A Short History of the Parish of St. Edward the Confessor – 1950s-1970s

Pencil sketches by C. Dudley Brown of the churches of St. Edward's Parish

From 1951 Mass was held at various venues in Rothwell, including the Coffee Tavern, the Labour Hall and Tresham Hall. Fetes, garden parties and many other events were used to raise funds to buy land and build a church. Eventually Kettering architects Gotch, Saunders and Surridge were commissioned to design the church of St. Bernadette, to seat 120 people. It cost £4,900-£5,000 to build; this was despite heavy use of volunteers, who helped paint the interior of the church and level the land outside to build a Lourdes grotto. St. Bernadette’s was opened and blessed in June 1959 by Bishop Leo Parker, who led a procession of 200 parishioners from the old Labour Hall to the church before Mass.

Pencil sketch of St. Bernadette's Church, Rothwell, by C. Dudley Brown

October 1956 saw the opening of St. Luke’s on the Grange Estate in Kettering, by Bishop Leo Parker. Designed by Gotch, Saunders and Surridge, it was only intended to be a “temporary” church, as it was hoped that a permanent second church for Kettering could be built later. St. Luke’s was to last until 1998, when excessive vandalism led to the closing of the church building. It was to be the start of a new short phase in the life of St. Luke’s as the Grange Methodist Community kindly agreed to allow Mass to be held on a Sunday and Wednesday in its’ church. Unfortunately in 2002 a shortage of priests to serve the extra Mass centre led to the end of this arrangement.

Pencil sketch of St. Luke's Church, Kettering by C. Dudley Brown

Schooling had been a thorny issue for some years as St. Edward’s had been trying to open a permanent church school since the early 1940s. Monsignor Grant purchased a first parcel of land in November 1953 to create St. Edward’s Junior School and there was a large expansion of the Convent Schools with the arrival of the Sisters of Our Lady in 1954 to replace the Ursuline Sisters who returned to work in Germany. However it was over a decade later before the school could be built.

.Pencil Sketch of St.Edward's Primary School, Kettering by C. Dudley Brown1961 saw the ordination of Monsignor Grant as Auxiliary Bishop of Northampton. He was replaced as Parish priest by Canon Gerard Collins who was responsible for the purchasing of enough land at the junction of Windmill Avenue and London Road to finally build St. Edward’s Junior School. The school opened in 1966 and could accommodate 320 pupils. An Infant school was built on the same site a short time later. The total cost was £85,000 (plus interest) which had to be found by parishioners. The County Council provided furniture, paid teachers and met certain maintenance costs. With only £33,000 in the school fund at the time, the parish remained deeply in debt for some years.

Canon Collins moved to Northampton in 1966 and was replaced by Fr. Donald Jenkinson. He oversaw the completion of St. Edward’s school, and the creation of two churches. However one of his chief headaches was the replanning of the sanctuary to meet the changes that had been specified by Vatican II. Where priests had once served Mass with their backs to the people, liturgical requirements now asked priests to face the congregation so that all are gathered around the altar to celebrate together. Moving the altar with a fork lift truck, 1972 This meant that the altar needed to be moved from the East wall and re-established closer to the congregation. In June 1972 a six –ton orange fork-lift truck drove through the doors of St. Edward’s church, chugged up the aisle and moved the 1 ½ ton marble altar ten feet further forward. The total cost of alterations to the church (including dismantling the baptistry) was about £1,000.

In 1950 Burton Latimer had become a new Mass centre. Starting with a monthly Mass in the British Legion Hall, Mgr Grant purchased land to build a new church. However weekly Mass was to continue at the Legion Hall for 21 years until the church was finally built in 1971. The church is dedicated to St. Nicholas Owen, who was linked to priest’s holes discovered in the area and who had recently been canonized as one of the Forty Martyrs. It cost £13,000 and was designed to seat 100 people. The seating was unfixed and the congregation were able to gather close to the altar. An enclosed courtyard garden lies to one side. The building was blessed in March 1972 by the Vicar General, Mgr Frank Diamond. Regretfully Bishop Grant was ill and unable to lead the service.
Pencil sketch of St. Nicholas Owen church, Burton Latimer, by C. Dudley Brown

Photo montage of the churches of St. Edward's parish