It all began around 1936 in an orchard when the church was built on land kindly donated by the Wilson family. Our car park and hall area were at the back of their property. A boundary hedge ran along the back of their property and is now the entrance to the church car park.
The hall was in fact the original Catholic Church. During the church May processions, the congregation would exit from the church into the orchard where the priest would say benediction! In 1940 priests came from the St Francis de Sales order in Hampton Hill to say mass on Sunday morning at nine o’clock. Seven years later, Father Lahiff came and he encouraged the local Catholics to come to the church instead of attending at other local churches in Sunbury or Walton.
Our First Priests – St. Francis de Sales Clergy, Hampton Hill
Father Dunstan Cross:
Fr Cross was born Frederick Cross and came from Swindon in Wiltshire. As a young man he worked as an upholsterer at Swindon Railway works. At the same time he became a Catholic and on baptism chose the name Dunstan. He entered the Novitiate at Hampton Hill and later studied at Oscot near Sutton Coldfield and was ordained a Priest in 1932. He was “gentleness personified”. He sought to follow at all times St Francis de Sales, “the gentleman saint”. He held many positions of authority in the Community and was known for his neatness and tidiness and his French polishing. He died aged 73 at Bristol and was buried in Malmesbury.
Father James Lahiff:
Fr Jimmy was born in 1908 at St Helens Lancashire and at first entered the Passionists as a Lay Brother, his calling was truly to the Priesthood and later entered the MSFS and was ordained in 1934. He ministered mainly in the Clifton Diocese with a little spell in Westminster Diocese. In 1965 he became Novice Master. In 1967 he went to Burnley and then for 20 years worked in the Liverpool Diocese. He died in 1990 and was buried with his parents in Lancashire. He once said “his role was to preach the Gospel through the medium of football”.
Father Arthur Williams:
He was born in 1908 at Peckham. He entered the Fransalians in 1931 and was ordained to the Priesthood in Oscot in 1936. He ministered mainly in the Diocese of Clifton however he also ministered in the Diocese of Westminster and Birmingham. In 1964 he returned to Devizes where he ministered until his death in 1990. He is buried behind the church in Devizes. Fr Williams was a man of great routine who ministered particularly to the sick and the mentally ill. He would visit both the district hospital of Devizes and Roundway hospital every day. A widely read man he would love to spend his holidays in Germany.
[Sourced from the MSFS Archives, Hampton Hill.]
Thomas Henry Birchall Scott. Thomas Henry Birchall Scott was born on the 14th July 1872 in South Shields. He is the architect of the original St. John Fisher Parish Church, which is now the hall. At the time, all church buildings were of the same design. He was a pupil of G.S. Freeman 1887-88 and attended King’ College, London. He became assistant architect to Robert Leabon Curtis in 1888. In 1911 he moved to Finsbury Square London and Wanstead Park. Three years later, in 1914, he resided at Horseferry Road, Westminster. Professional Qualifications- In 1911, he joined the LRIBA -Licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1931, he was proposed by W.Jacques as a member of FRIBA -Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1918, he began his independent practice as a principal in Messrs R.L. Curtis and Sons. He then collaborated with Benedict Williamson. Ten years later (1928) he went into partnership with his son T.G. Birchall Scott. He was surveyor to the dioceses of Westminster and Brentwood. He was the architect responsible for St Edmund’s College and St Andrew’s Hospital, Dollis Hill. The hospital was built in 1912 on the Dollis Hill Range. In 1914 it became a military hospital with many Belgian soldiers as its earliest patients. He became President of the Cambridge and Hertfordshire Society of Architects 1937-1938 and was President of the Royal Photographic Society 1925-1927. He was the Chevalier de L’Ordre de Leopold ll in 1933 and the founder member of the Guild of Catholic Artists and Craftsmen. Other projects include: * Silvertown, St Mary and St Edward, 1922 (demolished) * Barkingside, St Augustine of Canterbury, 1928 (now school hall) * Rayleigh, Our Lady of Ransom, 1934 * Barking, St Thomas More, 1935 (now parish hall) * Chadwell Heath, St Bede, 1935 (now parish hall) * Lexden, St Teresa of Lisieux, 1937 (now parish hall) * Shoeburyness, St George and the English Martyrs, 1938-39
He died in 1945.
Father George Groves (1948-1952)
George Groves was born in 1910 in Stepney. His family lived in the parish of Commercial Road. His father, a Labour Councillor, was a friend of Lord Atlee, who tried to persuade him to stand for Parliament. Both parents were anxious for their five children to have the opportunity of a secondary education. His brother, Monsignor Alexander Groves, became Head teacher of Gunnersbury Boys School and later succeeded Canon Parsons as Head teacher at Finchley Grammar School. His sister Doris was Headteacher at the Sacred Heart School, Ruislip. George himself was taught by Monsignor Ronald Knox at St Edmund’s College, and became a proficient student in Classics, which he later taught to his pupils at Gunnersbury. However, George’s life was not to be confined to the classroom. At Tollington Park he negotiated the purchase of land for the present Church at Holloway. He turned his attention to a specific need of the Irish. He provided a house and asked his able assistant, Father Thomas McNamara to become its manager. Hence the foundation of the Irish Centre, which was later to be transferred to Camden Town. He next planned the present primary school at Tollington Park, which is dedicated to Christ the King. Canon George was ordained by Cardinal Bourne at Westminster Cathedral on 29 June 1933. His appointments were at St Francis de Sales. Tottenham from 1933-35: from 1935 until 1944 he taught at Gunnersbury Grammar School; was Chaplain at the Good Shepherd Convent, Finchley for a short time in 1944: SS Mary and Joseph. Poplar 1944-45: Chaplain at the Cathedral from 1945-46: Assistant Priest at Sacred Heart. Ruislip from 1946-48: Administrator of St John Fisher, Shepperton from 1948-52; Administrator at St Mellitus, Tollington Park until being appointed Parish Priest in 1954 and Canon in 1965. Canon George stayed at Tollington Park until 1975 when he was appointed Parish Priest at St Theodore of Canterbury. Hampton-on-Thames in 1975. As the congregation grew, in September 1948 it was decided to ‘establish’ a parish in Shepperton with Father George Groves as parish priest until September 1952. He established the parish in Shepperton by encouraging people to attend mass and ‘lapsed’ Catholics to return. He bought new vestments and instituted the first midnight mass (1948) at St. John Fisher with a choir of three! As there was no priests’ house, he took up lodgings in Squires Road. He retired in 1983 to Barrow West Ardfert. Co Kerry, where he celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his priesthood. He led an active retirement and was essentially a community man. He loved company and kept an open door for visitors and regularly celebrated Mass at Kilmoyley Ardfert and was always ready to help the local clergy. The full force of the Atlantic breezes never deterred his outdoor activities. He was a strong man and was only confined and marooned by the high tides at Barrow, which came up to his gate. George was always busy, happy in the greenhouse and doubly jovial when the ‘Horse’ or ‘Dog’ he had his eye on came in first! The plaque presented to him at his Golden Jubilee bore the inscription “Gloria et Finis”, a tribute he appreciated.
Canon Groves died peacefully at Our Lady of Fatima Nursing Home. Tralee, on 9th February 1997. His funeral Mass took place at Ardfert Parish Church at 2.00pm on Thursday 13 February, 1997.
[Sourced from the History of St Theodore’s Catholic Church, Hampton and St. John Fisher Shepperton archives. ]
Father John O’Sullivan 1952-1969
John Joseph Patrick O’Sullivan was born on the 19th March 1903. He was educated at St Ignatius School in Stamford Hill and St Edmund’s, Ware. His ordination to the priesthood came on 8th June 1930. He served Curacies at St John’s Wood (1930-1933), Holy Redeemer, Chelsea (1933) and Islington (1933-1934). After a brief return to Holy Redeemer in 1934, he was on leave (1934-1935) before moving to St.Joseph’s, Enfield (1935-1937). After another period of sick leave, he served as Curate at Highbury (1938-1952) before becoming Parish Priest of Shepperton in 1952. Before Father Groves left, he suggested that a priests’ house should be bought as the following parish priest; Father John O’ Sullivan had an enormous red setter dog, called ‘Prinnie’ which he wanted to bring with him. Father John was responsible for the church being built in 1965 after Bishop Cashman laid the Foundation Stone on the 13th March that year, whilst he lived on the Laleham Road. Later, the present priests’ house (15 Wood Road) was purchased by the diocese from Joseph Wilson. During his time in Shepperton, Father John increased the number of Sunday masses said to three, two in the morning and one in the evening. This was because people were standing outside during the 10.30 mass on Sunday! In 1964, he gifted the old church (which is the current hall) the solid oak benches. He organised a pilgrimage to Aylesford and started the Summer Fair. In 1968 the Christmas Bazaar was held in his house! Father John was well-known around Shepperton and Chertsey because of his trademark full-length cloak. To some people he was known as ‘Joe’ because of his second name- Joseph. (Some people referred to him as the priest with the ‘matching dog’ because of his head of red hair!) He stayed in the parish for seventeen years where he died on 23rd May aged 66 years.
The Architect of the present church. Thomas Birchall Scott. Thomas Scott was born a Catholic in the very early 1900’s. He was baptised at St Barnabas Church, in the parish of Manor Park, the son of Thomas Henry Birchall and Eva Scott. He went into partnership with his father, TH Birchall Scott, but their names have never been seen linked as a ‘father and son’ partnership. He later formed Scott & Jacques architects based in Chelmsford, Essex. Thomas Scott built the present St John Fisher church pre- Vatican ll. It has a simple design and sanctuary due to a lack of funding at the time. He was also responsible for St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Hillingdon, St Philip’s Catholic Church, Finchley and the new chancel at the Blessed Sacrament Church Copenhagen Street London N.1 which was effected in 1959. Other projects include: * The Canon Holmes Memorial School, Hutton Park, Brentwood 1968 * St Mary & St Edward’s Catholic School Silvertown 1970 * Basildon Zoo. * Canning Town, St Margaret and All Saints, 1949-51 (post-war restoration) * Ongar, St Helen, c1973 (alterations)
Just as his father had been, he became a prominent member of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. It is believed that Thomas Scott died in 2000.
[Taken from “Catholic Building Review:” Southern Edition for 1966, p. 32, St John Fisher, Shepperton. Architects: Scott & Jacques, Westminster SW1]
“The new Church, seating 300, has been erected in replacement of the Church Hall built in 1936 and which Hall housed the overcrowded congregation for approximately thirty years. The old Church has now been altered and adapted for parochial purposes. A large car park has been provided at the rear for use of the Church and Hall.
The new building is an all brick structure with laminated wood portal trusses.
The sanctuary has been designed to suit the new liturgical requirements with the Priest facing the congregation, and whilst the present furnishings are in wood these are in due course to be replaced with marble.”
Let us pray for all those who have planned, contributed and prayed for our new Stone Altar, Lectern and Tabernacle plinth.
Father Charles Connor 1969 – 1986
Charles Connor was born on the 10th November 1912 in Bow, the son of David and Miriam. He studied at Allen Hall, Ware. He was ordained on the 29th June 1936. Father Connor became Curate at Golders Green and Millwall followed by a Chaplaincy at Westminster Cathedral. He was then a Curate in East Finchley before becoming an Administrator in Isleworth (1957-1969) before coming to Shepperton as Parish Priest. He originated the Caring Group and the parish Pilgrimage to Lourdes, although at the time, only the sick and adults took part. He obtained the organ up in the loft to replace the old harmonium. He also initiated ‘Churches Together’ in Shepperton and during his time at St John Fisher, the Christmas Bazaar was held in the village hall. He was the first Parish Priest to take on the responsibility of a registrar. It was during this time that the Thomas Moore Room, the link between the house lobby and the church, was built. In June 1986 he celebrated with his parishioners his fifty years in the priesthood before retiring.
Father Connor died on the 17th March 2005 at Nazareh House, Hammersmith. His Requiem Mass was celebrated by Bishop O’Brian at Isleworth.
Father Michael Groarke 1986-1994
Re-ordered the sanctuary. He instigated the Lay Ministries within the parish such as Eucharistic Ministers, Church Greeters and the Parish Council. Whist in Shepperton, he began trips out to celebrate the Parish Feast Day. Once on an excursion to Rochester Cathedral, he celebrated mass in the crypt. This was followed by tea in the hall of the Parish church of St John Fisher. During his time as parish priest, Reconciliation Services were introduced. In December 1988, he celebrated forty years as a priest with parishioners and visitors. Father Groarke moved on to be an assistant at Welwyn Garden City before retiring to Nazareth House where he later died on February 7th 2008.
Father John Elliot 1994 – 1997
Introduced a mass at seven o’ clock in the morning. He further developed the ministries and focused on starting a Youth Group with Jamie McNish as the paid youth worker. Jamie was only supposed to be having a short- term contract, but he stayed on for a further three to four years, beginning Youth Masses with a Youth Choir alongside Bernard and Christine. It was at this time when the Westminster Diocese invited its youth members on the Lourdes pilgrimage. In the church, Father John replaced the organ with a clavinova. He excelled at cooking and published several recipe leaflets. He started the Church Archive and held regular coffee mornings. Father John moved on to becoming parish priest at Perivale and has recently been appointed to Our Lady Immaculate and St Frederick parish, Lime House, Millwall.
Father Anton Cowan 1997 – 2000
Continued to develop the Youth Masses and the Lourdes pilgrimage. He brought in the ‘Magic Carpet’ as he called it, for use by the children during the 10.30 mass. He was famous for wearing a berretta with chicks on top at Easter, much to the delight of the younger parishioners. Each week during Advent, he moved the statues of The Three Wise Men along the altar rails from the side, closer to the crib in front of the altar. He initiated children’s First Holy Communion at Christmas. Father Anton was responsible for the first wall hangings above the altar. Father Anton is at present the parish priest at St Paul’s Church in Cheshunt.
Father Pascal Ryan (2000 – 2001)
In his short stay Father Pascal Ryan 2000 – 2001 consolidated the work of Father Anton. He celebrated the mass for the Millennium beginning at eleven o’clock and finishing at midnight. This was followed by a party in the hall, whilst fireworks were being set off outside all over Shepperton. He is currently parish priest at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Stoke Newington and last December, (2011) he was installed as a Canon of the Metropolitan Cathedral Chapter in Westminster Cathedral.
Father Dominic Byrne (2001 – 2007)
Father Dominic Byrne 2001 – 2007. Bought the present crib. He planned excursions to places of interest such as Oxford and Cambridge. On a visit to Oxford, he organised a tour of his old college library followed by lunch at the Catholic Centre. During Lent, he held Days of Recollection which included a lunch of home-made soup and rolls. Father Dominic changed the timing of the children’s First Holy Communion to early summer. He was an excellent cook and hosted a home cooked Italian Feast just before his departure to become parish priest of Our Lady of Dolours in Hendon.
Father Peter-Michael Scott (2007- 2013)
Father Peter-Michael Scott 2007- 2013 has brought back the early mass on Fridays, now at seven thirty. He purchased the statue of Our Lady for the new Garden of the Shepherds and some new wall hangings. New notice boards have been donated to the church which enhances the outside. Father Peter is a ‘regular’ in the Parish Pantomime, constantly showcasing his talents when ‘treading the boards’. He is an enthusiastic participant in the Annual Cormac Murphy O’Connor Golf Tournament and his courage knows no bounds as he stretches his ‘sea legs’ each year in the Shepperton Raft Race.
Outside Parish life, Father Peter is the Archbishop’s Advisor for Healthcare Chaplaincy and Senior Lecturer in Healthcare Chaplaincy at St Mary’s College in Twickenham.
He has recently taken on the care of his parents’ faithful daschund, Basil.