History of the Parish

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THE BEGINNING

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country attended the Council of Arles, in the South of France, in 314A.D. Disaster came when the Roman legions were withdrawn about 400 AD.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 country.

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 successors.

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 brick.

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 years.

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".

 

THE BREAK

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 eagerly canvassed.

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, Isleworth.

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 obtained.

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.

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PENAL TIMES

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 hearing Mass.

·         £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 London.

·         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 sentence being:

"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:

1.      His last request in the Tower was to be buried at Dilston. This was refused by the Authorities.

2.      He was buried secretly in St. Giles in the Fields, where many recusants dwelt and later re-interred at Dilsten.

3.      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.

4.      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 Earl.

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 dear country."

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.

 

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EMERGENCE

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 June 1832.

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 not specified.

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ACTON HOUSE

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.

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ACTON PRIORY

BERRYMEAD 

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. Bartholomew’s, Smithfield.

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 station.

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 Street.

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RE-EMERGENCE

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.

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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 Examiner".

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 Confirmations by:

Francis Bourne,

Patrick Fenlon 

Joseph Butt

Joseph Butt

Cardinal Bourne

Manuel Bidwell

Manuel Bidwell

Manuel Bidwell

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

5 July1908

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.

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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 permanent presbytery.

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.

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WAR YEARS AGAIN - FATHER JEREMIAH GALVIN

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 parish.

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. Finn.

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.

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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

Edward Myers             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, Middlesex.

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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 completely retiled.

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.

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CLERGY IN ACTON 1879 – TO PRESENT DAY

PARISH PRIESTS

Name 

 

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

First Signature

In Baptismal Register

8.6.1879

18.9.1881

29.11.1885

14.11.1892     

30.10.1928

27 10 1935     

26.8.1945

3.4.1955

2.6.1974

 

September 1997

27.9.1992       

9.8.1995   

2000      

Last Sig.

In Baptismal Register

19.7.1882

23.8.1885

31.1.1892

23.9.1928

27.10.1935

26.8.1945

13.3.1955

24.3.1974

31.7.1983

9.8.1997

23.8.1992

25 6.1995

2000

Present Day

CLERGY IN ACTON 1879 – TO PRESENT DAY

ASSISTANTS

Name 

 

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.

First Signature

In Baptismal Register

27.9.1931

12.8.1934

2.9.1945         

29.12.1946

21.11.1948

31.7.1949

20.11.1949

24.12.1950

25.7.1954

10.7.1955

28.4.1957

21.7.1957

22.7.1960

28.1.1961

25.3.1965

2.6.1966

19.5.1973

17.5.1974

5.10.1974

16.5.1976

12.9.1976

18.9.1977

23.9.1977

14.2.1982

26.9.1982

8.11.1987

6 7.1988

28.10.1990

25.10.1992     

2000

2001

2003

Last Sig.

In Baptismal Register

1.7.1934

5.8.1945

1.12.1946

18.7.1948

1.5.1949

2.10.1949

1.10.1950

15.3.1953

1.12.1956

19.7.1957

19.11.1959

27.1.1961

15.5.1966

12.3.1965

26.9.1971

17.2.1974

12.5.1974

11.4.1976

3.7.1977

29.8.1976

13.5.1979

1.8.1982

31.10.1981

19.6.1987

1.1.1984

26.7.1992

31.12.1989

19.7.1998

2000

2003

2003

Present Day

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NUMBERS OF BAPTISMS. 1879 – 1998

Year/Number

  1. 19
  2. 9
  3. 14
  4. 30
  5. 33
  6. 24
  7. 23
  8. 20
  9. 24
  10. 10
  11. 20
  12. 21
  13. 19
  14. 34
  15. 21
  16. 29
  17. 22
  18. 25
  19. 25
  20. 18
  21. 24
  22. 21
  23. 21
  24. 34
  25. 43
  26. 41
  27. 41
  28. 48
  29. 36
  30. 34
  31. 26
  32. 27
  33. 41
  34. 38
  35. 44
  36. 40
  37. 35
  38. 40
  39. 34
  40. 42
  41. 24
  42. 44

Year/Number

  1. 34
  2. 39
  3. 32
  4. 27
  5. 14
  6. 26
  7. 29
  8. 37
  9. 84
  10. 66
  11. 64
  12. 56
  13. 70
  14. 61
  15. 59
  16. 65
  17. 65
  18. 72
  19. 72
  20. 76
  21. 61
  22. 84
  23. 69
  24. 75
  25. 98
  26. 114
  27. 138
  28. 110
  29. 119
  30. 143
  31. 115
  32. 114
  33. 128
  34. 127
  35. 142
  36. 159
  37. 165
  38. 188
  39. 218
  40. 257
  41. 261
  42. 246

Year/Number

  1. 264
  2. 266
  3. 263
  4. 234
  5. 253
  6. 213
  7. 202
  8. 199
  9. 168
  10. 138
  11. 110
  12. 97
  13. 71
  14. 101
  15. 73
  16. 80
  17. 58
  18. 60
  19. 84
  20. 83
  21. 69
  22. 64
  23. 78
  24. 89
  25. 111
  26. 107
  27. 100
  28. 101
  29. 124
  30. 97
  31. 123
  32. 104
  33. 131
  34. 142
  35. 123
  36. 114

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SISTERS OF CHARITY in ACTON

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 Church.

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 Grammar Schools.

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.

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