A Daughter Church of the Parish of Tolworth
The Parish started it's life as a Mass Centre of the Parish
of Our Lady Immaculate, Tolworth. In early 1938 Mass was
celebrated in the house at the corner of Hook Road and
Orchard Road named "Avoca" (now demolished) belonging to
Dr. MacDonald. This continued until a few weeks before the
Parish Hall was completed, when the builders Nissen Hut was
used for the purpose. The first Mass was celebrated in the
newly completed Parish Hall on October 10th, 1938.
It was Fr. Redding, Parish Priest of Tolworth, who had
acquired the Bungalow at 98, Leatherhead Road with space
for a Hall to be used as a Mass Centre until such time as a
Church could be built. The Hall cost £3,000 (a lot of money
for those days) and this was provided by the people of
Tolworth. Fr. Redding and his curate, Fr. Butler, took it
in turns to say Mass each Sunday morning, which at first
was attended by about 30-40 people. As to when Mass would
begin it was anyones guess, as Confessions were heard in
the Sacristy before Mass. Often, there was a very long
queue lined up at the door of the Sacristy.
The Parish Hall was let each Saturday for dances run by the
R.A.F. Depot in Mansfield Road, so the first job each
Sunday morning was to put out the chairs for the
congregation and erect a table on the stage to be used as
Altar. The first Christmas Midnight Mass was celebrated in
the Parish Hall in 1938.
Initially there was a problem providing for the Children's
Catechism Classes and preparation for First Communion,
until this was taken on by Fr. Edward Maxwell (curate who
succeed Fr. Butler). One week the children would meet in
the house of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett in Gosbury Hill, the
following week at Mr. and Mrs. Tunney's in Church Lane. The
children were encouraged to join the Cubs and Brownies at
Tolworth, and many did.
Establishing a New
In June 1944, the first Parish Priest, Fr. Joseph O'Kelly
was appointed. However, he could not move in straight away
as the caretakers, Mr and Mrs. Smith, who lived in the
bungalow and looked after the site could not immediately be
found other accommodation. Meanwhile, Fr. O'Kelly lodged
with Mr and Mrs Bennett in Gosbury Hill. At about this time
the Flying Bombs started to fall on the Chessington area.
In Meadow Way there was a family of Belgians who had
escaped from Europe accompanied by a priest, who sometimes
said Mass at the Parish Hall, and at other times privately
in the house in Meadow Way.
Early in 1945, Fr. O'Kelly was able to move into the
bungalow and the children of the Parish no longer needed to
make their First Holy Communion in Tolworth as the Parish
Hall was now a fully functioning Church. Some of the
parishioners were from the Prisoner of War Camp which was
on the site of where the local community centre now stands.
First there were Italians, then Germans. The Italians were
brought to Mass at the Parish Hall, and it was from this
time that the Parish became known as St. Catherine of Siena
(possibily many of the prisoners came from that region).
The Italian prisoners erected an attractive wooden screen
behind the altar. At Christmas they were invited by many
parishioners to share the little they had.
At this time, Fr. O'Kelly was able to obtain an Altar and
Tabernacle from a bombed church which is now the altar in
the Sacred Heart Chapel in the present St. Catherine's. He
also obtained a number of wooded pews, and so decided that
the Hall would no longer be let for dances and
entertainments, although the altar was curtained off for
bazaars on odd occasions. Fr. O'Kelly stayed until 1952
when he was moved to become the Rector of the Church in
the New Church
Fr. O'Kelly was succeeded by Fr. Augustine Queally, who
retired in 1982 after 30 years as Parish Priest. During
this time the parish grew due to the large council estates
that were build in Chessington. In 1975 the new Church was
opened and blessed by Archbishop Cowderoy of Southwark. The
Parish Hall was now too small for the Sunday congregation
and became the Parish Centre we know today.
Fr. Brian Maxwell became Parish Priest in 1982, and served
the Parish until 1999. Fr. Maxwell was succeeded by Fr.
Francis Moran who did much to develop the Parish. In April
2004 Fr. Moran was appointed as Parish Priest of St.
Andrew's Thornton Heath, and was followed by Fr. Barry
Angus. In September 2007, Fr. Angus was forced to retire to
continue his fight against terminal cancer, and was
succeeded by the current Parish Priest, Fr. Peter Jenner.
While the New Church is accessible for people in
wheelchairs, we lacked a disabled toilet on the site. For
approximately 5 years discussions and fundraising was
needed, but finally in 2011 a new disabled toilet facility
was opened in the Parish Hall. Fr. Peter also started a
minor programme of redecorating in the Church, first
reorganising the sacristies and storage rooms to create a
new meeting room with audio visual facilities for
catechetical classes. The Sacred Heart chapel was decorated
and a speaker installed so that the chapel could be used by
parents and small children. The original “crying room”, was
converted and redecorated to become a completely
refurbished parish shop / repository. The rooms on the
right side of the foyer of the Church, which had been
designed to be offices back in 1973 but never used for this
purpose, were refurbished, plastered, carpeted and
converted into the new Parish Office and Reception.
For older parishioners who worked so hard and so long to
build the parish, one of the highest priorities is to
complete the work of building a Church by getting it
dedicated / consecrated. Therefore, finishing the Church,
replacing the wooden altar furniture with something
permanent, and providing a sanctuary suitable for the
celebration of the Liturgy and the Sacrament, was the
primary fundraising priority at this time.