The following account relates the story of the early years of the parish of Finchley Church End. A souvenir book, bringing the story up to date, was published to mark the Centenary of the parish in 2019. Copies of the book are available on request. There is no charge, but a donation to cover costs would be welcome.
It is impossible in a short account of the work of the past 60 years to include all the events that have taken place which have caused a small beginning in a Convent Chapel in 1919, to grow into the present Parish complex, with its Centre providing for parish activities.
Much of this can be attributed to our Patron, St Philip the Apostle. He was the quiet, steadfast man who took part in the staggering miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. It was he who, when St Andrew joyfully said – “We have found the Messiah”, and when Nathaniel said, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” – replied “Come and See”. Through his influence we can say of our Parish – “Come and See”.
DIAMOND JUBILEE RECOLLECTIONS
Sixty years ago, when the foundation of a new parish was first mooted, much of Finchley Church End was still fields. The roads in which many of our parishioners live today were not yet built. Finchley was a steadily increasing Urban District, with a population of about 45,000. Many people in the inner London areas looked at Finchley’s green fields and started to move to the district, among them many Catholics. The Second World Was interrupted this development. When that was over, the pace increased again until in 1965 the Borough of Finchley joined with Barnet and Hendon to form the London Borough of Barnet. Finchley was now a thriving North London Suburb, with 70,000 inhabitants. The number of Catholics had so greatly increased that the parish had become an active force in the life of the neighbourhood.
In this Diamond Jubilee Year it is fitting to pause – and consider the valiant work which has been done to make the venture so successful!
THE EARLY DAYS OF THE PARISH
On 8 July 1918, the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice, who ran houses of residence for business girls, came from their house at 196 Cromwell Road, Kensington, to the Manor House in East End Road, Finchley. Finchley Church End was then part of the parish of St Mary’s East Finchley, which was opened on 9 October 1898. Prior to this the nearest Catholic Churches were Highgate and Barnet.
The arrival of the sisters was recorded in the Catholic Press as follows:-
FOR BUSINESS GIRLS The Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice, 106 Cromwell Road, who for the past ten years have had a home for young girls in business. Government offices etc have just moved to Finchley, where they have taken a large house with all modern conveniences and standing in large grounds. It is within easy access of all parts of London, the City being reached by train from Church End Station (G.N.R.) and the West End by Golders Green Tube; there are also trams to all London.
All who are interested in the care and welfare of young girls will be glad to know of this good work, and also to make it known. These good nuns have been a great help to many young girls in this big city, away form their own homes, by making their house a real home form them. They will now be able to carry on their good work in much more favourable conditions and on a larger scale. All particulars may be obtained from the Reverend Mother Superior, The Manor House, Finchley, N3.
On Friday 25 July, 1919, His Eminence Cardinal Francis Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, visited the new Convent, where he received an enthusiastic welcome. His Eminence expressed deep appreciation of the work carried out by the nuns. In the course of his address he announced that a new Parish was to be started immediately in the Church End, Finchley district, with Father James O’Rafferty, the Convent Chaplain, as Parish Priest. The nuns had gladly agreed to their Chapel being used as a temporary Church of the new Mission. Later a permanent Church, Presbytery and Schools would be erected when funds were available. The new Parish, with about 300 parishioners, would be formed from the existing parishes of East Finchley, North Finchley, Hendon and Golders Green.
The event was recorded in “The Tablet” of 2 August 1919 as follows:-
Church End, Finchley: Visit of the Cardinal – Cardinal Bourne paid a visit to the new Convent of the “Marie Auxiliatrice” nuns, at the Manor House, Church End, on Friday, July 25, and received an enthusiastic welcome from the Sisters, boarders, and local Catholics. His Eminence gave Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, assisted by Mgr. Jackman and Father O’Rafferty. The convent chapel and even the corridors and large vestibule leading thereto, were crowded with a most attentive and devout congregation. In the course of his address after Benediction, His Eminence made the important announcement that a new parish was to be started immediately in the Church End district, with the Rev J O’Rafferty as rector. The convent chapel will be used as the temporary church of the new mission, and later on a permanent church, presbytery and schools will be erected. The new parish is being formed from the parts of the existing Catholic parishes of North Finchley, East Finchley and Hendon, which meet at this point. His Eminence expressed deep appreciation of the excellent work carried on by the “Marie Auxiliatrice” Sisters, in providing, at the Manor House Convent, a hostel for business young lades, where they can enjoy the comfort and safety of Christian family life, amid the most beautiful surroundings.
The Parish was founded on Sunday 14 September 1919, Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The first parochial Mass was celebrated in the Convent Chapel at 8.00am by Father O’Rafferty. He congratulated the parishioners on their wonderful enthusiasm and work for the successful foundation of the new Parish.
The second Mass was celebrated at 10.30am by the recently ordained Fr. Edward Reany, of St Joseph’s Missionary College, Mill Hill. He was one of three Parish brothers who family lived in Cavendish Avenue, Finchley. He subsequently worked in the Belgian Congo for 40 years, and was twice decorated by the King of the Belgians for his services to that region. In the years that followed, he was a frequent visitor to the parish.
At Benediction that evening, Fr O’Rafferty announced that to Parochial Committees, one of women and one of men, had been formed to assist the Parish in raising the necessary money for the future development. Other activities started were a Club for working girls, Catechism classes for children and for adults seeking more information about the Catholic faith.
“The Tablet” of 20 September 1919 reported this historic event as follows:-
Church End, Finchley – The opening of this new Catholic parish took place on Sunday last. the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross. The first parochial Mass was said by the Rector, the Rev J O’Rafferty, at eight o’clock, in the Manor House Convent Chapel, East End Road, Squires Lane, Finchley, which is being used for the time being as the parish church of Church End district. The second Mass was said at 10.30 by the Rev Father Reany of St Joseph’s Missionary Society, Mill Hill, whose family reside in the district. A devout congregation, which overflowed into the corridor leading to the chapel, was present at the two Masses. Over 100 approached the holy table at the first mass. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed during the day. This historic day in the annals of the revival of Catholicism in the Church End area, closed in the evening at 6.30 with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament given by Father Reany, assisted by Father O’Rafferty. The sermons, morning and evening, were preached by the Rector, who warmly congratulated the Parishioners on the truly wonderful success of the opening day, as evidenced by the numbers who flocked to the Masses and evening devotions and displayed in every way the deepest interest and desire to make the new mission an immediate success. Much credit is due to the Marie Auxiliatrice nuns, who have generously placed their chapel at the disposal of this infant mission, and to the convent boarders who sang so sweetly and devoutly at the Masses and evening service. Two parochial committees have been formed, one of ladies, the other of gentlemen, to assist the Rector with the material needs of the parish, and to help forward, in every way possible, it’s future development.
During the next five years Father O’Rafferty lodged with Mrs and Mrs Smeaton in Squires Lane (now No 40 Manor View). The Sunday Masses, Baptisms, Confessions, Confirmations and Marriages were all celebrated in the Convent Chapel, while the funerals took place at St Mary’s East Finchley, and Our Lady of Dolours, Hendon. Very few records have been found, but it is known that on 6 July 1921 when the Right Rev Bishop Joseph Butt, Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster, celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Chapel was filled to overflowing with 30 children and their sponsors.
The Chapel was now proving too small to accommodate the steadily increasing congregation. The overflow was forced to sit in a passage from which the altar could be seen. Fr O’Rafferty had to stand in the doorway between the Chapel and the passage to give his sermon. As the congregation increased, the main hall of the Convent was used and even this did not suffice at major Feasts, when the stairs leading from the hall were also used.
A member of the Manor House Community recalls with great happiness the fervour and cordial relationships that existed among the parishioners throughout the six years that the Convent Chapel was a temporary parish church. In spite of the many inconveniences, the devotion and loyalty of the parishioners made it a joyful experience and ensured the success of this new Centre of Catholic life and worship.
Fr O’Rafferty was appointed Parish Priest of Bushey, Hertfordshire, in 1924, after five years zealous work in Finchley. He was succeeded by Fr Francis Hogan, MA. A site for a Church was secured on 25 March 1925, at a cost of £4,600. This was the fine residence known as Derwent House, with its grounds of more than one acre, in a prominent position on Regents Park Road, at its junction with East End Road.
Three rooms on the ground floor of Derwent House were remodelled to form a comfortable Chapel accommodating 150 people. The top floor was used as accommodation for Fr. Hogan, who had been living in Station Road since his arrival in Finchley. Mr and Mrs Bermingham and their daughter Josie were installed as housekeepers. Miss Josie Bermingham remained Fr. Hogan’s housekeeper until his death in 1957.
The old Coach House and Stable were converted into a garage, and the coachman’s quarters above later became the Headquarters of the 17th Finchley Scouts. The tennis courts at the rear were used by the parish tennis club.
The new Chapel in Derwent House was blessed on 2 September 1925 and the first Holy Mass was celebrated two days later. Both the 8.00am and 11.00am Masses were crowed with 123 people at the early Mass and 180 at the later Mass.
On Sunday, 8 November 1925, at 11.00am, Cardinal Bourne blessed the building and inaugurated the Church of St Philip the Apostle. He then presided at the Parish Mass. The servers were resplendent in their black cassocks, white cottas, white starched collars and whit gloves. Cardinal Bourne chose the name of St Philip the Apostle, as he particularly wished the Parish to be dedicated to on the Apostles. The event was recorded in The Universe as follows:-
TIME TO COME OUT INTO THE OPEN “CHURCHES SHOULD NOT BE HIDDEN” – The Cardinal
The time has passed when Catholics could be satisfied to have their churches hidden away in back streets, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster said on Sunday after he had presided at the formal opening of a church at Church End, Finchley.
His Eminence commended the local Catholics for having secured a site on the main road.
The site of the new church of St Philip the Apostle is a commanding one on the Regent’s Park Road facing the junction at East End Road. It is an acre in extent.
Derwent House, at the corner of Gravel Hill, was secured this year at a cost of £4,600. Three rooms on the ground floor were remodelled to form a comfortable chapel accommodating 150 persons.
Fr Francis P Hogan, who went to Church End some time ago, received on the eve of the ceremony his appointment as parish priest.
There are now three Finchleys – East, North and the new parish of Church End – which was formed by changing the boundaries of East Finchley, North, Finchley, and Golders Green. The parish priests of the three abbreviated parishes were present on Sunday to wish Fr Hogan success in his new venture.
JUSTIFIES CHURCH EXTENSION
The church was put into use immediately upon its completion a few weeks ago. Both Masses have been crowded each Sunday. This week there were 123 persons at the early Mass and fully 180 at the later Mass. The parish priest informed a UNIVERSE representative that there were very few who went to both Masses, and the rectors of the surrounding parishes asserted that their congregations had not been affected noticeably.
This situation bears out the Cardinal’s contention that wherever a new church is set up a congregation is ready to fill it without detriment to neighbouring parishes.
The parish of Church End dates from 1918. Until a few weeks ago public Mass was celebrated in the chapel of the Sisters of Mary Auxiliatrice, East End Road.
The parish priest, Fr Hogan, said Mass on Sunday at the formal opening. His Eminence the Cardinal presiding. The clergy present were: Frs Collins, Joyce (E.Finchley), Parsons (N Finchley), Sims (Golders Green), and Meyer (Mill Hill). A Scout guard of honour was accorded the Cardinal.
It was a lunch after Mass that the Cardinal referred to the importance of placing Catholic churches on the highways, and not in back streets.
His Eminence was replying to speeches of welcome extended by Fr Hogan and Fr Joyce the junior and senior parish priests of “the Finchleys”.
Mr H Shanly expressed the thanks of the laity to His Eminence for his presence. Others present at the lunch were Messrs. G Kelly, W Ilbery, J Lamb, J Sheppard, R I Jones, H Lewenz, M T Segrue, K S G E Atherton, F Burns, R Petch and C Hatt, besides the clergy who took part in the function.