before his execution.
It was carried away by the communists in 1871, when they sacked the
chapel at Neuilly.
The body was brought secretly to Acton, interred in the dell,
where the obelisk was placed, later removed to Hatherhope and finally to
Dilston, the ancestral home in Northumberland.
After the execution the Countess of Derwentwater stayed for a time in
Kensington and Hatherhope and then returned to Acton with her infant
son. In 1721 she moved to Brussels and died there of small pox on 30
August 1723. The young 4th Earl died, at the house of his
grandfather, Sir John Webb, in Great Marlborough Street, London, on
December 31st 1731. He was buried by the side of his mother
in the church of St. Monica, belonging to the English Augustinian
Canonesses, at Louvain, Belgium.
Charles Radcliffe the brother of James, had been living in France
since his escape in 1715 and claimed the title on the death of the 4th
In 1745 Charles Edward Stuart, the "Young pretender" landed
in Scotland in an attempt to regain the throne. On22 November 1745
Charles Radcliffe was taken prisoner on board a French Privateer, which
had sailed from Dunkirk for Montrose, by the English Frigate
"Sheerness" off the Dogger Bank.
He was brought to trial one year later on the charge of "High
Treason" which had been recorded against him 30 years before. He
was condemned and executed on 8 December 1746, saying on the scaffold,
"I die a true obedient and humble son of the Catholic Apostolic
Church in perfect charity with all mankind and a true well-wisher to my
The Countess of Newburgh was his wife. The names Derwentwater and
Newburgh still survive as those of Acton roads.
The execution of the Earl would naturally make the position of his
retainers and dependants very difficult and encourage the pursuivants
and common informers, and the outlook for the recusants in Acton must
have looked very bleak indeed.
Even in the darkest hour the light was not quite extinguished. In
1741, Richard Challoner returned to England and, at the convent in
Hammersmith was consecrated Bishop of Debora, an event which was to have
a profound effect on Catholicism in England.
Following upon the outbreak of the French Revolution,1789, the
English Orders of Nuns in France and the Low Countries, established
there in post-Reformation times, had to flee before the revolutionary
armies. The English Carmelite nuns of Hogstreat, near Antwerp, founded
in 1678, arrived in London in July 1794. The community then consisted of
14 nuns and their chaplain, Fr. Joris, sometimes referred to as Fr. or
Mr George. Among the nuns was Sr Mary Augusta Douglass, sister of Bishop
John Douglass, then Vicar Apostolic of the London District. Two or three
days were spent at Brook Green House, Hammersmith, under the care of a
Mrs Bailey. Living at Brook Green House at the time was the Abbe Dancell,
also an exile from France. He it was who found a vacant house for the
community at Friar’s Place, Acton, and slept a night alone on the
floor there guarding their baggage. The owner of the house was Mr Tubbs,
who lived in an other house nearby and whose name is perpetuated in
Tubbs Road, Willesden.
Sr Mary Augusta describes Friars Place, her spelling is Fryer’s
Place, as a green or plain, surrounded by fields, having a few houses
dotted over it and being a mile or a little more from North Acton and
East Acton. There was no drinking water, everyone living at Friar’s
Place had to fetch water from Acton. The community entered into
possession of their house on 15 July 1794. The largest room was used as
chapel and choir and the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly placed there on
Sunday 10 August 1794.
"We sang the Te Deum and Mr George the prayers. Mr Dancell also
said Mass that day."
"There was a French priest who lived about a mile or two from
us. He came every Sunday, Holyday, and some other days of devotion to
say Mass in our chapel. There was one Mrs Welch and her niece and two
men that were Catholics, they came to our chapel to hear Mass. It was a
great comfort to them to have Mass so near."
Among other visitors were Mr and Mrs Charles Butler. Mr Charles
Butler was one of the leading Catholics in London. Born 14 August 1750
he received his early education at a Catholic School in Hammersmith,
kept by a Mr Plunkett. Then after some years at Douai he returned to
England and studied law, becoming a fanous conveyancer and a great
friend of Lord Eldon. He entered Lincoln’s Inn but could not be called
to the bar nor hold any official position owing to the penal laws. At 37
he became Secretary to the Catholic Committee which proposed to work, in
conjunction with Bishop Douglass, for the Catholic Relief Act and, when
this was on the statute book four years later, he was called to the bar
to become the first Catholic K.C. since pre-Reformation days. Besides
removing the restrictions which prevented Catholics practising as
barristers and solicitors, the Catholic Relief Act of 1791 granted
legality to Catholic chapels, if they were registered, and allowed all
priests, who had taken a form of oath acceptable alike to the Government
and the Vicars Apostolic, to say mass in these registered chapels and in
private houses if not more than 5 outsiders were present. No chapel was
allowed to have a bell or steeple and no religious habits were allowed
to be worn in the street.
At this time his town house was lent to the Carmelite Community from
Lierre and the family were staying at their country house some distance
from Acton. Mr Charles Butler found that Canford House, Dorset, was
available and prevailed upon Sir John Webb, descendant of the father of
Anna Maria, Countess of Derwentwater, the owner, to let the community at
Acton have it, and the move was made on 3 December 1784. There were
still some months on the ease to run and as it is most likely that Mr
Butler had paid the rent, it is possible that he occupied the house at
Friar’s Place, following the community’s departure, as a summer
residence. Sr Mary Augusta states that there were oratories in both of
Mr Butler’s houses, where Mass was said, so it is fair to presume that
Mass would still be said in the house in Friar’s Place, whenever the
family was in residence.
Charles Butler took silk in 1832 but his interest was in his law
writings, of which there are many volumes, rather than in practice. His
brother Alban was also a great writer, his best known work being
Butler’s "Lives of the saints". Charles Butler died on 2
In the Laity’s Directory of 1825 there is mention of a Rev John
Kearns being at Acton, but whether at Friar's Place or Acton House is
Acton House was said to have been built in 1638 by Sir Henry Garway.
Later it became the residence of Major General Philip Skippen, one of
Cromwell’s Parliamentary Generals who died in 1660. It was sold by his
son to Sir Hele Hook, Bart., in 1686. It is believed to have been in the
possession of Lady Derwentwater from about 1712 till 1721 when it was
returned to the ownership of a Mr Eyre. In 1795 it belonged to James
Stratten, Esq., and shortly afterwards it must have come into the hands
of Mr Nicholas Selby, together with the buildings and gardens opposite.
The house is described as being on the corner of Churchfield Road and
Horn Lane and the buildings opposite as facing what is now known as King
Street and looking towards St. Mary’s Church.
Mr Nicholas Selby (1754-1834) was a Catholic and is described as
living in both Acton House and Springfield House and also as having
built Derwentwater House in 1804, which he let to a Mr Kelly, also a
Catholic. Also in 1804 he sold Acton House to a Community of the Sisters
of the Visitation under the following circumstances.
Mrs Tunstall, widow of Cuthbert Tunstall esq., of Wycliffe,
Yorkshire, (died 1790), wished to establish a Convent of the Order of
the Visitation in England. She entered into correspondence with the 2nd
Monastery of Rouen, but, owing to the French revolution, had to give up
the project for the time being. In 1802, however, she heard that some of
the community of Rouen had taken refuge with the Visitation nuns at
Lisbon. Enquiries were set on foot and it was soon found that six nuns
were available and ready to come to England to help in the new
Foundation. An outbreak of war between England and France (May 1803)
delayed matters further, but eventually the Sisters, now only three in
number, landed at Falmouth on 16 January 1804. They stayed at the
Spetisbury Convent, near Blandford, Dorset, for about six weeks and then
met Mrs Tunstall for the first time. When Acton House was ready, they
continued their journey towards London, making a short stay at Wardour
Castle, as the guests of Lord and Lady Arundell. They reached Acton on
16 March 1804, and on 19 March, the Feast of St. Joseph, John Douglass,
Bishop of Centuriae, presided at their formal installation and settled
the limits of the enclosure.
The Sisters were soon joined by ladies who had been waiting for their
arrival. Their first postulant was a Miss Garnham, of Wisbeach, and on
December 13th of that year, Miss Mary Weld entered. She was
the second daughter of Thomas Weld, Esq., of Lulworth Castle in Dorset,
and was later destined to be their first English Superior.
(Mr Thomas Weld was an outstanding Catholic of this time. His family
was large and his estates were extensive and distributed throughout
England, from Lulworth in Dorset to Stonyhurst in Lancashire.)
After a few years it was found that Acton House was too small for the
growing community. No additions could be safely made to the building, so
a removal elsewhere was decided on. Through Lady Arundell a suitable
house was found at Shepton Mallett, Somerset, and on August 21st-22nd
1810 the community began to move from Acton. The Sisters sold Acton
House back to its former owner, Mr Selby, who decided to demolish it at
once and lent them another house, until they had finished the work of
removal to Shepton Mallett.
These facts were kindly given by the Sisters of the Visitation,
Castel Cary, Somerset, but they regret that they have no record of the
names of any of the priests who officiated in the chapel in Acton.
It is possible that the Sisters, Mr Selby, and Mr Kelly maintained a
chaplain between them and when the sisters moved services were still
carried out in a large room in the basement of Acton House and, when the
house was let furnished in the summer months these services took place
in a fitted up chapel in an old wooden building in the gardens opposite,
facing King’s Street and roughly half way between the corner and the
Post Office. Tradition has it that there was an underground passage
between Acton House and the Kings Street Chapel and the Selby family
used this method of entrance. On the corner of Horn Lane and Churchfield
Road stood, within the memory of a living Actonian, a brick building,
with a window high up in the wall, covered with an iron grille. This
building was known as the "nun’s kitchen".
Another source states that the sons of the Selby family were educated
at Downside and that the Benedictines served the Oratory at Acton House
from 1831-1850, viz.: Dom Maurus or Dunstan Scott, assisted by Dom
Paulinus Heptonstall. In 1939 the Rev. Thomas Fryer deputised for a time
and in 1840-1841 assistance was given by the Benedictines, Dom William
Placid Morris, Bishop Of Troy, who, after his work in Mauritius, settled
in London and became a very great help to Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman.
Nicholas Selby died in 1834 but his widow continued to live on in Acton
House, but the Kelly family left Acton at about this time. On December 8th
1842, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart entered into possession of
Berrymead Priory House and grounds but the first Mass was not said in
the new Convent until Christmas Day 1842. Until then the Nuns went in
secular costume, obligatory under the Catholic Relief Act of 1791, to
"the small underground chapel which served the need of the few
Catholics in Acton. In other words they attended Mass at the Oratory in
Acton House or in the building in King Street.
The influx of the French clergy and laity, due to the French
Revolution, though numerous did not have the great effect upon the
Catholic position in England that might have been expected. Another
influx, this time from Ireland, less spectacular but longer in time and
greater in number, was building up a mass of Catholics, especially in
the centres of industry. In George II’s reign they became noted as
sedan-chair carriers and later they spread around London as agricultural
labourers in the market gardens, and as navvy gangs on railway
construction and in the docks.
With the exception of the Selby and Kelly families and their
servants, the congregation in the King Street chapel was probably
composed mostly of these Irish immigrants, and the increase in their
number necessitated the changing if the chapel from a private oratory
into a public Mass centre.
Fr. Joseph Butt, the Rector of Brook Green Hammersmith, was chiefly
instrumental in changing the King Street private oratory into a public
Mass centre. It was officially opened on 2 August 1848 and was dedicated
to "Our Lady of Grace". The Mass was sung by Bishop Morris and
the preacher was the Hon. And Rev. Fr. Ignatius Spencer, the Passionist.
Fr. J. Butt and H. Green are given as priests for 1848 but in 1849 Fr.
Hepenstall was officiating again, apparently until 1852, when the name
of the priest was Fr. J.Clark, who probably came from Turnham Green,
which took over the administration of the mission until it closed in
1858, owing to lack of financial support.
The Rev John Bonus, S.T.B. Missionary Priest, was in charge in 1855
and part of an appeal he put out is still in existence, showing on one
side a "View of Church and Schools proposed to be erected in Acton,
designed by E.Welby Pugin, Esq., Architect", and on the back in
facsimile print of his handwriting:
"………. is not less than 2000, while of this large number
scarcely a dozen individuals are respectable householders. Apart from
these, the entire congregation is composed of the lowest and most
neglected class of Irish day-labourers and operatives, who earn a
wretched subsistence by the hardest toil, either on the River or in the
Market Gardens of the vicinity, while a teeing growth of children is
fast shooting up. His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop, (Cardinal
Nicholas Wiseman), has been pleased to point out to me this wide and
neglected field and to encourage me, as having a slight independency
nearly sufficient for my own support to devote myself vigorously to its
tillings. Accordingly I have accepted the task and my first anxiety is
for the material of Religion. The former little chapel is now let to a
Protestant Occupant, and I have but one damp and narrow room in Turnham
Green, at the extreme end of the Mission, to meet the tremendous
exigencies that surround me. I must then, procure the means to build,
first, schools and eventually a church, yet I have not yet met a single
Catholic of wealth and ….."
His appeal apparently failed and the Mission was closed in 1858, and
the nearest Mass Centres were Turnham Green and Hanwell.
Of the two "Religious Manors", Acton Priory and the Friary
or Friar’s Place, there is little that is definitely known except that
from very early times they belonged to the Bishop of London and that
later the Friary passed into the hands of the Friar of St.
Of Acton Priory it is stated that in 1100AD three Knights Templar
dwelt there and two went to the Holy Land. In 1200AD 40 monks of the
Benedictine Order bought the estate and built a house there.
Then came a quiet existence down to the days of Henry VIII when in
1544, both properties came into lay hands. There followed a succession
of famous owners of the Priory, probably because they found it very
convenient for London and the Court.
Lord John Russell received it from the King but soon sold it to
Herbert, the Earl of Worcester. In 1688, the Marquis of Halifax was
dwelling there and received two visits from Queen Mary, wife of William
of Orange. After his death there in 1700 it passed into the possession
of the Duke of Kingston, who was often visited there by King George II.
The records of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart say that Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu, eldest daughter of the Duke of Kingston, owned the
Priory after the death of her father in 1726. If this is so then
Alexander Pope, the famous poet, may have visited her there. Lady Mary
is remembered for her writings, "Turkish Letters" etc.
Pope’s quarrel with her, and for her having her son inoculated against
small pox in Adrianople, where her husband was serving as Ambassador to
Turkey and for having introduced this practice into England on her
return in 1718.
It was owned and greatly altered by the Duke of Newcastle in 1740.
Earl Manvers was in residence in 1796 and in 1836 it was the home of
Edward Bulwer, Lord Lytton, the famous novelist, and it is very probable
that the well-known book "The Last days of Pompeii" was
written there. General Atto completed Lord Lytton’s lease and then
once again the Priory returned into Catholic hands.
On 8 December 1842 the Priory House and grounds came into the
possession of the Order of the Sacred Heart and the first Mass was said
in the New Convent on Christmas Day 1842. Until that date the nuns went
in secular costume, a condition laid down by the Catholic Relief Act of
1791, to a small underground chapel which served the needs of the few
Catholics in Acton, i.e. they attended Mass in the basement chapel of
Acton House or in the chapel in King Street nearby. Bishop Morris, after
returning from Mauritius, where he had been Vicar Apostolic, became the
Chaplain at the Priory and had his dwelling near the present police
On 1884, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat visited two English foundations
and closed the house at Cannington, near Taunton, which was not
prospering and brought the community to Berrymead. Saint Madeleine
Sophie left Mother Goold as Superior at Berrymead instead of Mother
Merilhou, who had been the first Superior. Part of the Priory was used
as a convent school for girls. As with Acton House, so with Berrymead
Priory, the increase in the numbers of nuns and boarders rendered
additional accommodation essential and a move was decided upon. The
contrast of the purchase of the present house at Roehampton was signed
by Saint Madeleine Sophie on 17 July 1850 and the Convent at Berrymead
was closed on 4 August 1850. The deceased sisters who had been interred
in the grounds of Acton Priory were exhumed and re-interred in their new
cemetery in Roehampton. Bishop Morris, as Chaplain, also moved from
Acton to Roehampton and remained with the sisters till his death.
The Priory then passed into the hands of Mr George Drafford Heald, a
wealthy young man, who in 1849 married "Lola Montez", a lady
of whom much has been written.
In 1856 Mr John Dawsen of Essex and Liverpool bought the estate which
was then about eleven acres in size and in about 1880 it was purchased
by a land company and now is completely built over. A part of the Priory
House can still be seen behind the Town Hall and facing Salisbury
Cardinal Henry Edward Manning began the next phase in the
re-emergence of the Catholic Church in Acton. In 1878 he sent Fr. James
O’Connell to reopen the mission. Being without a church, Mass was said
in private houses, in Churchfield Road, in Gloucester Road, and in
Gloucester Terrace (now renamed) off the High Street near where the
railway bridge crosses the High Street, and in 1881 at 2 Gloucester
Villas, Shakespeare Road.
In spite of being the victim of advanced consumption, Fr.
O’Connell’s labours were so successful that a church became an
absolute necessity and a corrugated iron building in Strafford Road,
close to All Saints Church in South Acton, was opened in 1882. It seems
that Fr. O’Connell was being helped by Fr. Cornelius Biale, who, on
the death of Fr. O’Connell in 1882, carried on the work of the mission
until he was transferred to Clapton in 1885.
The Baptismal Registers began on 8 June 1879 and are signed by Fr.
O’Connell until 19 July 1882, with two exceptions, by Fr. Arthur J.
Wallace on 19 September 1880, and Fr. James Foley on 24 September 1880,
and then by Fr. C. Biale from 18 September 1881 to 23 August 1885.
Before Fr. Biale left the Sacrament of Confirmation was conferred upon
17 candidates by the Rt. Rev W. Weathers, Bishop of Amyclensis. This is
the first record of Confirmation in Acton since Reformation times and
there is not another for twenty years.
Two priests, Fr. William F.Traies and Fr. James Maher did duty until
November 1885 when Fr. Henry J.Bradbee was appointed and continued until
ill-health caused his retirement in 1892. In 1889 he was assisted during
the months of September and October by Fr. James Kelleher.
Fr. H.J.Bradbee was succeeded by Fr. Charles E.Rovers on 14 February
1892-1928 OUR LADY OF
LOURDES CHURCH - FATHER CHARLES E. RIVERS
Fr. Charles Edmund Rivers was born in 1863 in South Africa. He was
educated at Marlborough and Oriel College, Oxford, becoming an M.A. and
was proceeding with Anglican Orders when he was received into the Church
on17 December 1883 by Fr. Garnett of the Oratory. After his
ecclesiastical studies, mainly at St. Thomas’ Seminary, Hammersmith,
(now the Sacred Heart Convent), he was ordained at the Pro-Cathedral,
Kensington, in September 1889. Before coming to Acton Fr. C. Rivers
served as curate at the Sacred Heart Church, Hampton Wick, under the
late Canon Akers. From 1891 till 1903 Fr. Rivers was Diocesan Inspector
of Schools for Religious Instruction for the Diocese of Westminster and
from 1893 till 1918 he was on the examining staff of the Oxford Local
Examinations and frequently contributed articles to "The
In Acton the size of the congregation was still increasing though the
greater number of its members remained extremely poor, and the
corrugated iron church became extremely crowded. Fr. Rivers was able,
greatly assisted financially by Fr. H.J. Bradbee, to raise sufficient
funds to buy, in 1892 for £1400, land facing the High Street, Acton,
and between Berrymead Gardens and Oldham Terrace, for the purpose of
erecting a permanent church, of which the foundation stone was laid by
Cardinal Herbert Vaughan.
The last service in the old Strafford Road Chapel took place on
Sunday evening, 21 September 1902, when a Te Deum was sung in
thanksgiving for the blessings received at the old building and in
gratitude for the gift of a new church. Fr. Rivers preached and based
his sermon on the thought that one phase of the history of the Catholic
Church in Acton was now closing but another one was opening, and of the
new phase it was hoped that it would be of promise, advancement, and
spiritual progress. Then the Blessed Sacrament was taken in procession
to the Convent Chapel of the Sisters of Charity, a short distance away
at 45-47 Avenue Road.
On the following Sunday, 28 September 1902, the new church was opened
for public worship though confessions had been heard there the previous
evening. Large numbers received Holy Communion at the 9am Mass.
Preceding the 11am Mass the Blessing of the Church was carried out by
Fr. Rivers in the presence of the Rt. Rev Mgr Canon (late Bishop) Fenten
V.G., Administrator of the new Westminster Cathedral, who was
representing His Eminence Cardinal Herbert Vaughan, who was at this time
too ill to do any active work.
The music of the Mass was "Petite Messe Solemnelle" by
Gouned. The sermon was preached by the Rt. Rev Mgr Croke Robinson M.A.,
who took as his text the closing words of St. Matthew’s Gospel,
"All power is given to me in heaven and on earth. Going, therefor,
teach ye all nations; baptising them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you. And, behold I am with you all days,
even to the end of the world." In a powerful sermon he developed
the idea that "the Church has been the Living, the Royal, and the
Infallible Teacher ever since the Ascension of Christ."
At the evening service at 7pm the sermon was preached by Fr. Keating
of Chiswick, an old friend of Fr. Rivers, whose text was " The
tabernacle of God is with men." A procession of the Blessed
Sacrament round the church followed, during which the Lauda Sion and
Pange Lingua were sung. On the following Sunday evening the Stations of
the Cross were canonically erected.
The new church, designed by Mr Goldie of Kensington, who was also the
architect of St. James’ Church, Spanish Place W1, is in simple
Romanesque style, with aisles transept and apse, and was erected at a
cost of £5000 and gave seating accommodation for about 500 persons. The
old King Street Chapel had been dedicated to Our Lady of Grace but, in
the meantime since its closing in 1858, a new church erected in Chiswick
in 1886 had been placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Grace and St.
Edward, so the new Acton church was dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.
There was no presbytery at this time and Fr. Rivers seems to have
lived for a time in Oxford Villa, 19 Park Road, and later at 11 Alfred
Road. The work of running the parish was extremely onerous, with ever
increasing numbers but also increasing financial stringency. The land
originally purchased as the site for the church and presbytery ran from
Berrymead Gardnes to Oldham Terrace. The eastern portion was soon sold
and a branch of Westminster Bank erected on it, but the western portion
remained unbuilt on for ten years, when it too had to be disposed of, to
finance the mortgage on the church, and on that site arose a branch of
the National Provincial Bank.
During the 36 years of Fr. River’s rectorship there were eight
Archbishop of Westminster
Bishop of Amyclensis
Bishop of Cambysopolis
Bishop of Cambysopolis
Archbishop of Westminster
Bishop of Melitopolis
Bishop of Melitopolis
Bishop of Melitopolis
23 July 1905
7 March 1911
15 March 1914
3 March 1918
9 October 1921
15 July 1923
29 July 1928
With an average of 40 candidates.
There were also six Canonical Visitations, one by Bishop Fenlon, two
by Bishop Butt, two by Bishop Bidwell and one by Francis, Cardinal
Bourne. During all this time Fr. Rivers seems to have had no permanent
assistant but Fr. Margueri, Chaplain of Tyburn Convent, came and said a
third Mass on Sundays, otherwise there were only two, 8 and 10 am.
During holiday periods Fr. Rivers’ place was taken by members of
Religious Orders, as Fr. Philip Beasley C.R.P., Fr. Joseph Baucher O.S.B.,
and Fr. Donato Muller S.D.S.
Fr. Rivers retired in 1928 and was appointed English Chaplain at
Nice, on the French Riviera, and later became chaplain at the Assumption
Convent, in Kensington Square, until his health still further failing,
he retired to a Catholic Nursing Home in Brighton where he died on 23
August aged 76 years. He had been ordained at the Pro-Cathedral,
Kensington, by Bishop Weathers, and his Requiem Mass was also held
there. The celebrant was Canon Edward M. Daniell, cousin of Fr. Rivers,
and the Rt. Rev Edward Myers, Bishop of Lamus, represented Cardinal
Hindsley. Fr. Raymund Geraerts attended from Acton and the congregation
included Mr and Mrs Austin Walker, and Miss Walker and Mr J.V.A. Kelly
represented the laity of Acton. The interment was at Mortlake and Fr.
H.G. Thorold officiated.
BETWEEN THE WARS - REV.
WILLIAM J. FOLEY
Coming from Ponders End Fr. William J. Foley succeeded Fr. Charles
Rivers on 30 October 1928. He first resided in a flat over the present
Lloyds bank in the High Street and later was able to obtain, on behalf
of the parish, 5 Berrymead Gardens, which was at once repaired and
redecorated, mainly by himself, and so was established the first
Fr. Foley’s first concern was the church, and high priority was
given to installing completely new benches and kneelers. These, which
are still in use were supplied by Holly and Pike, and were paid for
within two months. Foe use at the altar, Fr. Foley appealed to the
congregation for their jewellery, rings etc., mostly gold, and from
these gifts two chalices and a monstrance were obtained by Mr Charles
Cuss, who privately donated the clock near the sacristy door. A new
carpet was laid in the Sanctuary and oaken altar rails provided. The
shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes was moved from the epistle side tot he
gospel side of the church and given a backing of oak panelling and
flanked by smaller statues of St. Anthony of Pad and St. Patrick. In its
former place was erected a shrine to the Sacred Heart, the oak panelling
of this being donated by Mr and Mrs Hooper. The electric lighting,
single bulbs hanging from the centre of each arch flanking the nave was
renewed and Mr Chaffed gave the wrought iron brackets which extended the
lights over the seats in the nave. A new stone font was installed in the
Baptistry and the gilded aisle and grille which separated the Baptistry
from the side aisle were presented by Mme Chaffourier, to commemorate
the baptism there of her two grandchildren. New Stations of the Cross,
presented by individual members of the Congregation, replaced the wooden
framed prints erected in 1902. They are coloured, in low relief, in the
old German wood-cut style and were designed by the Benedictine monks of
Marialaach. The fabric of the church was repaired and the papal triple
tiara and crossed keys were erected in the uncompleted space over the
main entrance doors. In repainting the interior, with the exception of
the ceiling, the colour scheme was changed to blue and red. A strong
safe was provided in the Sacristy for the sacred vessels and parochial
registers, a small organ was placed in the choir loft and the central
heating restored to use.
Fr. Foley was an indefatigable worker and had the happy knack of
spreading his enthusiasm among the quickly growing congregation.
On 27 June 1931 Fr. Maurice Copplestone was appointed first resident
curate and remained in Acton until 1 July 1934, when, owing to
ill-health, he was transferred. His place was taken on 10 August 1934 by
Father Raymund Geraerts, newly ordained, who laboured most devoutly for
the next eleven years, first with Fr. Foley and then with Fr. Galvin.
The Rt. Rev Joseph Butt, Bishop of Cambsopolis, administered the
Sacrament of Confirmation to 73 candidates on 10 July 1032 and this was
his last official visit to Acton. Bishop Butt had had a long connection
with Acton for as a boy he lived in Bedford Park. He studied for the
priesthood at St. Edmund’s College, Old Hall, Ware and when on
holiday, he walked over daily to serve Fr. Rivers’ Mass.
He was, and always remained, a great cricket enthusiast and, when his
duties as Auxilliary Bishop of Westminster and Parish Priest at St.
James’ Spanish Place W1 allowed, he delighted to visit Patsy
Hendren’s indoor cricket school, in Churchfield Road, for batting
practice to the bowling of Jack Durston, the Middlesex professional, who
later managed the school. When age and failing eye sight prevented this
relaxation Bishop, later Archbishop, Butt presented St. Edmund’s
College with all his cricket gear.
The Rt. Rev Edward Myers, Bishop of Lamus, made a Canonical
Visitation and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 22
candidates on 3 September 1933.
The Silver Jubilee of Fr. Foley’s ordination fell in 1934 and the
occasion was marked by the presentation of a cheque, which he expended
on a large oak pulpit, with back and sounding board, which was erected
on the base of a previous smaller pulpit, and situated in the last arch
of the nave on the Gospel side.
His Eminence, Francis, Cardinal Bourne, had died on 1 January 1935
and His Grace, Arthur Hinsley, Titular Archbishop of Sardis, later
Cardinal, was translated to Westminster on 25 March 1935 and, in due
course, changes were made in the Diocese and Fr. Jeremiah Galvin came to
Acton on 27 October 1935 and Fr. William Foley was appointed to Radlett
at his own request.
WAR YEARS AGAIN -
Strangely enough Fr. Galvin, like Fr. Foley came from Ponders End.
There now began ten years of the most happy and fruitful co-operation
between Fr. Galvin and Fr. Geraerts, and in spite of the difficulties
caused by the war in 1939-1945 of great increase in the numbers in the
The parish was still burdened by a large debt upon the Church and Fr.
Galvin set about removing this and was completely successful. He then
began the "Organ Fund" with the intention of raising £1000 to
buy a new organ to replace the small one installed by Fr. Foley. This
sum was also achieved but the organ, owing to war-time difficulties of
supply of materials etc., was not installed until after the coming of
Fr. Galvin had a most enthusiastic and devoted helper in financial
matters in Mr Austin Walker. A retired Bank Manager, he devoted all his
time and energies to the well-being of the Church. For years he attended
every Mass on Sundays, giving out and receiving back collection
envelopes, and then dealing with the financial and clerical work
involved. At home he ran a "Salvage Depot" for paper of every
kind. Owing to the activities of the submarines in the Atlantic and the
North Sea preventing supplies of wood pulp reaching this country paper
became a very scarce and valuable commodity. Mr Walker collect4ed,
sorted and disposed of large quantities and the Organ and other Church
Funds benefitted appreciably.
During the war Fr. Galvin did not leave the parish for a single night
being constant in fire-watching and on two occasions assisted in
extinguishing incendiary bombs which had fallen on the church roof. Both
Fr. Galvin and Fr. Geraerts were constant in their attendance at Acton
Hospital and the demands on their services were heavy.
During Fr. Galvin’s regime the Sacrament of Confirmation was
administered on three occasions by:
Cardinal Hinsley, Archbishop of Westminster on 13 March 1938
David Matthew, Bishop of Astrae on 9 March 1941
Bernard Griffin, Archbishop of Westminster on
7 May 1944.
With the administration of Confirmation, Cardinal Hinsley and
Archbishop Griffin combines a Canonical Visitation.
On 26 August 1945 Fr. Galvin was transferred to Holy Rood Church,
Watford, Herts., and was later made a Canon of Westminster Cathedral
Chapter and Fr. Raymund Geraerts went to Enfield.
AFTER THE 1939-45 WAR -
FATHER JAMES FINN
Fr. James Finn, from Milwall, came to fill the vacancy and remained
in Acton for almost ten years. A very earnest and conscientious priest
Fr. Finn had to cope with the many difficulties of the post-war years.
The number of candidates presented for the Sacrament of Confirmation
gives an indication of the increasing work of the parish.
Cardinal Griffin, Archbishop
of Westminster 28 Feb 1947 87
Bishop of Lamus
13 March 1949 87
George L. Craven
Bishop of Sebastopolis 2
April 1952 219
George L. Craven
Bishop of Sebastopolis 11
April 1954 95
And the last occasion was also a Canonical Visitation.
There was a succession of curates during this period:
Fr. Stephen Finnegan
2 September 1945 – 1 December 1946
Fr. James Coughlan
29 December 1946 – 18 July 1948
Fr. Albert Sharland
21 November 1948 – 1 May 1949
Fr. Anthony Thorold
31 July 1949 – 2 October 1949
Fr. Wilfrid Purney
20 November 1949 – 1 October 1950
Fr. Godfrey Velden
24 December 1950 – 15 March 1953
Fr. John Sweeney
25 July 1954
Fr. Finn celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his ordination in 1953 and
the occasion was suitably commemorated.
At his own request and due to increasing ill health Fr. James Finn
was transferred from Acton on 13 March 1955 to Ponders End, Enfield,
FATHER JOHN HALVEY
Coming from South Harrow, Fr. John Halvey took over on 3 April 1955
and was aided first by Fr. John Sweeney and from 10 July 1955 by Fr.
Michael Benefitte F.S.C.J. from Rome who was carrying out a course in
musical studies at London University. Fr. John Sweeney went to Hare
Street, Herts on 1 December 1956 and Fr. John P. Murphy came from
Copenhagen Street N1 on 28 April 1957, and a second curate, Fr. Michael
Buckley, newly ordained, was appointed to Our Lady of Lourdes on 21 July
1957. This was necessitated by the still increasing size of the
congregation. Seven Masses were said on Sundays at 7,8,9,10,11, and 12
noon with an evening Mass at 6pm.
During Fr. Halvey’s time the interior of the church was completely
redecorated; the kneelers were covered with sponge rubber; Our Lady’s
Shrine, the wood work of which had been attacked by wood worm, was
replaced by a marble altar and a Florentine background; the wooden
pulpit was completely removed and replaced by a marble one on the
Epistle side of the nave near the Sacristy door; a shrine erected to St.
Teresa of Lisieux, the Little Flower. The whole of the roof was
From markings in the floor of the Sanctuary it was obvious that the
wooden High Altar had never been built for the Church of Our Lady of
Lourdes. It was too large for the Sanctuary and the straight Reredos
containing six statues, Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Mary Magdalene, St.
John the Baptist, St. John the Divine and St. Peter was incongruous in a
rounded apse. A fine specimen of the woodcarver’s art, it was stated
to have been a memorial to Cardinal Vaughan. This altar was removed,
together with the wooden altar rails installed by Fr. Foley. At
Christmas 1959 they were replaced by marble rails and brass centre-gates
and a smaller marble altar, erected on marble steps and fitted into the
marble covered walls of the apse. The whole is much more in keeping with
the proportions of the church and gives more space for the necessary
movements in the sanctuary.
Owing to the illness of the Rector of the Church of the Five Wounds,
Stonebridge NW10, Fr. John Murphy was transferred there as parish priest
at very short notice and left Acton on 19 November 1959.
CLERGY IN ACTON 1879 –
TO PRESENT DAY
Fr. James O’Connell
Fr. Cornelius Biale
Fr. Henry T.Bradbee
Fr. Charles E. Rivers
Fr. William J. Foley
Fr. Jeremiah Galvin
Fr. James Finn
Fr. John Halvey
Fr. Hugh Bishop
Fr. John McDonald
Fr. Pat Lynch
Fr. Tom Mullen
Fr. Patrick Bradley
Fr. Chris McAneny
In Baptismal Register
27 10 1935
In Baptismal Register
CLERGY IN ACTON 1879 –
TO PRESENT DAY
Fr. Maurice Copplestone
Fr. Raymund Geraerts
Fr. Stephen Finnegan
Fr. James Coughlin
Fr. Albert Sharland
Fr. Anthony Thorold
Fr. William Purney
Fr. Godfrey Velden
Fr. John Sweeney
Fr. Michael Bonfitte
Fr. John Murphy
Fr. Michael Buckley
Fr. Kenneth Dain
Fr. Peter Latham
Fr. Finbarr Buckley
Fr. George Talbot
Fr. Peter O’Reilly
Fr. Gerald Ennis
Fr. Patrick Carroll
Dom Bruno Daniel OSB
Fr. Bob Barry
Fr. John Cunningham
Fr. Arthur Thomas Moraes
Fr. Kevin McDevitt
Fr. Patrick Sammon
Fr. Padraig Lyons ss.cc.
Fr. Tony Galloway ss.cc.
Fr. Joseph McGeady ss.cc.
Fr. Chris McAneny ss.cc.
Fr. Derek Laverty ss.cc.
Fr Eddie Higgins ss.cc.
Fr Kieran Murtagh ss.cc.
In Baptismal Register
In Baptismal Register
NUMBERS OF BAPTISMS. 1879
SISTERS OF CHARITY in
UNDER THE PROTECTION OF
ST. VINCENT DE PAUL
On 4 October 1901 five Sisters came from the Mother House of the
Sisters of Charity in Rome to seek a new foundation in London, with the
permission of Cardinal Vaughan.
Fortunately for the Sisters their Superior, Sister Augustine (Lady
Onslow), a convert to the Faith, was a cousin of Fr. Charles E. Rivers,
who wished for a community of nuns to work in his parish, so an
interview was arranged.. As a result of the interview two houses, No45
and 47 Avenue Road were purchased, one serving as the Convent and the
other as a day school for boys and girls. The day school was opened four
weeks after the Sisters arrival in the district, with only twelve
pupils. The Sisteres were also engaged in other parish work and attended
the temporary church in Strafford Road, then known as the Mission
Work in the parish and the education of the young grew rapidly and
brought two needs; more Sisters and larger premises. St. Anne’s
Convent, Ealing, was opened in September 1902, for aspirants to the
Religious Life, with Sister Augustine as Superior, and a house and
grounds, on which an all-age school for girls was built, was acquired in
Rosemont Road. This school was opened on 9 July 1932 and placed under
the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul.
During the next seven years the school at St. Vincent’s flourished.
At the outbreak of war some of the Sisters and the greater number of
children were evacuated to Maidenhead in Berkshire where they continued
their education until the danger was over.
In 1945 the Sisters, in order to comply with the regulations of the
1944 Education Act, discontinued the all-age school since permission for
further extensions on the premises could not be obtained from the
Ministry. From then onwards pupils up to 11+ only were admitted.
In 1949 the School was recognised by the Ministry of Education as an
Independent School which then admitted girls up to 11+ and boys up to 7
years of age. The girls could continue their Secondary Education at St.
Anne’s, Ealing, after having satisfied the requirements common to all
In 1959 the house and grounds in Pierrepoint Road adjacent to the
Convent in Rosemont Road were acquired by the Sisters. Through the
kindness of the Superior and the Sisters this site was made available
for the erection of a Catholic Primary School for Acton.