Welcome to St Mary's

Here you will find out about our Parish, our groups and administration

Info on Parish administration, Finance, Parish Groups, Social Action

Need to contact us or find information about our Parish?

Office closed due the pandemic restrictions but you can contact our parish administrator, Charlotte, by email bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com 

All postal items need to go to 4 Harley Street. Items for the bulletin must arrive by noon on Wednesdays: email using the contact form below or to: bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com from your email; or put in a request on paper at the Parish Office or 4 Harley Street.

Parish Administration


Parish link: New Parish Safeguarding Reps are currently being trained so do not use  PSR.bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com but contact the Diocesan Safeguarding office instead.

Diocesan Safeguarding office: 0117 9540993

Diocesan Safeguarding team: Team

What is Safeguarding?

“Being loved and being kept safe go to the very core of the Church’s Ministry to children and vulnerable adults.  The work of safeguarding has to be seen within the overall mission of the Church.  As she seeks to protect the vulnerable and weak, the Church needs to ‘act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God’.  (Micah 6:8).

It is a ministry of love and healing and seeks justice for all”. The Cumberlege Commission 2007

Towards a Culture of Safeguarding

The Church has a responsibility to ensure all those who undertake work in the name of the Church are adequately trained in safeguarding matters. The Catholic Church is dependent on Clergy, Religious and Lay people using their skills and talents to nurture and support the Catholic community. Some will be paid employees, but the majority undertake their work on a voluntary basis. Whilst some will recognise their role as a volunteer, many rightly see their caring and support contribution as part of their Christian responsibility and ministry. But we all have a role to play in safeguarding the young or adults who may be at risk and it is for this reason that the Catholic Church in England and Wales has worked with EduCare to bring you an e-learning package that will raise awareness throughout the Catholic Community in our countries. The e-learning package is part of the Church’s commitment to safeguarding, and is available to all members of the Catholic community free of charge.

Please download the brochure to see the courses available and how to access them.

What do I need to do to access this training resource?

1. Email safeguarding@cliftondiocese.com to register your interest.

2. Your email should contain your name, email address, the name of your parish/order/congregation, and your role. For example: Priest, Member of the Religious, Safeguarding Representative, Youth Worker, Teacher, SVP or Other Volunteers, Parent/Grandparent/Guardian, or Other.

3. On receipt of your email the safeguarding administrator will register your email address with EduCare.

4. You will receive a Welcome Email from EduCare where you will set your password.

I want to fill in a census form! Help!

We would like to keep up-to-date records of all our parishioners, to help us to contact you and to understand the demographics of our parish and the needs of all.

Please complete, print off and return the census form  Clifton Diocese – Parish Census Form to Parish Office c/o 4 Harley St, Bath BA1 2SF. Once we have your details, we can get in contact and let you know how we can help you to feel more part of our parish.

The census form is used by every parish so does not include details about mailing lists. Please make a note on your form if you would like to be added to the mailing list for:

  • weekly bulletin (sent out on Fridays)
  • all-parishioner mailing list
I am new to the parish! Help!

Welcome to St Mary’s!

Please complete, print off and return the census form 2018 Clifton Diocese – Parish Census Form to 4 Harley St, Bath BA1 2SF. Once we have your details, we can get in contact and let you know how we can help you to feel more part of our parish.

REFRESH, RENEW, RE-ENGAGE: Re-building our parishes after lockdown

REFRESH, RENEW, RE-ENGAGE: Re-building our parishes after lockdown
A collaborative project with the Department for Adult Education and Evangelisation of Clifton Diocese and the Pastoral Ministry Office of Northampton Diocese.
This is a new world we are moving into, full of uncertainties. We don’t know what resources we will have, who will come back to church, or how things will unfold over the next year. It’s looking as if a return to church will be a trickle-back rather than a flood, and we need to make the most of opportunities along the way.
We have two different needs facing us:
– to re-establish our existing communities and ministry groups;
– to reach out to those who have not yet returned and to new people.

So…St Mary’s has been provided with resource sheets for a variety of different ministries, and webinars to support these will take place through the autumn. Fr Jeremy is going to use these Renew, Refresh, Re-engage resource sheets as the structure for 6 sessions, open to all parishioners for reflection and an exchange of hopes, concerns and offers of help for the future. This can then help guide the parish over the next year. Everyone is welcome!
When? Thursday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm at the back of the church.:
•16th Sept Parish ministry Parish Ministry overview resource sheet 
•23rd Sept Invitation Invitation sheet
•30th Sept Music Ministry Music Ministry Resource Sheet
•7th October Children’s Liturgy of the Word Childrens liturgy resource sheet
•14th October Hospitality Hospitality resource sheet
•21st October Ministry of the Word Readers’ resource sheet
Please email the parish office if you intend to come to any or all of the sessions Bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com (You are still welcome if you just come along).

WEBINARS (online talks):
We are joining with Northampton Diocese to offer three webinars to support these resources through September:
6th September: Fr. Nicholas King SJ will reflect with us on Christian Hospitality as we find it in the Gospel of Luke.
20th September (tbc) Jo Boyce will inspire us to refresh our music ministry with lots of new ideas to help us get going again.
27th September: Avril Baigent and Sarah Adams reflect on the practical steps to help re-build our communities.
To book any or all of the webinars, go to https://refresh_renew.eventbrite.co.uk

In addition: Join Children’s Liturgy of the Word leaders from across the diocese in an on-line conversation to share ideas and approaches with Sarah Adams on Wednesday 22nd Sept 7-30-8.30pm. Register at adult.education@cliftondiocese.com, and you will be sent a TEAMS invitation in the days leading up to the event.

Finding a priest

If you need Fr Jeremy for any reason, please call 01225 311725. If he does not answer the phone, please leave a message and he will return your call.

If Fr Jeremy is not available and a priest is required urgently, please call: Fr Christopher Whitehead at St John’s, South Parade (01225 464471), Fr Malcolm Smeaton at St Alphege’s, Oldfield Lane (01225 424894) or Fr Bill at Sts Peter and Paul’s, Combe Down (01225 832096).

Parish Administrator

The Parish Office is open Wednesday and Fridays 9.30-11.30am, and on email Mon, Tues and Thursdays. You can contact our Parish Administrator Charlotte Boyall by email bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com or post Parish Office c/o 4 Harley Street, Bath, BA1 2SF. The Parish Office can be found inside the Parish Centre, next to the car park and accessible from Burlington Street.  If you have a question Charlotte will try to answer it; a problem, she will try to solve it.

All postal items need to go to 4 Harley Street. Items for the bulletin must arrive by noon on Wednesdays: email Parish Administrator; ring the Parish Office 01225 314114 or put in a request on paper at the Parish Office or 4 Harley Street.

Finance Committee and parish accounts

Your Parish Finance Committee consists of our Parish Priest, Dayne Netto (chair), Jim Sherry, Michael Gage, Anne Hughes and Vin Madden. New members are always welcome (if you would like to serve please contact Dayne Netto at treasurer.bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com 

Your Committee is responsible for all financial matters relating to the Parish.  It has a Constitution and a set of Duties and Responsibilities.  Both of these documents can be accessed on our website.

Each year your committee sets a budget in consultation with the Property Development Group. The ones for 2020,  2019 and 2018 are on this website. We also produce the accounts for the parish and those for 2021 are on this website Copy of St Marys Outturn 2021 and Budget 2022 parishioners. Please follow the links to read them.

During the last two years parishioners have been most loyal and generous in their giving. Fr Jeremy and the parish Finance Committee are immensely grateful. Despite the church closures due to lockdown in 2020 and 2021, our income stood up well during this dreadful period. It has been a great solace to so many who could not attend Mass that we started live streaming our Masses.  Now we have that facility, we are able to live stream weddings, baptisms and funerals for those unable to attend in person.  It is our strong intention to continue to live stream Masses even after the pandemic subsides.

Legacies are always most welcome and are a considerable help in dealing with major expenses of the Parish.  Parishioners wishing to leave a legacy in their wills can use the suggested wording available as a document on our website.

If you would like more information about our finances please email Dayne Netto at treasurer.bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com or write to him via 4 Harley Street, Bath, BA1 2SF.

Parish Budget and accounts to 31 December 2018

Parish budget and accounts to 31 December 2019

COVID-19: Disruption to parish finances - can you help?

FINANCE: The Covid-19 situation has severely disrupted our means of receiving finance to the parish. We thank everyone who supports St Mary’s financially with a regular donation via their bank account or envelope giving. We recognise the difficulties in dealing with cash currently.

We are fortunate to have a foundation of regular givers. Even so, we have lost almost 30% of our monthly income (largely from the collection plate donations). This is income essential to sustain the parish & its outreach responsibilities. We know that many are facing greater financial hardship. However, if you are still able to make a regular or occasional contribution, we would be extremely grateful.

Please give via the DONATE button on the home page of this website. Any size of donation is welcome, no matter how small. Only the donations secretary sees this confidential info.
If you are a taxpayer, please consider using Gift Aid to boost your donation’s value by 25% at no cost to you. There are details of how to do this elsewhere on this page.

Church Giving
The Catholic Community is the sole source of income for our Church. We receive no financial support from the state or local government.


Our Community is important as it witnesses to Christ in the north of Bath, especially through the celebrations of the Sacraments.  Over 390 adults and children attend our Church each Sunday.  We baptise 20-30 people each year. All this means our Parish is thriving, providing us with a vibrant community which is worth preserving.

To support itself the Parish relies on the money generated from the Sunday collections and regular giving.   We also welcome legacies.

The document How Much Should I Give Leaflet 2019 v2 will enable you to give to the Parish in the way that suits you best.

Any questions on Church Giving will be answered by contacting giftaid@stmarysbath.org.uk

Parish Gift Aid information

All giving by parishioners towards the cost of running the Parish is very much appreciated. Please see the document Gift Aid Explained for further information.

If you are a tax payer, you can increase your giving by 25% by completing a gift aid declaration together with joining our standing order or envelope scheme at NO cost to yourself. This really is a method of giving which means so much to the Parish. The scheme is explained in more detail in a document available on our website.

Our website has a gift aid declaration as a document that you can download, complete and send in to the parish office (we need the original signature, so cannot deal with the form electronically) marked for the attention of Michael Gage our gift aid administrator. The address is: M.Gage – Gift Aid, 4 Harley Street, Bath BA1 2SF).

If you wish to give by bank standing order our website has a standing order form available as a document (please send it to Michael Gage as we need the original signature). If you wish to give by our envelope scheme we will arrange for that when we receive your gift aid declaration.

Further details can be obtained from Michael Gage at GA.bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com or by writing or phoning the Parish Office.

Paying tax and giving under gift aid from 6th April 2017

The personal tax allowance has been increased for the coming tax year and as result of this some parishioners may find they are no longer paying enough Income or Capital Gains tax to Gift Aid their Offertory Giving.

From 6th April 2017 the standard personal allowance will increase to £11,500.00 per annum.

The first £1,000.00 of interest from banks, building societies etc. will be tax exempt for basic rate tax payers, as will the first £5,000.00 of dividend income. It will therefore be possible for an individual to be in receipt of £17,500.00 of income without paying any income tax.

Can we please ask you to remind all parishioners who have signed Gift Aid Declarations to check that they are paying sufficient income tax to cover the amount reclaimed from H M Revenue & Customs on their giving.

The Diocese on behalf of the Parishes claims 25p on every £1.00 given under Gift Aid.

Therefore an individual giving £1.00 per week needs to be paying £13.00 per annum in income tax.

Donating £5.00 per week requires minimum tax paid of £65.00 per annum.

Donating £10.00 per week requires minimum tax paid of £130.00 per annum.

Whilst we encourage parishioners to give under Gift Aid we also need to ensure that they do not face an unexpected request from H M Revenue & Customs to repay the tax we have claimed on their donations.

Parish Gift Aid forms
Car Park

Anyone may use the car park when attending a service at St Mary’s. However, to park at another time, you need to have a permit

Parishioner car park permits

Any parishioner can buy a parking permit, allowing 4 hours of parking per week. Email the parish office for an application form, then either:
*Complete the form; send it & a cheque for £60.00 payable to St Mary’s Catholic Church Bath & a stamped addressed envelope to Parish Office, c/o 4 Harley Street, Bath, BA1 2SF
•Complete the application form; email it to the parish office, & transfer £61.00 to the church bank account (Sort 521003 Account: 66286670 Name: Clifton Diocese re Parish of St Mary, Bath) The £1 covers the cost of the stamp & envelope to send your permit.

Commercial car park permits

These permits give authority to park the above vehicle in the Church Car Park, on weekdays only, between the hours of 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. The cost is £1000.00 for 1st January – 31st December. If you wish to apply for a permit, please contact the Parish Office (01225 314114, bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com

***Please beware: the signs in the car park that say you will receive a fine for parking without a permit ARE REAL!***


Finally, we would like to create a database of those who are interested in receiving the bulletin by email.  If you would like your name to be included, please let us know by emailing Parish Administrator  Any information provided will be processed in accordance with the Diocese’s Privacy Notice which is available at Clifton Diocese Privacy Notice

CCTV Notice

Photos in Church Notice

Parish Groups

Gardening Group - help needed!

Gardeners needed for St Mary’s Church

Do you enjoy gardening and have a little time to spare? Could you help maintain the church gardens? No expertise needed but an advantage if available?
Contact 07828 720517 / 01225 447347

We need some new faces to join the Gardening Team, to help keep the grass cut & do the numerous other garden jobs that keep St Mary’s looking loved, especially so in these times. You don’t need to have the skills of Monty Don to volunteer. One simple task would be to weed around the car park and the parish centre.
We would welcome some younger people. All that is needed is an hour or two every month or so. Interested? Contact the gardening group through the parish office bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com


Lectio Divina

Monday Lectio Divina Groups – all welcome to either or both groups.
St John’s Church:
We use Lectio (Divine Reading) to lead our reading & sharing of the Gospel for the next Sunday. 2.45pm for 3.00pm in St Luke’s room (in the Chaplaincy Centre, down stairs to car park). Info: Patrick 07966 366731

St Mary’s Church: Meet fortnightly 7.30pm via Zoom to share a portion of scripture chosen by a group member. Info: Graham 07889 495419

Property Development Group

Skills Needed – Property
In the next few months we will be doing an audit of gifts & talents in our parish & the ways in which people can volunteer their skills to help St Mary’s & others.

Ahead of that we wanted to ask if there are parishioners who have skills related to property & who have some time they could give to supporting our Property Development Group. This could be for one-off projects or on an ongoing basis depending on the time available.

We are looking for a range of skills/experience including: Architecture, property development, planning, surveying, programme /project management & finance, property management & maintenance, painting & decorating.
Also fund-raising, communication (strategy & PR), servicing a committee (admin, minutes etc.) & legal. We need to clear some of our property & help would be greatly appreciated. If you can help, please let Fr Jeremy know AND contact the Parish Office on 01225 314114 or bath.stmary@cliftondiocese.com with your details. Alternatively phone 01225 311725 & leave a message on the answer machine.

For further information, please contact: Dayne Netto

Art Club - suspended

We meet in the Parish Centre on Tuesdays 1.30-3.30pm. Cost £2.00

New members are always welcome.

Contact Joe Evans: 01179 372495

Social Action

St Mary's Soup Run - suspended

For many years, our group met to make and give out food to homeless people in Bath once a month. This was part of a city-wide operation. However, Genesis is looking at how help for the homeless needs to change post-pandemic https://genesistrust.org.uk/news/soup-run-and-lunchbox-looking-back-looking-forward-and-saying-thank-you/ 

Mary's Meals

Mary’s Meals provides vital support by setting up community-run school feeding programmes, which encourage children to come to school & receive a nutritious meal that helps them to concentrate on their studies. £15.90 will feed a child for a year. https://www.marysmeals.org.uk/

Unfortunately Mary’s Meals have had to suspend their Backpack Project which we supported as a parish due to the high costs resulting from the pandemic.  https://www.marysmeals.org.uk/get-involved/ways-to-give/donate-your-unwanted-goods We have decided to donate the items remaining to similar projects based in Britain. If you have any suggestions, email the parish office.

You can make a difference that lasts with a monthly gift. With your support, they can continue to give food, hope and joy to children around the world through the promise of a daily meal in school.
Info: www.marysmeals.org.uk/tripled


Parish Wish List (or how to fulfil Matthew 25:35-40)

St Mary’s wish list or how to help fulfil Matthew 25:35-40

Please leave clean, good-quality donations at the back of the church & donate only that which is requested. Please remove all stickers and packaging.

MARY’S MEALS Thank you for all the donations – we recently filled 21 rucksacks!
•Pencil cases
* Soap
•Pencil sharpeners
*Felt tip pens
* colour pencils/ crayons
•Towel s (guest or hand size)
*Rulers (non-bendy)
*flip flops/sandals size Jr8-2
* small ball (eg tennis ball)
*exercise books/notebooks
*Boys t-shirts and shorts ages 4-13
*Girls t-shorts, dresses, skirts age 4-13

St Chad’s Sanctuary
~ Suitcases and rucksacks
~ razors, shaving foam and shampoo
~ Girl’s clothes 6-9 years
~ Baby boys’ clothes 6-9 months
~ Tinned tomatoes           


“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’


CAFOD builds links between poor communities in the developing world and the Catholic community in England and Wales. It works with partners at home and with CARITAS International abroad to deliver relief work and programmes in human development to poor communities regardless of race, gender, religion or politics.

In working with the poor, praying with them and for them, and sharing our resources with them through fundraising and education, CAFOD is a source of information and knowledge about systems that keep the poor in poverty, and CAFOD works to challenge these through campaigns and public events to raise awareness.

Resultantly, CAFOD is also an educational resource for schools and communities here. CAFOD organises two fundraising events a year, Lent Fast Day and Harvest Fast Day. More information can be found on www.cafod.org.uk If you would like to know more about how CAFOD is supported by the churches in the Bath Deanery, contact Irene Prentice via email at ireneprentice.bath@gmail.com or telephone 01225 851093.

CAFOD Faith in Action Day 2021 This is the time to come together, build a community and act. Do not miss our Faith in Action Day 2021 on Saturday 11 September, 11am-4pm. Join us for an online day of talk and prayer to learn more about this year’s climate talks, Pope Francis’s call to action and how people in the Amazon region are leading the fight to care for our common home. The countdown is on. In a few months, the UK will host the largest gathering of world leaders ever to take place on British soil: the ‘COP26’ climate talks. Our government has a vital role to play in leading global efforts to tackle the climate crisis. But as citizens of the host nation and as people of faith, we have an important role to play too.

On this Faith in Action Day you will:

  • Find out more about the UK government’s vision for COP26.
  • Connect with other Catholics in interactive sessions and find out how we can organise ourselves to build momentum for the climate talks in Glasgow this year.
  • Hear from environmental defenders in the Amazon about their struggle to protect our common home.
  • Explore Pope Francis’s Synod on the Amazon and his call for justice.
  • Get inspired by young Catholic campaigners and their fight for the climate crisis.
  • Stand in solidarity and pray together for our brothers and sisters who are suffering the most as a result of the climate crisis

Confirmed speakers include Camilla Born (Deputy Director of Strategy for COP26), Josianne Gauthier (CIDSE Secretary General), Claudelice Silva dos Santos (Amazon and human rights defender), young Catholic activists and many more.

This event is part of the Great Big Green Week, a series of events happening in September to bring together communities across the country for climate and nature. https://cafod.org.uk/News/Events/Faith-in-Action-Day-2021


CAFOD: 10th Anniversary of the Syrian conflict August 2021 – how your donations have helped the Syrian people Thanks to your donations, CAFOD has been helping people in Syria since the crisis began 10 years ago. Over 12 million people have left their homes, 5.6 million are refugees in neighbouring countries and within Syria, 13 million people need help. At the beginning, our focus was on delivering food and blankets through our local church partners. Then we started providing education, health and legal services, and helping people earn a living. Our latest projects are supporting children, lonely elderly people, helping women learn to read, and helping people restart their small businesses. We’ve always planned for the long term, standing alongside people who lost everything. None of this work would have been possible without your support of CAFOD. Thank you.


The Association for the Propagation of the Faith (APF) assists every one of the Catholic Church’s 1,069 mission dioceses in providing pastoral care and preaching the Gospel effectively.

Red Box

In England and Wales, we collect funds for overseas mission through the famous Red Boxes. There are Red Boxes in over 200,000 homes. They have helped raise millions of pounds for the missionary Church.

Contact: Annemarie Costello

This short introduction was taken from: missio.org.uk/about-apf/

New Horizons (Bereavement support group)


Most of us will, at some time in our lives, encounter through death the loss of someone we love. That person may be a friend, sibling, child or spouse; our lives will never be the same again. Although the experience differs from person to person, many may feel if the death was unexpected it’s earth shattering, or if they’ve known for some time that death was inevitable, it can still feel as though a rug has been pulled out from under them. They can feel very alone, raw and isolated. At times the loss and pain may feel unbearable.

New Horizons is run voluntarily by a small group of parishioners from both St Johns and St Mary’s. We have the Spiritual support of our chaplain Fr Jeremy Rigden (parish priest of St Mary’s, Bath). We are not trained counsellors but have all received training in caring for people going through the pain of bereavement. We don’t try and “make things better” we know we can’t. We try in small ways to reach out and offer a listening ear to anyone suffering because of a loss.

Throughout the year we organise several activities which bring people together: three or four Masses are celebrated by Fr Jeremy followed by tea and cake; a couple of walks are organised and we’re having our first lunch on Thursday 25th July. Should you feel you would rather for the time being just have someone to talk to on a one to one basis please contact your either your parish priest, or your parish administrator, Janet (St Johns) or Charlotte (St Mary’s) who will contact one of us on your behalf.

Finally, there is no time limit to grieving. Sometimes even years later the pain can return. There may be a trigger but often there’s not. New Horizons is here for everyone, no matter when, where or how their loved one died.


Malayalam Community

Contact: Shaji Thomas


Parish & Church

From Archivist: Neil Coombs  St. Mary’s History

From: Laurie Coombs – A Visitor’s Gulde Prepared for Bath Heritage day and St. Mary’s 125 Celebration in 2013
A Visitor’s Guide

Fr Jeremy and Previous Parish Priests

Fr Jeremy’s Biography

Fr Brian’s Farewell on his retirement and the Eulogy from his Requiem Mass

A Visitor's Guide to St Mary's

181023 Visitor’s Guide

This can be printed out and used to walk around St Mary’s Church. It was originally written by Laurie Coombs in 2006, and amended by Charlotte Boyall in 2018 after the restoration of the church.


St Mary's Fire 2015

As written by Fr. Jeremy


Just before four o’clock one Thursday afternoon, in July 2015, I was making my way to St Mary’s, to get ready to receive a coffin into the church. There was to be a funeral the following day. I was met with cries of, “Your church is on fire!” To my astonishment, it was true. There was smoke coming from above the porch, and flames visible beneath the tiles. The alarm had been raised by passers-by, and very soon the fire brigade arrived, seven appliances in all. There was nothing to be done, but stand and watch the firemen do their work. The road was closed to traffic, but people gathered to watch. Eventually the fire was brought under control and the building made safe.

It was a sorry sight that awaited us when, after some three and a half hours, we were allowed inside. The seat of the fire was located just inside the entrance to the church in the side aisle. The confessional box had been destroyed, the small stained-glass window of Sts Peter and Paul had fallen out and one of the Stations of the Cross was badly damaged. The fire had ruined about one third of the seating (the vinyl padding of the seats had proved highly flammable and non-fire-retardant). Most distressing of all was the effect of the resulting smoke, which had covered the entire interior of the church, from floor to roof with a film of grey dirt and vaporised plastic. The modern frescos on the north wall and the painted panels at the back of the high altar were unrecognisable. We know that, sadly, the fire was started deliberately. (Eventually someone was charged, and has since served a prison sentence.)

Almost immediately the people of St. Mary’s responded to the crisis. The funeral the following day was relocated to St. John’s, another Catholic Church in the city. After the Saturday morning Mass, celebrated in St Mary’s Parish Centre, a group of parishioners set about painting and decorating the main Hall and adjoining room. The Centre then became our temporary Church and, over the next ten months, Sunday and weekday Masses were held there without a break. Funerals and weddings (which could not take place in the Parish Centre) were relocated to the other Catholic churches in Bath. We received many kind offers of help from other churches in the area, including Christ Church (our Church of England neighbours in Julian Road), where we held three of our four 2015 Christmas Masses. Further improvements to our Parish Centre included emergency lighting, fire exits, a disabled access, a sound-system (including a loop), a video link to the adjoining room, and new windows. Many people remarked on how different the Mass felt in its temporary setting, with the congregation much closer to the altar, and with no spare seats!

Fortunately the church was properly insured, and so the greater part of the cost of restoration was covered by the claim. Very early on, a loss adjuster was appointed, along with specialist restorers and experts in Stone-masonry, carpentry, tiling, stained-glass windows, soft furnishings and organ-building. The nave of the church, cleared of all furniture, was filled with five levels of scaffolding. It reminded me very much of a ship in dry dock. The artists Fleur Kelly (who created the frescos) and John Armstrong (who painted the panels of the saints at the back of the High Altar) were consulted about how these should be restored. The organ was dismantled and removed from the church, and was cleaned and restored. The wiring, lighting and sound system which had been installed just a year before the fire had to be redone. In addition, we replaced the old confessional with a much more attractive Reconciliation Room; the inner entrance to the church was improved by a small draught lobby; and we opened up an old blocked-up doorway to create an extra fire-exit. We returned to the church at the end of May 2016 for week-end services, but it was not until the beginning of October that year that we were able to welcome Bishop Declan Lang who celebrated a special Mass to mark the official reopening of St. Mary’s Church.

Though the fire and its effects were most distressing, especially for those people with life-long associations with St. Mary’s, the benefits have been immense. We have a beautifully restored Church, cleaner, brighter and more airy than it has ever been since its opening in 1881. We have new hymn books, new (and better) furniture, and soft furnishings (carpets and curtains) which enhance the sanctuary and Lady Chapel, We also have a Parish Centre with much improved facilities. But there have been other blessings too. The time we had to spend in our temporary church brought people together in a new way: like comrades in adversity they helped one another, stayed longer charring at the end of Mass, and supported all the efforts being made to bring a sense of normality and dignity to an abnormal situation. Finally, special mention should be made of the very generous donations we received from parishioners and others, towards expenses not covered by the insurance claim. We are most grateful.

The only visible memorial of the fire is a display cabinet in the church, near the entrance. It contains a buckled brass plate which originally commemorated a previous Parish Priest of St. Mary’s. It has been preserved, together with the charred remains of the wood on which it had been mounted. The inscription beneath reads:

“This memorial plaque, encased by a monk at Downside, is a gift from the Abbey. It is a reminder of the enormous devastation caused by arson on 23rd July 2015; it testifies to the expertise of all those who worked tirelessly to restore this beautiful church; and it recalls the dedication and support of parishioners and friends.”


Contact the Parish Office

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