Archbishop Grimshaw School
A Roman Catholic Secondary School Located Near Birmingham
Archbishop Grimshaw School Logo
Archbishop Grimshaw School is located in the southeast outskirts of Birmingham and was apparently named after Francis Joseph Grimshaw, who served as Archbishop of Birmingham from 1954 until his death in 1965. According to the school website (address shown below), “Archbishop Grimshaw is a Roman Catholic School in Chelmsley Wood, Solihull, Midlands. There are approximately 1300 students from 11 to 19 and over 70 staff. Courses on offer range from GCSE and A levels to GNVQ.”
School Mission Statement
The Mission Statement of Archbishop Grimshaw School appears on the schools website as shown below:
The guiding rule of the school is: “Love God, love your neighbour”
The aim of the school is to provide a high quality Catholic education based on Gospel values. The emphasis throughout is on the balanced development of each pupil with the full realisation of his or her potential in individual skills and abilities. We aim to nurture the spiritual, academic, personal, social and physical development of every young person in our care. We recognise that every child is a unique creation with different talents and aspirations. It is the aim of teachers to value every individual and to develop his or her talents to the full. We will encourage pupils to believe in themselves and to care for themselves and their families.
We aim to engage pupils, teachers and parents in establishing a welcoming Christian community with an emphasis on prayer and voluntary attendance at Mass and the sacraments. The spirit of caring is of vital importance. We believe that this should underpin the relationship between teachers and pupils, teachers and parents and pupils themselves.
It is the aim of the school to establish a well ordered, civilised community, in which young people grow to accept responsibility for their own actions. We aim to teach pupils about the responsibility not only to those closest to them but to a wider community in which Christians are committed to justice and peace.
At the heart of the school is a well planned and challenging curriculum which offers all pupils a broad and balanced education. Skills of numeracy and communication are emphasised throughout the school which aims to equip pupils with the knowledge, values, skills and attitudes needed for participation in education and the community. Every pupil will be challenged to achieve his or her highest standard. It is the aim of the school to educate all pupils in the technological and scientific skills which will be important for them in the future world of work, industry and commerce. It is also our aim to develop the aesthetic and creative potential of our pupils. We believe that music, and the expressive and performing arts should play a major part in the life of every young person.
It is our aim to provide equal opportunities from the age of 11 to 18. We will aim to give all students, regardless of ability, gender, race, creed or background, the ambition and the skills to succeed in the widest range of careers.
We believe that it is our task to encourage our pupils to enjoy their education and to value learning. This can be achieved by encouraging them to face challenges with determination and confidence and to believe in themselves.
Who Was Archbishop Grimshaw?
Archbishop Grimshaw school was apparently named for Francis Joseph Grimshaw, who was appointed as Archbishop of Birmingham in 1954 after being ordained in 1926 and consecrated as Bishop of Plymouth in 1947. Archbishop Grimshaw died on March 22, 1965. Francis Grimshaw was from Bridgwater, Somerset, where he grew up in a family that had strong connections to St. Josephs Catholic Church. A short history of St. Josephs is presented at the following website shown below.
This history, which describes the four main events of Francis Grimshaws life, is shown below, with the four events indicated in boldface type.
BEFORE THE PRESENT CHURCH WAS BUILT
There were Catholics in and around Bridgwater before the present St Joseph’s Church was built in 1881, but where did they go to mass and receive the sacraments?
After the Reformation Catholics could not build churches or schools until the second Relief Act was passed in 1791. During penal times the Catholic faith was kept alive mainly by a few important families who at great expense and sometimes considerable personal suffering refused to go along with the majority of Englishmen into the Church of England. One such family was the Cliffords of Chudleigh in Devon who owned property at Cannington. When Lord Clifford allowed his house in Cannington to be used as a convent for Benedictine nuns in 1807 there were only five Catholic missions in Somerset for the public celebration of mass. The convent chapel was eventually declared “Cannington Misssion of the Holy Name” in June 1831 with William O’Meara as priest-in-charge. From that mission the mass returned to Bridgwater for the first time since the Reformation in June 1845 when Jacob Illingworth began a weekly celebration for a group of Catholics in a private house in the town.
On 14th February 1846 a new building in Gordon Terrace near Cranleigh Gardens was opened with a high mass to serve as church and school. This mission church was served from Cannington until 5th June 1852 when Thomas Rooker was appointed first resident priest. After 36 years the attendance at this little chapel had reached 200 including schoolchildren and it became necessary to build a new church.
The old Catholic church in Gordon Terrace near Cranleigh Gardens.
This little church was dedicated to St Joseph of Aramathea.
The building was pulled down in 1999.
A HUNDRED YEAR DIARY
Bishop came today (22nd June) to open our new church on the west bank of the River Parrett. It is a more dignified building than our little, old chapel near Cranleigh Gardens, which was much too small to hold our present congregation. Father Scoles, our rector and church architect, must be a proud man today. We are all very grateful to old Mr Hewett, who provided most of the money. Most of us at St Joseph’s find it hard enough to feed our families and pay the rent; we certainly could not have found the £886-10-0 required to build the church, and in addition to that there was the cost of the site.
Less than a year ago the church was opened and now (27th March) we have our own school too. Eighteen pupils arrived on the first day. The new town bridge over the River Parrett was opened this year.
The Sisters of Charity came to live in a house in King Street near the church and some of them are teaching in the new school.
The Sisters have opened a laundry designed by Father Scoles to help pay their living expenses. They employ about twenty girls there.
The Sisters left Bridgwater in June. Father Scoles left to go to Yeovil. Our new priest is Father O’Meara who used to be the curate at Taunton.
A new stone pulpit has been erected in the church. Father Calway preached from the new pulpit in the morning, Canon Kennard from Cannington preached from it at the evening service.
Father O’Meara was recalled to Ireland.
Still no new parish priest, but we still have mass said for us by visiting priests – eleven so far this year. New priest arrived at last – Father Wadman.
St Joseph’s Church was consecrated by Bishop Burton of Clifton, twenty-five years after it was opened.
A very black day for the parish on 4th August. Great Britain declared war on Germany and on the same day Canon Wadman died. Dr Browne became new parish priest for St Joseph’s 200 parishioners.
Father Browne had a bath installed in the Presbytery.
The war ended today, 11th November. Father Browne is still very ill with the flu which has been around in Bridgwater recently. He died on 15th November. It is all very sad; he was only a young man of 41.
Father Iles, our new parish priest, started a fund to provide a memorial to Father Browne. (The Calvary on the north wall of the church).
Canon Scoles, the first parish priest of this church, died on 29th December aged 77 years in St John’s Wood.
The Holy Name Mission at Cannington closed.
Mr & Mrs Grimshaw’s boy, Francis, was ordained after studying in Rome.
Father Iles went to St George’s in Taunton and we now have a new parish pries, Father Cashman.
We lost Father Cashman at Easter. He is now in Bedminster, Bristol. During the five years he was our parish priest he installed electric lights in the church. It is a good job he could do most of the work himself. With all this unemployment (2½ million) the parish had no spare money. Our new parish priest is Canon Davey.
Society of St Vincent de Paul was started in the parish. There is still a lot of poverty in the town, mainly due to high unemployment. Many needy parishioners receive vouchers from the S.V.P. for bags of coal or food.
A branch of the Catholic Womens League was opened in the parish.
Plans have been prepared for extending the church but with so much unemployment still in the town it seems unlikely that the money can be found.
Good news for Bridgwater and for many parishioners. A new factory for the manufacture of “Cellophane” was opened in April.
Canon Davey was transferred to Taunton as a chaplain to the Franciscan nuns. The canon was finding the work of the parish very difficult due to his failing health. Our new parish priest is Father Byrne. Everybody is wondering whether there will be a war. Bishop Lee came soon after Father Byrne’s appointment to administer Confirmation. He told us of his intention to open a convent for the Sisters of the Holy Rosary. The payment of rents for the reservation of benches in the church has been abolished. There are many new faces in the church nowadays with all these evacuees. War was declared on the 3rd September. The first of the new sisters have arrived at the new convent in Durleigh Road. 7th October, the convent chapel was opened (Feast of the Holy Rosary). During the same month the sisters opened a school.
Our parish priest has been sent a curate., Father McCarthy. Work started on renovating the old school buildings which have been closed for over twenty years. Both priests are working with men of the parish to carry out the work. The school (59 children) re-opened with staff from the convent. On 26th May we had our first Corpus Christi procession. 24th August – the first bomb fell on Bridgwater and two of the seven victims were our parishioners.
Ernest Fry of Polden Street was ordained to the priesthood on 2nd March in Paignton. Father Byrne is suffering from cancer and his condition seems to be worsening. Father McCarthy is doing most of the work helped by Father Byrne’s nephew, Father Power.
Father Byrne died on 2nd July. His body was brought back to Bridgwater for the requiem and for burial in the Bristol Road Cemetry. Father Timothy O’Connell appointed as new parish priest.
The Knights of St Columba founded a coucil in Bridgwater.
Father Grimshaw, an old boy of the parish, was consecrated Bishop of Plymouth.
Bishop Lee died and three weeks later our parish priest, Father O’Connell, also died.
Father Supple is still acting parish priest at St Joseph’s. We cannot have a new parish priest until the Pope appoints a new bishop to the diocese. 26th July – Joseph Rudderham was conscrated Bishop of Clifton. At last we have a new priest, Father Ryan from Glastonbury.
A summer fete was organised for the first time in the grounds of the Holy Rosary Convent. It was a huge success and is likely to become an annual event.
Television has now come to Bridgwater. The Knights of St Columba erected the first public Christmas crib in a shop window in High Street.
Parishioners sent a letter to the President of Poland condemning the persecution of Catholics in that country.
Pope Pius XII declared this year as a ‘Marian Year’. Francis Grimshaw was appointed Archbishop of Birmingham. A year of great interest in the Catholic Church. Father Aherne was replaced by Father O’Brien as curate. Microphones and loudspeakers were installed in the church.
Since January we have had an evening mass at St Joseph’s. Fasting before Holy Communion is now only one hour.
Father Ryan bought some land near the Girls Grammar School for the building of a new primary school, which is so desperately needed.
In March Father Ryan was moved to Bristol and replaced by Father Morrissey from Salisbury. A few days later the new bridge over the River Parrett was opened. Pope John XXIII was elected.
Site purchased on Fairfax Road for the building of a new church. Bingo evenings started in the parish amd raised over £50 a month. Father O’Brien left the parish and was replaced by Father Daly.
Dr Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, visited Pope John. A new tabernacle was purchased for our church at a cost of £52.
Father Morrissey introduced the Society of St Vincent de Paul to the parish. A start was made on the building of a new Primary School and the foundation stone was laid by Monsignor Provost Canon Iles on 3rd October.
Father Morrissey and Father Daly both left St Joseph’s on 23nd April. They were replaced by Father McReynolds and Father Dee. St Joseph’s new school was opened to pupils on 2nd September. There was no official opening ceremony as the Bishop was in Rome attending the Vatican Council. The school cost £60,831 and the parish now has a huge debt to pay off.
30th April: Bishop Rudderham came to open and bless the new school. Pope John XXIII died: Pope Paul was elected to succeed him. A mass centre was opened at the Sydenham Community Centre. Father McReynolds introduced the parish to ‘Good Stewardship’ in a campaign which was launched by a free parish dinner held at thre Blake Hall. This was a tremendous success in raising the morale of the parish.
Archbishop Grimshaw of the Province of Birmingham died 0n 22nd March. At Easter English became the language of the mass in England instead of Latin. Father McReynolds arranged a dinner for the over-sixties of the parish. Vatican Council II held its last session.
At Easter the first issue of a new parish magazine (VOX POPULI) was publsihed. A mass centre was opened at Cannington in the village hall. The first mass there was celebrated by Father McReynolds on 5th June.
From January Catholics in this country have no longer been obliged to abstain from meat on Fridays but old habits die hard. Father Dee was transferred to Wellington and replaced by Father Gordon who stayed in the parish for only a few weeks before being replaced in turn by Father Carpenter. The papal encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae’ was published and caused quite a stir in the parish, as in all other parishes. Further changes have been made in the Liturgy. There has been much concern about the legalising of abortion and many parishioners, along with many non-Catholics, formed a local group the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
After all the changes in the liturgy that have been confusing so many parishioners, it has been announced that all the changes are coming to an end with the introduction of a new three cycle of readings at mass. Members of many different congregations in Bridgwater, including those from St Joseph’s, took part in a Good Friday procession through the streets of Bridgwater. Father McReynolds read the Passion at the service held at the Cornhill.
Canonisation of Forty English Martyrs in Rome on 25th October. Money raised by donations, coffee mornings, and other social events to send a parishioner as a representative.
Keith Hardless ordained to the priesthood in St Joseph’s Church.
Father Carpenter left to become parish priest of Stow-on-the-Wold and was replaced by Father McGlinchey.
School debt paid off.
Father McGlinchey replaced by Father Peach
The Co-operative building adjacent to the church was purchased for £20,000 to provided a site for either the building of either a larger church or enlarge the old church. A fabric committee of twelve parishioners was elected at a parish meeting to be responsible with the parish clergy for providing a larger church.
Demolition of the old Co-op building was started on 27th October.
Building of an extension to the church was started in May. A steering committee consisting of the elected members of the Fabric committee and representatives of the major parish organisations and interest groups was set up on 27th September to help organise the many parish events and activities of St Joseph’s Centenary Year. The new extension to the church was used for the first time for the Christmas midnight mass.
THE CENTENARY YEAR – A year of celebration DEO GRATIAS
Where is Archbishop Grimshaw School Located?
Archbishop Grimshaw School is located in Chelmsley Wood, in the outskirts of Birmingham, apparently near Marston Green and the intersection of the M6 and the M42 (see Figure 1). However the address also includes Solihull, which is to the southwest of Chelmsley Wood (see Figure 2).
Figure 1. Small-scale map showing location of Marston Green and Solihull in the outskirts southeast of Birmingham
Figure 2. Large-scale map showing Chelmsley Wood near Marston Green. Archbishop School is located in Chelmsley Wood.
Grimshaw Hall, Also Located in Solihull, near Birmingham
Grimshaw Hall is located in Knowle, only about three miles southeast of Archbishop Grimshaw School. It is described in some detail on a companion webpage. A photo, taken from that webpage, is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Photo of Grimshaw Hall, Located at Hampton Road, Knowle, Solihull, B93 0NX.
Grimshaw Hall was built in about 1560 and was occupied by a family of Grimshaws for about 150 years starting in 1620. Apparently little is known about this family or its origins, presumably in Lancashire. The contents of the Hall, including many antiques and high-quality artworks, were auctioned off by Christie’s in 2000. A very attractive catalogue was published in advance of the auction. The Hall itself was apparently sold in the same timeframe for £2.4m, and it was recently (November 2003) sold again (for £1.8m). An interesting feature of Grimshaw Hall is the scratching of Nancy and Fanny Grimshaw’s names on one of its glass windows dating back to 1718.
There was apparently no connection between the Archbishop and Grimshaw Hall because the Hall was named in the 1600s, long before the Archbishop arrived in Birmingham. Also, the close proximity of Grimshaw Hall and Archbishop Grimshaw School appears to be coincidental.
Archbishop Grimshaws Roots in Bridgwater, Somerset
Additional detail on the Grimshaw family and their affiliation with St. Josephs Church is given in “Bridgwaters Catholic Past”1 by Wilf Drum. This publication appears on the following four webpages:
Excerpts from Drums work are shown below, with emphasis on information about Francis Grimshaw and his family (shown in boldface type).
BRIDGWATER’S CATHOLIC PAST
“Bridgwater’s Catholic Past” was originally written in serial form by Wilf Drum for VOX POPULI, the parish magazine of St Joseph’s Church. It was published six times a year from Easter 1961 until Christmas 1972. The fourteen instalments appeared over 30 years ago – December 1966 to be precise.
Wilf was a chemist by profession but he had a keen inerest in local history, especially in the history of his church. He wrote of many prominent church workers, but it is not surprising: he was one of them.
He died on 27th January 1982, aged 81 years. His widow, Wynn, was still a loyal parishioner of St Joseph’s until she left the parish several years ago.
Though the Catholic Church in Binford Place is over 80 years old, it was not the first to be built in the town since the Reformation. The first post-Reformation church was built in 1846 on land now known as Gordon Terrace which is situated behind Kelland’s premises in St John Street. The old building is still in existence (Unfortunately, the chapel was demolished some time in the 1990’s) and, although it is now used as a workshop, it can be recognized as an old chapel. To start our history, we must go back much more than 120 years because Bridgwater is an ancient town whose Catholic history started many centuries before the Reformation.
At the time of the Norman Conquest, just 900 years ago, Bridgwater was a manor or hamlet owned by Merleswaine (a Saxon Thane) and it was known by the Saxon name ‘Brugie’ (the bridge). There were no more than 30 houses and a small Saxon church, probably built of wood, which stood on or close to where St Mary’s Church now stands.
After the Conquest, when many English manors were given to Norman barons, Brugie was given to Walter de Douai, from where is derived its present name, Bridgwater (Brugie Walter).
In 1138 Robert de Courci, a descendant of one of the barons, founded a priory of Benedictine nuns at Cannington. Since that time, Catholic life in Bridgwater has frequently been associated; with the village of Cannington.
In 1180, during the reign of Henry II, the manor of Bridgwater came into the possession of William Brewer, who became one of its greatest benefactors.
(paragraphs omitted here)
The First Post-Reformation Church
In 1845 the population of Bridgwater was over 10,000 when a Church of England clergyman, Revd. J. Moore Capes, built St John the Baptist’s church and preached the opening sermon there in April of that year. Two months later he announced his intention of becoming a Catholic and several parishioners of St John followed his example. Mr Moor Capes, by then a Catholic layman, undertook the responsibility of establishing the first Catholic parish in Bridgwater since the Reformation. With the agreement of Bishop Baggs (Bishop in charge of a now smaller Western district without Herefordshire and Wales), a fund was opened to raise £850 to build a church. This was collected quickly and the chief contributors were Mr Moore Capes, the Knight family of Cannington, and Dr Wiseman (later Cardinal Wiseman).
The new church site which is now part of Gordon Terrace and St John Street was purchased and it included the land then known as St John’s Close and two cottages. The foundation stone was laid on 2nd October 1845 and the church of St Joseph was opened in February 1846 with sung Mass. This little chapel was only 50 x 25 feet and the organ was one, previously used in St John’s Church. Prior to this, whilst the chapel was being built, Mr Moore Capes allowed his drawing room to be used and it was there that the first public Mass since the Reformation was celebrated in Bridgwater. At first the little chapel was served by the priest from Holy Name, Cannington, and the first priest to do this was Jacob Illingworth who travelled into Bridgwater on horseback.
In 1850 Pope Pius IX increased the number of Bishops in England and Wales by splitting all four districts into dioceses. Bishop Joseph W. Hendren was the first Bishop of Clifton. In 1852 Thomas Francis Rooker, a native of Manchester, became the first parish priest of St Joseph’s, Bridgwater, and two months later he was appointed Canon. One of the cottages in St John Street was adapted as a presbytery and the other cottage as a Catholic school. Many Irish immigrants were arriving in England because of the potato famine in Ireland and some settled in Bridgwater and were quickly integrated into the parish. In 1869 after 17 years as parish priest Canon Rooker died and was buried in the cemetery beside his church in Gordon Terrace.
The next parish priest was a Frenchman, Abbé Bouvier, a man of great missionary zeal. He found that at Highbridge, where there were many railway workers, about 40 Catholics (including children) were unable to attend Mass. With the permission of Bishop Clifford (second son of the 7th Baron Lord Clifford of Chudleigh) he erected a Catholic mission at Highbridge. Mrs Buckle loaned a room of her house in Coronation Road, which is between London Motors Garage and the turning to Burnham, for use as a chapel. Later the house was occupied by Mr & Mrs J.A. Grimshaw, grandparents of the late Archbishop of Birmingham. The house became known as “Chapel Cottage” but the mission was “Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Joseph”. Catholic children from Highbridge attended St Joseph’s cottage school at Bridgwater travelling daily by train. The priest from Bridgwater said Mass at Highbridge on the second Sunday of each month and had to travel by cab.
The other Sundays the men of the Highbridge congregation just said the Mass prayers and read the Epistles and Gospels. This arrangement continued from August l871 until 1886 when the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart from Glastonbury said Mass at Highbridge every Sunday. Two years later when a chapel was opened at Burnham the mission was closed. Before that happened Abbé Bouvier left Bridgwater in 1876 and was replaced by the Reverend J.J. Corbishley who stayed for three years. During his time in 1878 the problem of accommodating the people in St Joseph’s little church in Gordon Terrace became acute. There were 60 Easter communicants but the parish was blessed with good fortune. Bishop Clifford received an offer of £500 to extend the church from Mr Philip Hewitt of Langport who was then living in Boulogne. The diocesan architect, Father Scoles of St George’s Taunton, was a personal friend of Mr Hewittt and he, along with the Bishop, inspected the premises. They decided that the expense of extending the church would not be justified and the money should be used towards the cost of a new church. In 1879 Revd. J.J. Corbishley left the parish for a convent in Taunton and be was replaced by Father J.J. Archdeacon. Father Archdeacon stayed only nine months at Bridgwater but during that time plans were made to purchase a site and build a new Catholic church nearer the centre of the town.
(paragraphs omitted here)
The Years Preceding World War I
Father Scoles was succeeded by Father O’Meara as parish priest at St Joseph’s, Bridgwater. Father O’Meara (1891-1894) was on a ten year loan to the diocese from Ireland and before coming to Bridgwater he was curate at St George’s, Taunton. Following such an outstanding man as Father Scoles was a challenge to anyone’s ability but Father O’Meara’s task was made oven more difficult by the Sisters of Charity’s leaving the district. The new headmistress at the parish school left after four months and the next one stayed only three months and a third stayed just a week. For ten days Father O’Meara took charge of the school himself until, on 22nd February 1892, Miss Mary McDonald became headmistress and she worked tremendously hard to bring it back to the required standard.
Father O’Meara, described by Mr Loxston as a very saintly man, made a great impression on non-Catholics and, during his two and a half years in Bridgwater, he received 22 converts into the Church. He was a talented musician with a fine singing voice and he formed what was undoubtedly the finest choir that St Joseph’s parish had ever known. The choir, made up mostly of members of the Coyle family and the O’Brien family, attracted people from other towns to listen to music such as Mozart’s 12th Mass.
Mr York, a lantern slide manufacturer of Friarn Street, was a great friend of Father O’Meara and he occasionally provided magic lantern shows for the parish. He also presented one of the stained glass windows on the south side of the nave of St Joseph’s Church to the memory of his wife, Eleanor Clare. The present pulpit was purchased by voluntary subscriptions which included £3 from the Duke of Norfolk. The first sermon from the pulpit was preached by Father Calway, a visiting priest, and the same evening Canon Kennard of Holy Name, Cannington, preached the sermon. The chapel in the old convent was still being used as the Catholic Church at Cannington but the main buildings of the convent were used as a reformatory school. Local boys between 9 and 13 could also attend the school and there was a total of 110 boys. The headmaster was Mr Shepherd and the school had its own band under the direction of Mr Lindsay. The band frequently paraded in their smart uniforms through the streets of Bridgwater.
When Father O’Meara was recalled to Ireland towards the end of 1893 he made no effort to hide his sorrow in leaving and during his final address from the pulpit he broke down completely. The parish school had partially recovered under Miss McDonald and there were 40 pupils attending when Father O’Meara left. Unfortunately a new parish priest was not appointed until nearly twelve months later and the Catholic Church lost much of its impact in the town.
Eleven different priests from places as far away as Clevedon, Bristol and Wincanton visited the parish on weekend supply work. Miss Harris, the housekeeper, had to keep the church and presbytery in good condition and to prepare the vestments in readiness for the priests at the weekend. In this work she was greatly assisted by Mr F. Loxston who was then in his late teens.
Miss McDonald had difficulty in keeping the old school functioning and she was unable to have necessary repairs carried out. The end of year. report by H.M. Inspector criticised the condition of the lavatories and the infants classroom. Three months later Miss McDonald resigned and in June 1894 the school closed down and did not re-open until 20 years later.
The next parish priest was Canon Wadman (1894-19l4). He was interested in art and had several fine paintings in the presbytery. During his long stay there were several developments in the parish but before the turn of the century national social changes began to occur. The trade unions were becoming organised and in 1895 the first Labour Party member was elected to Parliament. That year is remembered in Bridgwater because the River Parrett was frozen sufficiently for an ox to be roasted on the ice close to the Town Bridge.
The 1902 Education Act made county councils responsible for education and legislated for grants to denominational schools but St Joseph’s School still remained closed as the parish could not afford to bring the buildings up to the required standard.
On 14th October 1907 St Joseph’s Church was consecrated by Bishop Burton. Canon Scoles, the former parish priest who designed and built the church, was present at the ceremony and he paid all the expenses. This was a great help to Canon Wadman who received very little money from the Offertory collection.
By 1911 Bridgwater’s population was 16,802 but the percentage of Catholics was very small. Three outstanding members of St Joseph’s congregation were Messrs Frank Loxston, Harry Williams and Joseph Grimshaw. A good deal of unemployment existed in the town and soup kitchens were opened in Monmouth Street and behind the Town Hall, where a bowl of hot soup could to purchased for 1d.
Canon Wadman lived very frugally and he took a great interest in any efforts to improve social conditions. During his time he saw the introduction of the first motor-bus (or charabanc) in Bridgwater bought in 1913 by Messrs Aplin & Son. Meanwhile the clouds of war were gathering and when Germany attacked France through Belgium World War I was initiated. Britain declared war against Germany on 4th August 1914 and Canon Wadman died the same day after only a few days illness. He was buried at Bristol Road Cemetery and a large number of clergy joined with parishioners of St Joseph’s at the funeral.
World War I
Rev. George Browne (1914 – 18) took up his duties at St Joseph’s, Bridgwater during the first few days of World War I whilst a wave of excitement was sweeping throughout the country. He was a brilliant intellectual and had gained the London University B.A. degree at the age of 17 years before going to the English College in Rome where he became a Doctor of Philosophy and then later a Doctor of Theology.
The number of Catholics in St Joseph’s parish in 1914 was only 200 and this included 80 children. Sunday school classes continued in the old school buildings and there were eight classes. Dr Browne and seven lay teachers gave religious instruction at these classes each week. A second Sunday Mass at 11 am was introduced at St Joseph’s church in addition to the Mass at 8-l5 am. Improvements were carried out to the heating and lighting in the church and presbytery. A room on the first floor of the presbytery was fitted out as a bathroom and a bath was installed in the house for the first time. Meanwhile World War I from its beginning brought about a terrible slaughter of mankind on a scale never known before. New methods of warfare such as aircraft, poison gas and submarines were introduced. Heavy guns used in one day sufficient explosive shells to have served a whole campaign in previous wars. Fifty million men were engaged in actual combat on battle fronts which extended hundreds of miles.
Pope Benedict VI made constant but fruitless efforts to bring about a negotiated peace and the holocaust of young lives continued. The first big attack by the Germans through Belgium took the country in three weeks. Thousands of Belgian refugees flocked to Britain and a large contingent, most of them Catholics, came to Bridgwater. Dr Browne was a great help to the refugees and he preached his sermons in French as well as English. For the benefit of the Belgian children he had new gas heating and lighting fitted in the old school which had not been used as a day school for 20 years and in 1914 the school opened with 27 pupils. The Belgian schoolmaster and Dr Browne travelled on cycles around the parish visiting refugees in their new surroundings. The regular parishioners of St Joseph’s were not neglected and Dr Browne often made journeys around the parish on foot accompanied by his dog, Bob. His tact and sympathy seldom failed to bring back Catholic families who showed signs of neglecting their religion. A parish social committee was formed to organise whist drives, concerts and social gatherings usually held in the old school. Many of the Belgian refugees attended the socials and some were unable to hide their grief when memories were revived by the playing of their national anthem along with the British national anthem.
Dr Browne, who was a fine musician, formed a good choir for services in St Joseph’s church and in this he was greatly helped by the Boyland family. Mrs Boyland was a member of the Coyle family who sang in the famous choir formed by Father O’Meara and referred to in an earlier episode. Mr and Mrs Boyland and their daughter Maggie sang in the choir whilst their daughter Winnie played the organ. The latter also played the piano at parish social events.
In July 1916 the Battle of the Somme brought doubt for the first time to the Germans about their ability to win the war on land. They sent airships, known as zeppelins, to attack London and towns on the Eastern side of England. It was not known how far these airships could penetrate inland and lighting restrictions were imposed even in places as far West as Bridgwater. Because of this evening service and Benediction at St Joseph’s were held at 4-30 pm on Sundays during the winter months. About that time Dr Browne’s mother, who was advancing in age, came from America to live at the Presbytery. She was quite active and assisted the housekeeper with her duties and helped in the decoration of the church and preparation of the altar for Mass. In 19I7 the Germans launched an all out submarine attack on vessels shipping foodstuffs to Britain. So successful were these attacks that most foods were rationed and even non-rationed food was in short supply, but by camouflaging warships as tramp steamers, the Royal Navy eventually greatly reduced the submarine menace. The Allies position was further improved that year when America joined them in the war.
Throughout those difficult war years Dr Browne took an active part in public affairs in Bridgwater. Through this he made many friends amongst non-Catholics and received several converts into the Church. He was a member of the Labour Party and president of the Workers Educational Association whose members met in the Y.M.C.A. building near the town bridge for classes and lectures. On one occasion he gave a lecture there on “Religions Orders in Bridgwater during the Middle Ages”. Dr Browne was secretary of the Infirm Priests society, a religious inspector of schools and he was also given the responsibility of arranging the order of Divine Office each year.
In October 1918 an influenza epidemic was raging throughout Britain and Dr Browne fell victim to the germ. His great friend, Mr Maurice Page, and his mother nursed him throughout an illness, which lasted about three weeks and Father Email took over his duties at St Joseph’s. During Dr Browne’s illness, on 11th November 1918, the British Army reached Mons where the dreadful war had begun for them four years earlier. That day the Germans signed an armistice, the order was given to cease fire and World War I was over.
The war took its toll from St Joseph’s, Bridgwater, and from that small community eleven young men were killed. Their names are remembered by a brass memorial tablet on the south wall of the church. The tablet reads: Pray for the souls of John Anglin, Joseph Anglin, Patrick Anglin, John Laurence, Patrick Marks, Laurence O’Brien, Alexander Parsons, Edwin Parsons, Robert Pratt, Roland Roberts, members of this parish who gave their lives for this country in the Great War 1914 -1918. R.I.P.
Four days after the armistice Dr Browne died at the age of 41 on 15th November 1918 and he was buried at Bristol Road Cemetery. Amongst those who attended the funeral were many Catholic priests including Canon Chandler of Cannington mission; also two local non-Catholic clergymen, Rev. J.J. Langham of St Mary’s and Rev. W.E.Cloutman. The coffin was carried by six outstanding parishioners of St Joseph’s: Messrs Boyland, Frampton, Grimshaw, Lott, Richards, and Staple, whilst horse drawn carriages conveyed relatives and friends through the crowded streets. A local newspaper published a glowing tribute to Dr Browne under the heading “An Appreciation” but it is too long for inclusion in this article.
The Years Following World War I
Father Richard Iles became parish priest at St Joseph’s just after World War I finished and he stayed for nearly nine years (1918 – 1927). Throughout this time, a sum of £115 was collected for a memorial fund to his predecessor Dr Browne. £70 of this was used for the calvary on the North wall of the church.
At a social arranged for parishioners to meet their new parish priest, there were 80 people present. Music was provided by Miss W. Boyland and Mrs Maidment and singers were the Misses M. Boyland, Tatchell, Tyler, Mrs Bond, Messrs Bond, Cuzner and Grimshaw. Artists who took part in sketches were Mrs McKenna, Miss Millwright, Miss Chapman and Masters Reynolds, Grimshaw and Panton. Shortly after this another social was arranged in the school for the men of the parish who had returned from World War I. Several were unable to attend but the twenty who were present sat down to a substantial meal. They welcomed back with speeches from Captain Alexander (veteran of the Boer War), Mr F. Staple and finally Father Iles.
In February 1919, St Joseph’s lost an outstanding parishioner when Mr Henry Hadley of Taunton Road collapsed and died at his place of employment in Fore Street. Mr Hadley lived in the parish for 50 years and during the last 30 years he had been a Mass steward and rang the church bell twice each day for the Angelus. He performed that duty for the last time only 3 hours before his death.
By that time, Britain, though she had won the war and was still the leader of a large empire, was no longer a creditor nation and the country had a huge war debt. Ordinary people began to demand greater influence in political affairs and better educational facilities. The post-war coalition government passed a bill giving all men over 21 years old a vote at elections and women were given a vote for the first time, but they had to be 30 years old.
Fees for elementary schools were abolished, school became compulsory for children up to 14 years old and the employment of children under 12 was forbidden. There was no real cure for tuberculosis then and Father Iles was a patron of the Bridgwater anti-tuberculosis campaign. He persuaded so many of his parishioners to sell flags for a 5,000 shilling fund that between them they collected about a quarter of the total.
Because there was no parish school, Father Iles arranged regular outings by train or charabanc for the children to places like Weston-Super-Mare and Holford Glen. His aim was to keep them together until a new school could be built. With this in mind, he purchased land near the old school in September 1919. The land which had been used by a butcher as a slaughterhouse yard cost £275 and £125 had to borrowed from the bank to pay for it. The proposed school never materialised and the land eventually became an additional playground when the old school re-opened 20 years later.
Father Iles introduced the Guild of St Elizabeth for ladies of the parish and the first president was Mrs Grimshaw. He also formed social committee, known as “The Revellers”, to organise large scale socials in the Town Hall and the Oddfellows Hall (now the Co-op Hall) on West Quay. The Committee members were Dr Martin, Messrs Bazley, Creedy and Webb, Mrs Rich and Miss Carne-Williams. Music at the socials was provided by Miss W. Boyland, Miss Slater or Mr S. Harwood (pianists) and Mr Tom Bale (violin). The M.C. for dancing was usually Mr Frank Loxston whilst Father Iles usually acted as M.C. for the whist.
The St Patrick’s night social in Bridgwater Town Hall in 1920 was attended by Lord Arundell of Wardour, who at that time lived at Cannington in the house which stands next to the Combwich turning. Lord Arundell’ s sister also lived at Cannington. The Arundells of Wardour became linked with the Cliffords of Chudleigh by marriage in 1813. It was probably this connection with the Cliffords who still owned property at Cannington, which brought back Arundell and his sister to the village during World War I.
During 1921 the Catholic mission of the Holy Name at Cannington closed down and the reform school was transferred to Prior Park. Catholics living at Cannington then had to start travelling to Bridgwater for Mass and the journey was usually made on foot or cycle via Sandford Hill or Wembdon Hill. The following year their journey was made a little less arduous when Quantock Road was built to by-pass Wembdon. Catholics living at Cannington at that time included Mr Henry White and his wife Kate, who had a daughter Veronica and two sons, Laurence and Bernard. The latter is one of the most outstanding present day parishioners of St Joseph’s and for very many years he has been associated with almost every activity in the parish. The population of Bridgwater in the early Twenties was only approximately 16,000, but unemployment was rising steadily as the post-war boom began to slow down. This did not prevent great changes taking place in the fashions of clothes, and the introduction of flesh-coloured silk stockings had much to do with it. Skirts which had never before been higher than calf length, were raised to show the knee and women began to crop their hair instead of allowing it to grow below shoulder length. Men adopted the grey flannels and sports jacket attire instead of suits for casual wear. People listening to the first radio sets through headphones were able to hear the national news without waiting for newspapers and they also heard the new American “quick step” rhythms which brought about a change in the style of dancing. It was during those changing times that St Joseph’s celebrated the first ordination of a parishioner to the priesthood. Francis Grimshaw of Cranleigh Gardens attended St John’s (or St Mary’s) School. After studying in the English College in Rome he became a Doctor of Divinity and he was ordained in 1926. Father Grimshaw later became Bishop of Plymouth and was eventually consecrated Archbishop of Birmingham..
In 1927 Father Iles was transferred to St George’s, Taunton, and was replaced at St Joseph’s, Bridgwater, by Father Michael Cashman.
During the five and a half years (1927-1932) that Father Cashman was at Bridgwater the number of unemployed in Britain rose to two and a half millions. People generally had very little money to spare and the church collections were barely sufficient to meet the expenses of the parish. Fortunately, Father Cashman was a skilled tradesman and he carried out most of the necessary maintenance of property. He installed the first electric wiring in the church and presbytery. His only luxury was the partaking of snuff and he invariably took a pinch before starting to preach.
Outstanding families in the parish at that time were the Framptons of Loxleigh Avenue with eight children, the Richards family of Wellington Road with eight children and the Williams family of St John’s Street with eleven children. It was said jokingly that without those three families present at a service half the parishioners were missing. Father Cashman resented people arriving late for Mass or Benediction and he sometimes shocked the culprit by stopping his sermon to refer to latecomers. However, on one occasion whilst preaching during a severe gale, Father Cashman and the few parishioners present all received a shock. The wind tore the iron cross from its mounting on the bell turret of St Joseph’s Church and the cross crashed on to the roof before sliding down to the ground. The cross has never been replaced.
The Years Just Before World War II
At the start of the Thirties, when the population of Bridgwater was just over 17,000, many families lived in overcrowded conditions. Building of the first council house estate commenced at Kendale Road and later council houses were erected at Bristol Road. Catholics still made up a small minority of the borough’s population and Father Cashman took little interest in public affairs. St Joseph’s choir, consisting of Mr and Mrs Duddridge, Mr and Mrs Boyland, Mr and Mrs Grimshaw and Mr Loxston, maintained its high standard. Theorganist, Miss W. Boyland, began to lose her sight and shortly afterwards her mother died. The other choir members purchased the statue of St Anthony which now stands in the church as a memorial to Mrs Boyland.
At Easter 1932 Father Cashman was transferred to Holy Cross Bedminster. He was later appointed a canon of the diocese and he lived until November 1966. The new parish priest at St Joseph’s was Canon Charles Davey who stayed at Bridgwater for what he described later as a very happy seven years (1932-1939). Canon Davey was a fine organist and his interest in choral music brought him into close friendship with Mr F. Loxston who was just 4 months his senior. The adult choir were trained to sing plain chant Masses and the children’s choir became known throughout the district for their delightful singing of carols at Christmas.
During the Canon’s first year at Bridgwater, Parliament introduced the ‘Means Test’ which determined the amount of National Assistance each unemployed person should receive. Canon Davey, who travelled round the parish on a cycle to visit parishioners, showed great concern for the unemployed and he introduced the Society of St Vincent de Paul to the parish. Twelve men were enrolled with Mr C. Cuznor as president, Mr B. Padford as treasurer and Mr W. Smart as secretary. Needy families were given a gift which usually consisted of a 2/- voucher to purchase 1 cwt of coal.
(paragraphs omitted here)
Mid-Twentieth Century Activity
Within a year of World War II ending the Knights of St Columba elected a council in Bridgwater on May 12th 1946 and the first Grand Knight was Mr C. Walter. About that tine Father Keane, the curate of St Joseph’s was replaced by Father Supple. Restrictions and shortages still plagued Britain and it was difficult to get repairs carried out to property. Father O’Connell, the parish priest, was a “do-it-yourself” enthusiast and he carried out many repairs himself. Parishioners visiting the church during weekdays would invariably find him wearing a white apron with an assortment of tools in each pocket. His ambition was to have the church redecorated throughout and he actually repainted the sacristy himself and cleaned up the paintwork in the rest of the church. He also added more electric lighting using improvised fittings.
Britain’s finances had been drained by the war effort and only large scale financial aid from America saved a collapse of the economy. The Labour Government nationalised Wireless & Cable, Coal, Electricity and Railways, but their most worthy social change was the introduction of the National Health Service. Before that time prolonged sickness could bring dire poverty to a family but the new Act made free medical attention available to anyone requiring it and the State became responsible for the upkeep of hospitals.
Just at that time Francis Grimshaw, the first priest born in the parish of St Joseph’s Bridgwater, was consecrated Bishop of Plymouth and some of his old boyhood friends were amongst the parishioners who travelled by coach to attend the ceremony.
The following year, in September 1948, Bishop Lee of Clifton died and, about three weeks later, Father O’Connell died in tragic circumstances. After attending a social evening in the schoolroom Father O’Connell returned later to ensure that the lights were out and the doors secured. When he got back in the presbytery the housekeeper found him to be severely shocked probably due to stumbling over an obstacle in the dark. She called Father Supple who sent for the doctor and administered the Last Sacraments. The doctor stayed most of the night and returned again before noon to find Father O’Connell’s condition worsening. The priest was transferred to hospital but he died the following evening and he is buried at Bristol Road Cemetery making five parish priests of St Joseph’s who are buried in the town. Father O’Connell’s successor could not be appointed until Pope Pius XI appointed a new Bishop so Father Supple became temporary parish priest and Father Harding came from London as curate.
Father Supple persuaded the members of the C.W.L. to take over the duties of cleaning the church and they have carried out that task ever since. He also called a meeting of parishioners and formed a committee, with Mr C. White (chairman), Mr J. Nation (treasurer) and Mr Blake-Camp (secretary) to organise a rnemorial collection for Father O’Connell. More than £700 was collected and the highest individual donation of £50 was made by a non-Catholic. The money was used for redecoration of the church, fitting of improved electric lighting and the installation of new radiators heated from a coke-fired boiler in the cellar. For several weeks during 1949 Mass was celebrated at St Joseph’s altar whilst the main part of the church was filled with scaffolding.
Father Harding took a great interest in training the altar boys in their duties and he introduced the Guild of St Stephen to the parish.
At that time Mrs Grimshaw was still the church organist but her sight was failing, and the duty was taken over by Mrs Flemming.
On July 26th 1949 Rev. Joseph Rudderham was consecrated Bishop of the diocese and two months later he appointed Father William J. Ryan (1949-1958) then at Glastonbury, as the new parish priest at St Joseph’s.
Father Supple left the parish but Father Harding remained as curate for about 18 months. There were four curates during Father Ryan’s term at St Joseph’s – Father Harding, Father McManus, Father Aherne and Father O’Brien.
About the time of Father Ryan’s arrival many Catholics settled in Bridgwater. They came from all parts of Britain and there were also settlers from Poland and Italy. These families have provided numerous outstanding workers for the Church and, throughout the rest of this work, it will be possible to name only a small percentage of them.
Father Ryan introduced a Mass at 9.30 a.m. in addition to the 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday Masses to accommodate the increased congregations. He also arranged for an Italian and a Polish priest to visit the parish periodically to hear confessions and this service still continues up to the time of writing.
During 1950, Bridgwater’s post-war housing programme was beginning with council houses at Sydenham and Rhode Lane estates whilst building commenced on the Co-operative estate at the Durleigh end of the town. Gas lamps in the main streets were replaced by electric lights and this type of lighting was also provided where new houses were being built, but other streets in the borough remained with gas lighting for several more years. From that time the development of Bridgwater has continued at rapid speed and its appearance has changed greatly since those days. Coinciding with the start of this redevelopment there began a period of great activity by local Catholics and this continued with increasing vigour right into the sixties.
The cottage next to St Joseph’s church was converted into a Parish room for social functions and meetings. Most of the work was carried out by Mr R. Cudbill who at that time undertook a lot of repair work to parish property.
Father Ryan took a great interest in the religious and secular education of the children and in this he received great help from the sisters of Holy Rosary. There was no likelihood of a new school for many years and everything possible was done to keep up the standard of the “unrecognised” parish school to make it attract as many Catholic pupils as possible. Sister Mary Camillus (head-mistress) introduced the navy-blue uniform with red badge and tie which Continues to be the uniform of the present parish school.
Sisters Mary Mercedes and Mary Assumpta, who came to Bridgwater in 1945 and remained in the parish for 18 years taught at both St Joseph’s and Holy Rosary schools. Sister Mary Peter who still resides at Holy Rosary Convent has worked for the parish almost continuously since she arrived there in 1950.
Father Ryan started a now school building fund and in 1951, when the population of Bridgwater was 22,718, he introduced the Summer Fete and Autumn Sale of Work which have both become outstanding annual events. Several hundred parishioners have given up time to work for the success of these events but mention must be made of the chairman and secretary Messrs B. White and J. Nation who carried out those duties each year until recent times.
By 1952 the country’s economic position was improving and road traffic was increasing, but only a small minority of families possessed a car. Zebra crossings were introduced at High Street and Fore Street in Bridgwater. The railway from Bridgwater to Evercreech was closed to passenger traffic and later the line was closed entirely. The old station at Bath Road near the junction with Bristol Road is now used as a depot by British Road Services.
By that time the curate at St Joseph’s, Father Mc Manus, had been replaced by Father Aherne who trained the schoolboys in football at Cranleigh Gardens.
Father Ryan encouraged his parishioners to read the Catholic press. Throughout his stay at Bridgwater he reminded the congregation at Mass every Sunday to purchase a Catholic paper and so successful was he that each weekend the church porch looked like a newsagent’s shop.
Signs of renewed activity in the parish became evident in 1952 the year that television came to the West Country. That year St Joseph’s parishioners contributed to send sick pilgrim to Lourdes, the first of five to be sent in six years. They also made up a large contingent who travelled by coaches to Glastonbury for the annual pilgrimage whilst several made the journey on foot. A branch of the Legion of Mary was formed after the founder of the famous lay-order, Mr Frank Duff, visited Bridgwater and spoke about the worldwide work of the Legion. Finally, at Christmas, the first public crib in Bridgwater was erected by the Knights of St Columba in the window of Mr Blake-Camp’s shop in High Street.
A Flourishing Community
In 1953 the Communist countries were still annexing other lands and persecuting Christians under their control. Russia was changing East Germany into a police state whilst China, having failed to take Korea, annexed North Vietnam. The visit to Britain of the Yugoslavian Premier brought protests because of his cruel administration and 300 parishioners of St Joseph’s Bridgwater signed a petition, which was passed to their local Member of Parliament. About the same time the parishioners sent a protest to the President of Poland condemning the persecution of Catholics in that country. Prayers were offered before the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday and the Feast of Christ the King for the relief of Catholics under Communist rule.
There was a growing spirit of friendship and cooperation between parishioners of St Joseph’s and much of this was due to the Sisters of Holy Rosary. Sister Mary Carmillus arranged school concerts in the Town Hall and entered a school choir in the Highbridge Music Festival and these events helped to bring parents closer together. The Children of Mary produced several religious plays some of which were staged at the Arts Centre Castle Street, and one of the leaders in this work was Mrs Tucker. For many years Mrs Tucker took charge of the repository stall and she also taught at St Joseph’s School.
The social events were useful in raising money for the parish, which was under great financial strain due to the upkeep of the school. During 1953 the income from offertory collections was £1,033; the expenses of the school alone were £614 and in addition the parish had to contribute £400 each year to the diocesan school development fund. Ordinary running costs of the parish were therefore dependent on parochial efforts and private donations and fortunately that year a legacy of £200 was received. Each Wednesday evening prayers were offered at the Perpetual Novena of the Miraculous Medal for an improvement in the situation.
During 1954, declared as “Marian Year” by Pope Pius XII, Bishop Grimshaw was appointed Archbishop of Birmingham and in the Archbishop’s home parish Father Jeremia O’Brien became Father Ryan’s fourth curate. The parish priest and his new curate became close friends and their spirit of comradeship and missionary zeal was reflected in the parishioners. Almost immediately the townspeople of Bridgwater were made aware of this new zeal amongst the Catholic members of the community. A series advertisements appeared for several weeks in the Bridgwater
Mercury telling readers where to apply for explanatory leaflets about the Catholic Faith, Half the cost of the advertisement was paid for by the K.S.C. Weekly talks were given for non-Catholics in the parish room and special convert classes were held at the presbytery and Holy Rosary Convent. These arrangements continued for several years and many converts were received into the Church as a result. The manager of the Rex Cinema in Eastover was persuaded to screen the film “The Miracle of Fatima” and it attracted large audiences. Some time later, as the effects of television took its toll of the cinemas, the Rex was pulled down and now the Wimpey Bar and adjoining shops stand on the site.
The Parish Room was being used as an extra classroom to accommodate the children attending St Joseph’s school and the upstairs rooms were used for school meals. Eventually accommodation became so difficult that a room in Unity House, Dampiet Street, and at the YMCA building at the corner of Salmon Parade had to be hired as additional classrooms. Difficulty was also being experienced in accommodating the congregation in the church for Mass and this was overcome by converting the Parish Room to act as an overflow building. The wall adjoining the church was knocked out and replaced with sliding doors whilst two large windows were fitted in the back wall of the church. Microphones and loudspeaker were installed by Mr D. Cooke so that the congregation in the Parish Room could hear as well as see the priest at the altar in church. Whist drives continued to be held in the Parish Room but the weekly socials were then held at the Co-op Hall in West Quay. About this time the parish football pool was introduced with a 6d charge for tickets.
(paragraphs omitted to the end)
1Drum, Wilf, 1966, Bridwaters Catholic Past: Vox Populi, St. Josephs Parish Magazine, published in 14 installments.
Webpage posted November 2002.