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A brief history of

St Patrick’s Parish,

Brockworth, Gloucestershire.

In recording the spread of the Catholic Faith, during he post Reformation period, in the outlying area of the City of Gloucester it is essential to remember the mother Church of St Peters, the building of which commenced in 1859.

The Parish Priest of the time, Father Leonard Calderbank had been appointed in 1850, the year of the restoration of the Hierarchy and by 1864 when he died, the sanctuary, the altar, the side chapels and four bays of the nave had been completed.

Canon Calderbank was succeeded by Dr George Case who immediately set about completing the church. The Old Presbytery was pulled down, the nave extended and the tower and spire erected. On October the 8th 1868 the church was solemnly consecrated by the Bishop of Clifton - The Rt Rev Dr Clifford.

During these years the population of Gloucester increased rapidly and this was reflected in the Catholic community. In 1813 the Catholic population in Gloucester totalled 40 out of a total population in the city of about 8000. By the year 1840 the total number of Catholics had grown to 250 and the city population exceeded 17,000.

Considerable improvements had continued to be made to the church by Canon Barron who was Parish Priest from 1878 to 1894, his major achievement being the extension of the school.

In 1894 began the long and memorable service of Canon Joseph Bernard Chard who was to be at St Peter’s for a period of 40 years, retiring due to ill-health in April 1934, being succeeded by Father M Roche.

The years before the Second World War saw a great industrial development in and around the area and outside the city new housing estates were being built. Courage and vision to meet the new situation were certainly not lacking in the person of Father (later Canon) Roche who supervised with increasing effort the spectacular expansion of the period from the late 1930’s onwards.

On Sunday November 22nd 1942 a group of Catholics in the outlying village of Brockworth gathered together for a unique occasion. Parish member John Williamson indeed felt proud and elated for his was the privilege of serving at the first Mass to be celebrated in the area since the Reformation.

Canon Roche was the officiating priest and rightly so, for his was the vision to create a catholic community in this village lying at the foot of Coopers Hill and the Cotswold escarpment, about five miles from the city centre.

Brockworth, situated on the main route from the east, the road we now know as Ermin Street, was on the thoroughfare leading to the first fordable part of the Severn and its history dates back to the New Stone Age and beyond.

During the period known as the “Iron Age” about 500 B.C. the people living in the area fortified the top of Coopers Hill with a rampart and protective mounds and ditches.

Other earthworks were built to the east in Witcombe Woods and at Birdlip and on the hill in a grave containing the remains of a woman of noble birth, a beautifully designed bronze mirror was found. This was the work of real craftsmen and the “Birdlip Mirror” can be seen in Gloucester Museum.

In 1966 a man working on his allotment in Court Road found a flint scraper such as would have been used to clean the skins of animals killed in the hunt and this dates back to the period of the mirror.

The road through Brockworth heard the tramp of Roman Legions as the conquerors took over the area and later marches from the Port of Gloucester or as they knew it, “Glevum”, up the hills of Cirencester. Roman villas were located in Hucclecote, Crickley Hill and fragments of Roman pottery have been found in the region, together with coins and Roman nails.

It was during the Saxon period around 600 AD that the village was called Brocwurthin, the “wurthin” (enclosure) by the “broc” (brook), this was presumably the Horsbere Brook and the Saxons renamed the Roman Road Iter X111 to “Ermin Street” as it is known today.

Ermin street was the road of the pilgrims through the district singing and chanting. In the Doomsday Book dated 1086 reference was made to Brocowardinge as the village was then named so residents can feel proud that the history of the village is a long and distant one and its relationship with historical events has continued.

Located within its boundaries was the famous Gloucester Aircraft factory which saw some of the great names in the history of military aviation originate. The Gloucester Gladiator fighter of World War One saw its fame extending into World War Two. The Hawker Hurricane took off the air-strip to defend our island realm and it was here under the direction of Frank Wittle that the earliest jet planes made their appearance.

It was adjoining the aircraft factory and air-strip in the straggling collection of buildings in which the workers were housed, located in the hostel area cinema that the first mass was celebrated.

Realising the need for a suitable building in which to hold weekly services the small group of parishioners began organising activities to raise funds towards the new parish. Mrs Copley, Ann Molloy and Ruth Williamson with others assisted with a house to house collection appealing for a shilling a week from Catholics living in the area.

In 1946 on March 5th a production of “The Pirates of Penzance” was held at the Brockworth hostel cinema by students of St Paul's Training College (Woodchester Park) and various other events continued to be held.

In 1952 the house “Rathlea” where the local post-master had resided was purchased for £5000 by Canon Roche with two acres of land and this is now St Patrick's Presbytery.

It was at this point that help arrived, in the digging of the footings for the new hall, from a group of Irish building workers living in a nearby hostel. Working in their spare time during the evenings and at weekends they saved several thousands of pounds by removing tons of earth to enable the concrete foundations to be laid in the deep trenches and excavated areas. Canon Roche appreciated their great contribution their efforts had made in cutting costs and when he asked them for a dedication name for the new hail of the parish, the answer was unanimous St Patrick's.

At this point it is opportune to consider the story of Ireland’s greatest saint. Born a Roman-Briton, his father, Calpurnius, was a civil official and deacon. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was carried off by raiders and enslaved in Ireland. During the time he learned to take religion seriously and became a man of intense prayer. After six years he made his escape and arrived back home but he was called in a dream to preach Christ there.

In the year 432 he went back to Ireland as a missionary and it was Patrick who caused Christ’s gospel to he welcomed far and wide and brought an organised church into existence.

The task was not an easy one for opposition was strong from king and druid priests and dangers were encountered everywhere from the heathen peoples.

In the year 444 St Patrick established his Episcopal see at Armagh and by then he had other bishops to help him with numerous lesser clergy. He encouraged the foundation of monasteries and his determination and modesty in carrying out his missionary work was outstanding.

Returning to Brockworth and the missionary work there, we find that the building of the new hall was proceeding steadily and on March 17th 1954 the Blessing of the Foundation Stone took place. In the same year one extra acre of land adjoining the site was purchased for the sum of £1125.

Mention must be made of the team of volunteers who spent hours cleaning the wood blocks which would form the floor of the new building. The blocks had been purchased second-hand by Canon Roche and he was indeed impressed by this voluntary effort which left little doubt of the keenness and enthusiasm of the helpers.

The year 1955 proved a momentous one for the Catholics of the new parish for on March 17th the Rt R Joseph Rudderham, the Bishop of Clifton, blessed and said the first mass in St. Patrick’s Hall. With the building designed for religious as well as social and fund raising activities, the next objective would be a new church to cater for the Hucclecote, Witcombe and Brockworth areas.

The first marriage solemnized in the church hall was that of Mr and Mrs Richard Long, both from the County of Cork, this being the first Catholic wedding in the area for four centuries.

Every effort was directed to raising funds. Whist drives took place in the homes of parishioners such as Mesdames Lovesey and Mayo. Social Evenings were planned, even a Dramatic Group directed by Mrs Mayo came into being and a Summer Fete took place on Saturday July 6th 1957 on the land near the hall. Michael Hickey and his wife Joan arranged dances in the hall which were well supported.

During this period the parish was served by priests from the mother church of St Peter’s, Gloucester but on September 24th 1960 the first parish priest Fr J McCarthy took charge of S Patrick’s and his energies were directed to the building of the new church and possibly later, a new school.

Ordained in 1944 when he was twenty-four, Fr McCarthy trained for seven years at St John’s College, Waterford in Southern Ireland. His first curacy was at St Nicholas Church in Bristol where he stayed for six years. He was then appointed at St Johns Trowbridge for four years and held a similar position at Minehead for six years before his arrival at Brockworth.

While mass was being celebrated in the hall , the first baptism to take place was that of Peter David Hickey who was born on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the 8th December 1960, and the baptism took place on the first of January 1961 with Fr McCarthy officiating.

The task of raising sufficient funds for the separate church appeared to be a formidable one as the parish, although thriving, was still only small in numbers. After a discussion it was felt that the only hope of increased income was to run bingo evenings in the hall and these commenced in 1960.

Under the direction of their new Parish Priest the following parishioners gave their time and energies to make this effort a success and it is hoped that the list is a full one although some individuals will have moved on to other parishes:

Sam Hadley John Williamson Bill Molloy Steve Kilroy John Power RIP Sam Heaney

Tom O’Neil Mick Gamble James Jackson Angela Lewis Mrs O’Neil Jean Rayer Mrs Moon

Mrs Kemp Mrs Cummings Karol Kubas Michael Pycraft Mick O’Connor Desmond Fox

Bob Berry Ray Hampson John Archer Tony Kilroy Pat Cushnan Mick Hickey Danny Noone.

It will be appreciated that the above names form the original list but many helpers have given their services and still help with their efforts to ensure the success of the bingo evenings held on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

During the period when Fr McCarthy was parish priest mention must be made of the invaluable contribution made by Tom O’Neil of his time and energy in looking after the gardens surrounding the house and the church and also as acting as caretaker in the hail.

Two sisters Kitty Emery and Mrs Livesey acted as church organists and frequently Kitty entertained the bingo crowds during the intervals in playing lively pieces on the piano in the hail.

Within a period of seven years due to the hard work of Fr McCarthy and his loyal band of helpers the target figure of £30,000 was approached and building of the new church commenced on the 3rd April 1966.

A site next to the hall was cleared and by 1st June 1967 the first steel supports had been erected and on 5th August of the same year the laying of the Foundation Stone took place with Canon Roche of St Peter’s taking the leading part in the ceremony.

The new church was of impressive modern design, dominating the hall in height and the Italian stained glass windows flanking the altar from the floor to the ceiling and rising on all sides over the baptistery area, were paid for from the donation given by Mrs Maddox who had resided with her husband for many years in the area. The font was at the rear of the church and the main entrance was at the side.

Mention must be made of those deceased benefactors, Marie McManus, Jonas Savodnikes, Tom O’Neil and Sam Heaney who had so generously donated to church projects.

In 1968 after a period of fourteen years the branch of the Union of Catholic Mothers was disbanded due to the falling interest but tribute must be paid to the invaluable contribution the ladies made during their period of activity in raising funds and supporting parish events.

On Wednesday evening, October 2nd 1 968 the Blessing of the new church by His Lordship, The Bishop of Clifton, the Rt Rev Joseph E Rudderham DD MA. took place at 7pm.

The parish continued to prosper but after a period of 13 years as parish priest Fr McCarthy left Brockworth to take over a larger parish in the Bristol area, On the evening of Wednesday July 4th 1973 alter celebrating Mass, there were presentations made to him from the parishioners and friends and to his house-keeper Miss June Gough.

By this time the debt on the church had been cleared and the achievement of the parishioners in raising the monies required was borne witness to by tile monument in brick and stone between the hall and presbytery.

On the 5th July 1973 the new parish priest the Fr Bartholomew Collins came to Brockworth to continue the great work of spreading the faith in the district. Educated at St Finbar’s Diocesan Seminary, Cork and St Kierans College, Kilkenny, he was ordained on June 7th 1942. Appointed Assistant Priest of St Nicholas’ Church, Bristol, he moved to St Joseph’s Church Fishponds, Bristol in 1945 as Assistant Priest.

In 1949 he was appointed Parish Priest of St John Fisher, Wellington, Somerset and St Dominic's, Dursley with St Josephs, Fishponds, Nympsfield in 195I. He returned to St Josephs, Fishponds in 1959 as Parish Priest and fourteen years later he arrived at Brockworth.

With a continual flow inwards and outwards of the local population due to Brockworth being in the fringe area geographically and industrially, Fr Collins faced the essential task of creating and developing a parish community particularly as many of the older parishioners who had done so much to create the new parish, had either left the area or were now deceased.

Fund raising activities continued with new helpers assisting with the twice weekly bingo sessions and the people organised the annual bazaar in 1973 to see their efforts bearing fruit with a profit of £173.

To provide a regular means of communication with all the parishioners apart from the pulpit announcements the first parish newsletter was published in September 1973 in which Fr Collins thanked all concerned for the warm welcome he had received since his arrival.

Parish newsletter No 3 in 1974 mentioned that regular religious instruction periods were to be continued for children attending non-catholic schools and that the first one had got off to a good start.

In 1975 the profit on the Christmas Bazaar held in November totalled £278.

During 1976 the parish newsletter was made a weekly issue each Sunday listing all the activities and events so that all attending mass would know everything going on in the parish. The publication of the letter was the work of Miss Monica Phillips who typed the stencils and duplicated the sheets.

On Friday September 10th 1976 a meeting was held to organise a new Girl Guide Company in the parish under the supervision of Miss Monica Phillips and Patricia Webb. The group was registered at Guide HQ as 2nd Brockworth (St Patrick’s). Apart from the wide variety of skills learned while working for the various badges, the guides attended camps at Cowley in the Malverns and Wales.

By this time the Legion of Mary meetings were held regularly and a Folk Group had been formed to provide music for the monthly Folk Masses held in the church.

As many parishioners resided in Hucclecote and were outside the parish of St Peter’s with its boundary in the vicinity it was decided in March 1977 to arrange Sunday morning mass at 10.30am at the Hucclecote Community Centre and attendances frequently topped the hundred mark, the mass being celebrated by Fr Collins.

After acquiring a suitable large house in Court Road, Brockworth, near St George’s Church and Brockworth Court the Sisters of the Presentation of Our Lady arrived in the parish in late 1977. The Order carries out primary teaching at St Thomas More School in Cheltenham and St Mary’s School in Churchdown, with other members of the community helping with religious instruction and parish work.

The youth of the parish had not been forgotten and on December I0th 1977 a weekly Youth Club came into being to provide a meeting point for the young parishioners and their friends. Held each Saturday evening from 7.30pm until 10.00pm it was altered the following year to Sunday evenings after mass.

Due to the fine efforts of a small group of interested volunteers such as Bert and Pat Chivers, Chris Griffin, Pat Gildea, Ray Richards, John Archer, Gerry Whelan and Danny Hennessey and others the youth club continued to prosper.

In the same sphere Michael Griffin worked for some years in the Deanery on behalf of the youth, helping the organisation of various events before he left the area to take up employment elsewhere.

In 1965 William Burton had formed the first branch of the St. Vincent de Paul Society with James Jackson and others. After a lapse of several years the society was re-started during 1980 with weekly meetings to support and maintain this great work of Christian charity, as it continues to do so at the present time.

A Mother Theresa Group also met monthly to collect and make clothing to help the destitute of the Third World.

In 1979 the Christmas Bazaar profit had reached a total of £544 and in 1980 the parish helpers were pleased to see the figures reach £582. Out of the profits from these events donations were made to various charities such as the Mother Theresa Appeal and CAFOD Disaster appeals.

As the electric under-floor heating in the church was proving too costly with ever increasing fuel costs it was decided in 1980 that gas central heating was to be installed both in the church and the hall. The small electric organ in the church was also nearing the end of its useful life so plans were proceeded with to alter the church entrance at the rear of the building and install a new pipe organ over the new porch. Funds to cover the cost of these changes were already available from bequests and donations so work commenced in the same year, a suitable pipe organ having been obtained at a bargain price.

In December 1980 the new imposing entrance porch at the rear of the church was added, an alteration which in no way distracted from the original design but was to be preferred by young brides as they could make their entrance at the rear and along the centre aisle for the wedding ceremony. The new approach also provided a suitable slope and separate door for wheel-chairs.

In February 1981 the new pipe organ was in use, installed over the porch area with pipes merging into the interior vali over the new entrance doors. This provided a fine instrument to be played by organists Dennis O’Connor and Anthony Kilroy, who now had an organ of greater range and tone than the smaller electronic unit.

With tile fine hall and beautiful modern church the parishioners who had hoped that the school would be built realized that in 1981 for such an undertaking would have to he shelved for a considerable time as there was little likelihood of approval being received for its construction even though land was available, due to the decision of the authorities being effected by the social and economic climate of the time.

On the evening of Friday I2th June1981 a large congregation attended a Dedication Ceremony and Concelebrated Mass at St. Patrick’s in the presence of’ the Rt. Rev Mervyn Alexander DD, Bishop of Clifton, and numerous visiting clergy including the Abbot of Prinknash.

Taking part in the impressive ceremony were the three priests who had made the occasion possible with the help of those devoted parishioners who had contributed so much time and effort over the years.. .Monsignor Roche of St. Peter’s, the pioneering visionary who had started the enterprise.. the Rev Fr John McCarthy the first parish priest and the Rev B Collins who had completed the ceremony.

The monks of Prinknash provided the choir and Anthony Kilroy was the organist. During the ceremony the relic’s of the following Saints and Martyrs were set into the altar stone:

St Oliver Plunkett - Martyr St. Marie Goretti - Virgin

St. Martin dc Porres - Confessor St Theresa of the Child Jesus - Virgin

This great tradition dates back to the times when the basilicas were built over the tombs of the martyrs. The body of the martyr or remarkable relics of the martyr were, later on, buried in a chamber hollowed out from the front part of the solid structure which often served as support of the altar table.

This association of a martyr with the altar gave rise to the insertion of relics in the altar stone as a universal practice since tile 6th century.

The insertion of martyrs relics’ in altar-stones is associated with the Sacrifice of the Mass, for Christ’s own sacrifice on the cross is the source of meaning for all who have died for the faith.

During the ceremony the four consecrated candles around the inside of the Church were lit for the first time.

The death of William ‘Bill’ Molloy on the 13th January 1985 at the age of 61 years was a great loss to the parish and in particular to the money raising activities. For most of the time since the commencement of the bingo sessions twenty years before, he had conscientiously attended two evenings each week in the hall to officiate as the main bingo caller.

Fortunately Jim Bowen took over the duties in the same year and he has carried on as a regular caller to the present time, so that the activity has continued successfully.

Also in 1985 the parishioners were saddened by the. death of Fr. Collins on the 30th March. lie died at the age of seventy, having spent twelve dedicated years at Brockworth.

He was succeeded by Rev John Brennan who was born at Ormond house, Kilkenny and educated at Gowran, Bagenalstown and Thurles Schools. He studied for the priesthood at St John’s College, Waterford. In May 1964 he was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Waterford.

On I4th June 1964 he was ordained Priest at Waterford Cathedral by the Most Reverend Peter Birch DD, the Bishop of Ossuary.

Fr. Brennan served as a curate at St. Joseph’s Church, Fishponds, Bristol, Holy Rood, Swindon and St. Mary’s, Bath. He was later appointed Parish Priest at St. Teresa’s, Taunton and the Sacred Heart Church, Wotton Bassett.

On the 20th January 1986 he was inducted as Parish Priest at St. Patrick’s Brockworth.

On Thursday 1st December 1987 a Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated on the occasion of the Beatification of the Gloucestershire martyrs:-

Stephen Rowsham - Priest Richard Sargeant Priest Henry Webley - Layman John Sandys - Priest William Lampley - Glover

These martyrs were beatified at Rome on 22nd November 1987.

The principle celebrate at St Patrick's was the Rev Mervyn Alexander DD, Bishop of Clifton, and music for the occasion was provided by the Oriel Singers under the direction of Tim Morris. The Oriel Singers came into being during 1976 as a quartet when they gave their first concert. Under the direction of Tim Morris the present ensemble give concerts around the County and have established themselves as one of the foremost choirs in the District.

On Fr Brennan's transfer Fr Jimmy Williams was appointed to the parish where he remained until his transfer in 1997.


In early 1997 Fr Chris Hickey was appointed to St Patrick's Parish by Bishop Mervyn Alexander - following the transfer of Fr Jimmy Williams to the Parish of Wells. Fr Chris was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers at Prior Park Preparatory School in Cricklade and the Prior Park College in Bath. From there he went to study for the priesthood at the English College in Lisbon, Portugal. Unable to give a clear commitment to the discipline required for celibate priesthood he left the College and returned to England we he joined the Civil Service as an Executive Officer with the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (MAFF). Leaving the Civil Service after a number of years Fr Chris was then employed by Rolls Royce Aerospace in Patchway in Bristol. Here he remained for some ten years as the Employment Manager for Qualified Staff. Eventually, after considerable thought, Fr Chris resumed his studies for the priesthood at Oscott College in Birmingham and was ordained to the priesthood in Clifton Cathedral on the 8th September 1982 at the age of 40 years. His first appointment as a curate was to Amesbury in Wiltshire and then to St John's in Bath followed by a brief period in St John's, Trowbridge. Fr Chris was appointed parish priest of St Thomas More's in Bradford-on-Avon following the retirement of Canon Hall before being appointed to St Patrick's, Brockworth.

At the beginning of the new millennium and after some years of planning - a fine new Parish Centre was opened - consisting of a large hall with seating for 150 people, a meeting room, kitchen and toilet facilities.

An enjoyable parish occasion occurred on the 8th September 2007 when Fr Chris celebrated the Silver Jubilee of Ordination to the Priesthood but a cause of great sadness occurred in April 2008 with the closure of our Presentation Convent in Court Road. The Sisters played such a vital role in the life of the Parish and will be greatly missed!

On the 5th of July 2008 our parishioner, the Rev Brendan Vaughan-Spruce, was ordained to the Diaconate by Bishop Declan in Clifton Cathedral and amid great rejoicing started his ministry in the Parish the following day - Sunday, 6th July - as he officiated during his first Mass.