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Walkern Catholic Church

by Tom on 29 October 2012 · 1 comment

Walkern Catholic Church

A Catholic Church was built in the 1950s in Froghall Lane; it was demolished in the late 80’s and a house was built on the site.

From Cecil Beadle's Walkern collection

The following is an extract from Joyce Lamb’s ‘Walkern Memories’

My husband helped build the Catholic Church. Services were originally held at a house near the White Lion. An Irish lady, Mrs Warner, she married a Walkern fellow, and he turned Catholic. They held services there to begin with. The congregation got bigger so they asked the Wingfields at the Red Lion ? they had got what they called the Reading Room in those days, which had a billiard table ? and Mr and Mts Wingfield said they could have service there on a Sunday, sat around the billiard table. Then eventually, with Jack Ashurst, they started building the Catholic Church up Froghall Lane ? where there is a double garage now on the right hand side [after Brockwell Shott]. It was shame it got pulled down ? quite a good congregation really, but there weren?t the priests ? there was one from Oudle Green at Ware, St Edmunds College. Stevenage said there wasn?t sufficient to keep it going. It broke my husband?s heart. Very staunch Catholic.

When I got married in 1942, if you married a Catholic you had to convert and promise to bring up your children as such, but I never got confirmed ? I knew I would eventually go back to the church I came from. I was confirmed at Walkern Church, and I would eventually come back, though not really in my husband?s time ? I took him to Catholic Church and went to Catholic Church.

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Tom McCall February 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Some additional information from the Walkern Village Appraisal:-

‘It is unlikely that Walkern would ever have had a Roman Catholic Chapel if Cardinal Hinsley had not told his seminary at Old Hall Green to send a priest to say Mass for the evacuees in 1939. So Dr Fuller, Professor of Scripture, cycled over and said Mass in a cottage front room and then for the next ten years in the billiard room of the Red Lion Pub. Before he left he got the chapel in Froghall Lane started.

The work was shared between Walkern Catholics and a bunch of students from Old Hall Green, among them Bruce Kent. Only the actual bricklaying was let out to a local bricklayer. Fr Charles Davis, the theologian, then served Walkern for fifteen years, the most flourishing period, with congregations of up to ninety at Easter.

After Fr Davis went, Walkern was looked after by a succession of people from Old Hall Green, notably Canon Peter Bourne, until the seminary was moved to London. Since then Fr Michael Garvey, Headmaster of St Edmunds College, has personally continued the work.

Sadly the Mass centre is no longer so flourishing. There are fewer Catholics in Walkern and where once the only Roman Catholic church was four miles away by pushbike, there are now four Stevenage churches ten minutes away by car.

In one respect however, great progress has been made: today the Roman Catholics, the Anglicans and the Free Church people join in each other’s anniversary Feast days. Forty years ago that would have been unthinkable.’

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