History of Our Lady and St Peter Parish

by Fr Mcloughlin

Written on the 25th Anniversary of the parish in 1986, and the day of Consecration.

Wimbledon Common Parish began its life on Sunday, September 9th, 1961. Bishop Cowderoy visited the new parish, blessed the little church at No. 11 Yelverton and said mass for the people.

Archbishop O’Hara, the Apostolic Delegate on Parkside, entertained the Bishop, his secretary, Fr Peter Strand, and Fr P. A. Mcloughin, the newly appointed resident priest-in-charge to lunch. Fr Liam Carson, secretary to the Apostolic Delegate, was the photographer of the day.

The Parkside area, as this neighbourhood was then known, was a part of St. Joseph’s Parish, Roehampton. Fr Francis Kelly SJ and his assistant, Fr Vincent Bywater SJ, tirelessly served the Parkside area as it developed in the fifties. Roehampton Parish was in the care of the Jesuits in those days. The whole of the valley at the back of the HOme of Incurable was in St. Thomas’s Parish, Wandsworth, with Augustus Road and Beaumont Road a boundary with Roehampton Parish. Canon John O’Friel, then parish priest of St Thomas’s, suggested that Sutherland Grove was a more realistic boundary for the new parish. the three roads, Girdwood, Skeena Hill and Combermartin, were incorporated into Wimbledon Common Parish.

Medway House, 5 Victoria Drive, became a Mass-Centre for the Parkside area in 1954. Fr Bywater said the first mass, the 9:30am., on Sunday, October 10th. By February the next year, there were two masses on Sunday, the 8 and 10. In 1954 Pop Pius XII gave a new Feast Day of Our Lady to the Church, with the title ‘Our Lady Queen of Heaven’.

At the end of the Second World War, the London County Council acquired many properties in the Parkside and Roehampton areas, in an effort to house people made homeless by the blitz and road developments in the city. Property here was attractive to the LCC because many houses had gardens of four to six acres and this made development easy. Development was under way in the late forties and early fifties.

Parish records reveal that in 1950 Fr Turner SJ, parish priest of Roehampton, and Canon Bernard Cahill, financial secretary at Bishop’s House, were negotiating with the LCC the purchase of a church site. The site in question was in Albert Drive, where the Albermarle Primary school now stands.

The Diocesan Schools’ Commission, Canon Joseph Crowley, parish priest of Streatham, and his secretary, Fr Edward Mahoney (now Mgr Canon E. Mahoney, OBE), were in search of sites for primary and secondary schools. In 1952 they acquired Beech Lodge, where Our Lady Queen of Heaven Primary School now stands. In 1954 they acquired three properties in Victoria Drive, Medway House, 5 Victoria Drive, No. 9 Victoria Drive (there was no No. 7) and No. 11 Yelverton, where Our Lady and St Peter’s Church now stands.

In 1957 Birshop Cowderoy made his first visitation of Medway House Mass-centre. By then permission had been received to convert Medway House in to four classrooms for a school. the school began as an annex of Our Lady of Victories Primary School, Putney. Fr Joseph O’Kelly of Putney was Chairman of Managers at this stage. Sister Francis Mary of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God was the Headmistress. In 1958 Beech Lodge was converted into three classrooms to make the school a one-form-entry primary school.

The three sites in Victoria Drive were acquired with the intention of providing a site for a church. In a letter to Fr Francis Kelly SJ, dated March 28th 1957, Fr Mahoney wrote: “Perhaps I ought to explain that the school Commission has been brought into the matter in the first place merely to ensure that a church site could be obtained from one or the other of the properties acquired by the Diocese in Victoria Drive.” Fr kelly was under great financial pressure in Roehampton because council development exploded there as in the Parkside area, and St Joseph’s was then only a small village church.

Fr Kelly, with due permission and assistance from Bishop’s House, took possession of No. 11 Yelverton, and set about converting it into a chapel for the Parkside area. on February 25th 1959 Mr Arnold, a builder, moved into Yelverton to begin conversion. The architects, Tomei and Mackley, were responsible for the conversion.

Yelverton was a T-shaped, two-storeyed house. The leg of the T was gutted and reroofed, with a sanctuary added to its end and a sacristy, newly built, alongside. There was a gallery built at the end of the chapel, but even with this the building could seat only two hundred comfortably. The top of the T was converted into living quarters for a priest and a housekeeper, and very comfortable it was too.

In 1961 Bishop Cowderoy, at the request of Fr Kelly SJ, made the Parkside area, served by Medway House Mass-Centre, into a new parish. Fr P.A. Mcloughlin was appointed resident priest-in-charge in July of that year. He moved into No. 11 Yelverton on  September th. The final touches were being put on the new chapel, so masses for that weeke were said in Medway House before school started.

Fr Kelly SJ said the first mass in the new chapel on Saturday, September 8th, Our Lady’s birthday. The sanctuary of the chapel was fursnished with a lovely Portland stone altar, a round domed tabernacle, oak furniture and a sanctuary light. There was a chalice, a ciborium and a monstrance. All were donated by parishioners, and they are in our present church today. We had no seating, and for Sundays we borrowed chairs from the school in Beech Lodge. Parishioners immediately organised a collection for church benches, and by Easter of the following year we had new oak benches, made in Waterford for a cost less than L1,000. In 1970 these were sold to Fr E. Mahoney of Peckham Rye for a similar figure.

It was November before the builder had completed the many little jobs that had to be done. The living quarters, the presbytery had been seen to by parishioners. They had taken on individual rooms, decorated them and curtained most windows. A new carpet covered the sitting room. Parishioners who were renewing their own homes gave tables, chairs and two beds. Blankets and sheets had been purchased. In the early months the school gave Fr McLoughlin his lunch.

On his arrival, Fr Mcloughlin received the two collections in Medway House on the previous Sunday. The collections totalled L35 3s. 4d.

The development of No. 11 was intended as a permanent church for the parish, but it became quite clear early on that it could not meet the long-term needs of the parish. Early in 1963 there was a parish meeting to discuss this. At the meeting it was judged prudent to contemplate the building of another church, and to do something practical about it. The Bishop was contacted for his advice and guidance. He us his permission and his blessing. there was ample ground for new church in the back garden of No. 11. At the newxt parish meeting it was decided to invite professional money raisers into the parish to organise a Planned Giving Programme.

In 1965 the Labour Governement introudced Comprehensive schooling. Medway House and No. 9 sites were acceptalbe acreage-wise for a three-form Secondary Modern Boys’ School. This site was now too small for a five-form Comprehensive Boys’ School. The Schools’ Commission required the Yelverton site for a comprehensive School. A seach immediately began for a new site for the church. A few sites were looked at, but Our Lady came to the rescue. A neighbourly word with the owner and occupier of No. 15, a Mr Paul raven, an engineer consultant, persuaded him to sell to the Diocese. the Diocese bought this property in the latter part of 1966. THe No. 15 house was first surveyed by a trustworthy parishioner, by name Joseph P Delaney.

No. 11 Yelverton and No.15 were adjacent to each other (there was no No. 13), and they has the same acreage, one acre each. The back half of the two sites was allocated to a school playground. the parish bought No. 15 from the Diocese and parishioners decorated it. Priests and housekeeper (Anne O’Brien) moved into it in the spring of 1967. The old presbytery was put to parish use and was a Youth Centre for a time.

John Griffiths Secondary Modern School for Boys opened in September 1968. While they were building it, plans for its extension to meet the Comprehensive intake were already under way. The school was being built by Lawrence & Co., builders and the architects were Mackley and Pound. Fr McLoughlin approached Mr Mackley and requested him to draw upplans for a new church. The Archbishop gave permission, as did the Wandsworht Council, to demolish the Yelverton complex and to build the new church on this site.

In late June and during the month of July 1970, the Yelverton was demolished. From June 1970 to November 1971, the John Griffiths Assembly Hall became our Sunday Mass-Centre. The priest’s study in Np. 15 became a daily chapel for daily mass, with the Blessed Sacrament reserved there in the tabernacle.

The parish was blessed on two counts. With the Sunday mass in John Griffiths School our parish life was not unduly disrupted. Lawrence Builders moved in to build our church at the same time as they moved in to extend John Griffiths School. This saved the parish thousands of pounds.

The new church of Our lady and St Peter was opened at the end of November 1971. The first masses were said in it on November 28th, the first Sunday in Advent. The Archbishop visited the parish on december 8th and formally opened the church by saying mass in it.

On September 9th 1961, during lunch with the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Cowderoy expressed hope that, as a filial gesture to the Holy See, the new parish and church would receive a title identifying it with the See of Peter. The Archbishop had a great devotion to Our Lady the Mother of God, hence the title ‘Our Lady and St Peter.

The parish was blessed with assistant priests, when priests were more numerous on the ground.

Fr Patrick O’leary was appointed to this parish as curate in the summer of 1964. he was with us for one year.

Fr Jim Finn was appointed in 1965 and was with us for three years.

Fr John Manjon, a Salesian priest, was with us from September 1968 tto January 1970.

Fr Patrick McCoy, apriest of the Clifton Diocese, came to London to study in the University. he stayed here from Jaanuary 1970 to June 1972. He was a great help to the parish.

Fr William Cannon was appointed here in the summer of 1972 and was with us until November 1975.

By this time priests were fewer on the ground and there was no assistant for Wimbledon Common.

Fr Thomas Howley, parish priest of Selsdon, resigned his arish and came to live here in the summer of 1977. He stayed with us until spring of 1984.

In the sixties there were four religious Institutions in the parish.

Struan House, Augustus Road. Here the Daughters of Mary Immaculate have a hostel for girls (overseas mostly). They came to live in Struan in 1956, and their chapel is a semi-public chapel where outsiders can fulfill the Sunday obligation.

The medical missionaries resided in the Apostolic Delegation to serve the Apostolic Delegation to serve the Apostolic Delegation to serve the Apostolic Delegation to serve the Apostolic Delegate. In 1983 the Mercy Sisters replaced them, and are the resident Sisters there today.

The Teresian Association had a convent in Cedar Court, Somerset Road. They departed from here in 1963 to live in Kinston-upon-Thames.

The Brothers of St Gabriel had a small school for French boys in Princes Way. This closed in 1967, and they now live in Ealing.

There is a small private hospital, the Parkside Clinic, in the parish.

There are three homes for Old People: Park Lodge, Victoria Drive, Queensmere home, Queensmere Road, and one in Princes Way.

The parish is small in area and part of it is in the Borough of Merton.

Our boundary with the Sacred Heart parish, Edge Hill, is Somerset Road.

Wimbledon Park road and Church Road are our boundary with Christ the King, Wimbledon Park parish.

Sutherland Grove, Putney Heath Lane are the dividing line with St Thomas’s, Wandsworth, and Our Lady of Pity and St Simon Stock, Putney.

Wycroft Road is our boundary with St Joseph’s Roehampton, leaving Wycroft Manor in the parish.