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Some notes on the History of the Church and St Helen

The Church

The church of OUR LADY HELP OF CHRISTIANS AND ST HELEN (familiarly known as St. Helen's) is a High Victorian Gothic church designed by the local architect Thomas Goodman, with carvings by Thomas Earp. The design is in the manner of E. W. Pugin, and was completed over thirty years after opening. It was built at a cost of £1,700. The parish priest at the time Father John Moore, who had arrived in Southend in 1862 aged 56 and who continued to serve for 28 years, worked to raise funds. The Archbishop of Westminster opened the church in  October 1869. Before this date Mass was held in rooms in Fr. Moore's house in Capel Terrace. The church forms part of a good group of late nineteenth and early twentieth century parish buildings, including a presbytery by Leonard Stokes.


The site was purchased and much of the initial building cost was paid by Countess Helen Tasker. The church was built in stages as funds permitted, largely following Thomas Goodman's original design. The nave and chancel were built in 1869, then there was a thirty-year gap before the south aisle was added in 1899-1900 (Alderman Tolhurst was the principal benefactor). The north aisle and the enlargement of the sacristy followed in 1902-03. These later additions were built under the supervision of Canon A.J.C. Scoles, who also designed the school, built to the north in 1898.


The presbytery was built in 1887. This was designed by Leonard Stokes and was illustrated in The British Architect for 1887. Cardinal Manning made a gift towards its construction. Stokes also added a wing to the former convent (now St Bernard's High School) which lies on Milton Road to the south. Other parts of the convent are by W.. Wood (1888), B.R. Parkes (1909) and Fr Benedict Williamson and J. H. Beart Foss (1912-13). The parish hall was added in 1911, from designs by A. Berry.


The church was repaired in 1952-53 after war damage, with new stained glass by the Hardman firm.


The walls are faced with yellow brick with red and black brick bands and dressings of stone. The roofs are covered with plain tiles. The plan comprises a nave with north and south aisles, southwest porch, small transepts and a sanctuary flanked by a Lady Chapel on the south side and a sacristy on the north. All these parts have separate pitched roofs. The west end is very Puginian and has a large stepped central buttress flanked by two-light windows with plate tracery. The gable is corbelled out from the main wall face and topped by a large and elaborate bellcote with twin bell openings. On the south side is a projecting porch with a door in the east side, two bays of the aisle with triple lancet windows and a small transept. On the north side are three aisle bays with triple windows and a small transept. The sanctuary has a large five-light east window with elaborate plate tracery and an image niche at the gable head; the flanking Lady Chapel and sacristy both have stepped triple lancets.


Internally the church has a timber floor, the walls are mostly plastered apart from the walls of the nave where the brickwork has been left bare. The timber nave roof has arch braces to the collars with boarding above. The lean-to aisle roofs are ceiled. At the west end of the nave is a timber gallery designed by Canon Scoles and installed in 1906. The nave arcades are of four bays with pointed chamfered arches carried on stone columns, now painted, with elaborate capitals carved by Thomas Earp, Butterfield's favourite carver. The aisle windows are simply chamfered without other ornament. The wide chancel arch is carried on carved corbels. The sanctuary has a ribbed pointed timber ceiling, wide arches pointed to the side chapels and a stone reredos set into the wall under the east window. The sanctuary floor has encaustic tiles by Minton & Co, now covered by carpet. The stained glass in the east window is by Westlake of London (1903). Other windows are by the Hardman firm, 1953, replacing windows lost in wartime damage.


Source: "Taking Stock - Catholic Churches of England & Wales"

These pictures date from the early years of the 20th Century.


View from Milton Road (1909)


View from St Helen's Road (1909)


Interior (1909)

150 Years of Saint Helen's

(1869 - 2019)

[Adapted from the centenary booklet by Canon Francis Dobson, former parish priest at Westcliff-on-Sea]


The Catholic Church of Our Lady Help of Christians and St Helen at Westcliff-on-Sea was in fact the only Catholic parish church of the present Borough of Southend-on-Sea for the space of forty years up to 1910, the year in which a church was built in Southchurch Road and the military chapel at Shoeburyness was no longer served from Westcliff.


In October 1869 the new church of Our Lady Help of Christians and St Helen became the spiritual home of Catholics over a large area of Essex, from Horndon in the West to Foulness Island in the East, from Burnham-on-Crouch in the North to the River Thames in the South. Today there are thirteen churches and five Convents of Nuns in this area, including six flourishing parishes in the Borough of Southend-on-Sea alone with three Convents, Senior Schools for Boys and Girls, and four Primary and Infant schools. The purpose of this booklet is to tell briefly the story of this expansion and to recall the names of those persons who, because of the part they played, deserve to be remembered by later generations.


Parallel with the growth of the community in the district was the development of Southed itself, for in 1850 the total resident population of Southend (first named as the "south end" of Prittlewell) - was given as 2,000 by 1860 this had risen to 5,000. The Religious Census of 1851 made no mention of any Catholic people there, while a guide book stated more positively, "There are no Roman Catholics in Southed, except what can be counted on the fingers of one hand".

At Shoeburyness, however, there were Catholics serving in the Army, many with their families, and it was due to them that our story begins.


Early in the 19th Century a military station had been set up at Shoeburyness, and in 1832 when Father Last was appointed chaplain to Lord Petre at Ingatestone Hall he was given the further appointments of Chaplain to the Gaol at Chelmsford and to the Garrison at Shoeburyness. From that time he began to pay regular visits on a weekday to Shoeburyness, riding from Ineatestone on horse-back and staying the night with a family named Daines who lived near Bournes Green. From there he would ride to Shoeburyness Garrison, say Mass for the troops, visit the families and instruct the children as far as circumstances permitted. Afterwards he would ride on the Chelmsford Gaol.


The Daines family who gave him hospitality were not Catholics but through his influence, one of the daughters, Ann, was able to go to France to be governess in a family at Arras. There she was received into the Church in 1845 and on her return was to be a great help to Fr. John Moore when he began his work for souls in Southed. When Ann died in 1906 at the age of 85 Canon McKenna wrote of her, "Neither the severity of the weather, nor illness nor business ever prevented her from being present at Mass not only on Sundays but also on weekdays."


In 1862 the War Office was prepared to give an allowance to a priest to look after the Catholic troops and their families at Shoeburyness. In consequence of this, Father John Moore was asked if he would care to go to Southend for this purpose. Though already 56 years of age he accepted a charge which might well have taxed the energies of a much younger man. But he was of powerful physique and was to labour there for twenty-eight years.

Fr. John Moore (1864-1890)


His appointment was "To Shoeburyness and Southend". Without house or chapel, without altar or chalice or vestment or alb - without indeed any single appliance - his first task was to find somewhere to live. At the time many new houses were being erected in the newer part of Southend known as the "Cliff Town" area and there he rented a newly built house, No 3 Capel Terrace.


Capel Terrace

For a chapel he used the front room upstairs. There, on May 1st 1862 he said his first Mass in Southend, in an 'upper room', using a portable altar lent to him.

His congregation consisted of an old faithful servant and a little boy, a relative of his own who was proud to serve his Mass, a coastguard, a local horse trainer and occasional policeman, Patrick Brady and Miss Daines.


In later years Fr. Moore would recall those early days and tell how on Sundays he rose early to hear confessions and give Holy Communion in his little chapel. Then he would set out to walk four miles to Shoeburyness to say Mass for the Catholic soldiers at 9 a.m. After Mass he had to return, again on foot in the beginning, to say or sing Mass at 11.30 a.m.


Approximately one hour later when Mass was over he could break his fast. Later on, the Military authorities kindly sent a cab for him to take him home. When his little congregation began to grow Fr. Moore had folding doors fitted between the chapel and the adjoining room so that, at times, fifty people could be accommodated.

In this upper room, the presence of Christ radiated an influence which drew many residents and visitors to the devout practice of their Catholic Faith. Many enquirers came too but there was no room to accommodate them. Fr. Moore could see no possible intermediate stage between this position and the permanent foundation of a suitable church, which he longed to see dedicated to Our Blessed Lady. What could he do? In his own words, "Silver and gold I have not, but what I have I cheerfully give, a heart to love, and hands to work for her glory.....'


Fr. Moore's prayers were answered when Miss Helen Tasker called unexpectedly to see him while passing through Southed in her carriage and heard from him of the crowded conditions in the 'upper room' at No. 3 Capel Terrace.


The Tasker Family had had associations with the Brentwood district for more than 100 years - their country house being Middleton Hall, a large mansion now incorporated into Brentwood School. Joseph Tasker was described in the 1861 Census as a widower gentleman. That same year he died suddenly at Hammersmith of a heart disease leaving a personal estate of €500,000 and his only daughter, Helen, suddenly found herself heiress to this fortune, her only brother, Joseph Louis, having perished at sea when the ship on which he was returning to England sank in August 1848.


Helen Tasker devoted herself to helping the Church on a grand scale and the generosity with which she contributed to the building of churches, schools, convents and hospitals led Pope Pius IX to bestow on her the papal title of "Countess of the Holy Roman or Pontifical Estates". She died at Middleton Hall on 3rd January, 1888. 'The Tablet" of March that year records that at a Solemn Requiem at the church of Holy Cross, Warley, (one of her benefactions), "Hardly anyone of the numerous clergy present but had a story to narrate of the benevolence of Helen Ann, Countess Tasker. Let one suffice as an example. When Father Moore first undertook the Southend Mission he was unable to find but a single Catholic family in the town. His efforts, however, prospered and in time his little flock grew until it more than filled the room which did service as a church. During the heat of the summer the condition of the little congregation was one of extreme discomfort, so inadequate was the space. One Sunday the good priest asked his flock to join him in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin on behalf of an intention he did not disclose, but which sought a place worthy of God's worship. Within a fortnight a carriage drew up to his door and he received a visit from a lady he had not previously known. She was passing through Southed and called to pay her respects to its pastor. She became interested in the struggle of the rising mission, took apartments in the town and spent two days in selecting a site for a church. When leaving she assured the priest he could regard the land as purchased and handed him a cheque for £1,000 to commence building. Nor was that the last of Countess Tasker's gifts to St. Helen's Church at Southed, and other parishes in Essex owed the deceased Countess similar gratitude..”

Mr Goodman, a local architect, was commissioned to design the new church and work proceeded without delay on the site purchased by Helen Tasker in Milton Road, Southend.


There is no record as to whether Miss Tasker was present when the new church was solemnly blessed and opened by Cardinal Manning on the 26th October, 1869.


The Weekly Register of October 30th 1869, reported the event in these Words:- "The opening was very numerously attended, the number of Protestants eager to take part in it being most remarkable. A noteworthy feature was the presene part in at being modant of Shoeburyness ands number of officers and men from the School of Instruction in gala dress, Hish Mass was celebrated by the Very Rev. Canon Last, assisted by the Rev Fathers Foster and Cook from Bayswater is deracon and sub-deacon. Canon Kyne and Fr. Scratton were assistants at the pontifical throne. A considerable number of clergy and laity came from town to take part in the celebration. The Mass was Hummel's in B Flat, the choir being conducted by Mr. Barnet and composed of members from the choir of St. Aloysius, Somers Town. His Grace preached a very touching sermon adapted to the mixed audience present. After Mass there was a dejeuner at the Ship Hotel at which the Archbishop presided. There was only one toast. "The Rev. Father Moore, his flock and friends, the architect and builder," proposed by His Grace, who complimented the architect and builder on the very graceful church they had raised, which he said was the very model of a country church. He likewise thanked Mr. Moore's friends for their kindness. After the Rev. Father Moore and the architect and builder had replied, the Company returned to the Church, where the Archbishop gave an instruction and administered Confirmation. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament followed and terminated by Benediction. At this service also, the attendance was very numerous and the attention to His Grace's words most marked."


Eighteen years later the Presbytery was built, to the design of Canon Scoles, besides the new church in 1887. In the meantime, Fr. Moore still lived at No. 3, Capel Terrace, and continued to go to Shoeburyness every Sunday for Mass and on Fridays to instruct the Catholic children in the Garrison school from 11.30 - 12 noon.


During this period after the opening of St. Helen's, in about 1870, the sisters of Notre Dame of Munich founded a Convent in Canewdon Road, later to become St. Bernard's, and the Sisters of Nazareth came to Southend in 1873.


In 1891, a little church constructed of corrugated iron, was opened at Shoeburyness and dedicated to St. George.


An anonymous contributor to the last issue of the Brentwood Diocesan Magazine of 1923 recorded his memories of St. Helen's in the time of Fr. Moore:- "There was no 'Westcliff in those days, at least the Cliff was there but the place was known as plain "Southend" There were few houses to be seen from the church grounds, apart from the older part of St. Bernards Convent, then occupied by the Sisters of St. Mary's Convent, together wis a three-storied house known as 'The Cottage' also used by the nuns. There were no good roads near, except Milton Road itself and on reaching the cliffs it was simply a case of scrambling down, or remaining where you were. As to the Church - only the nave existed and the building looked cold, plain and bare. The window behind the altar was one large patch of green. From outside it looked as if green paper had been stuck all over the glass; from inside it had, to say the least, an effect that did not conduce to the spirit of the Magnificat. The altar was a temporary wooden structure. A shrine stood on either side just outside the chancel arch, and half way down on the Gospel side was a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. At the far end a slightly raised platform supported an extremely ancient harmonium and the entrance to the church opened straight on to the fields. The presbytery stood as now, and forlorn indeed it looked with high grass growing all round, except for one pathway, up and down which Fr. Moore would walk while saying his office. He was a wonderful figure. In spite of his years (and rumour ran riot on the matter of his age) his personality was striking and his walk majestic, and his voice suggestive of a strong determined will. Children loved him and were not afraid to call him to order when, as frequently happened, he gave out fifteen Aves for one decade of the Rosary and five for the next. Father Moore's hearing left much to be desired.


Fr. Moore was to carry on with his heavy task without assistance until Fr. Dennis Callaghan came to help him in 1889. The following year he was compelled to retire and died in 1890 aged 84. His earthly remains were interred in North Road Cemetery adjoining Nazareth House. In St. Helen's Church, his memory was preserved in a stained-glass window over the Baptismal font.


Fr. Thomas Denny (1890-1895)

His successor Father Thomas Denny, sent to Southed to recover his health, was appointed Rector in 1890 and remained at St. Helen's for five years. He is remembered best through the publication of a monthly printed news sheet begun in January 1894 and published with a printed magazine insert as the "Southend and Shoeburyness Catholic Magazine". In Fr. Denny's words its purpose was "to instruct and amuse and to give a knowledge of what we are doing, not doing or about to do at Southend and Shoeburyness." This newssheet, continued by his successor Fr. P. McKenna, provides a mine of parochial information covering the period from 1894 to 1912. Much of it is concerned with the ordinary affairs of the church, the meetings of confraternities, appeals and contributions, acknowledgements, missions held and episcopal visitations, etc. Among these many items the following extracts have been made as having interest for later generations.

March 19th 1894. "The Managing Director has kindly consented to allow the 9.25 train from Fenchurch Street to call at Leigh on Sundays: this will enable

Catholics from Leigh to attend the last Mass at 11.15 a.m."


The School Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Mary's Convent have a high class Boarding & Day School for young ladies and a Kindergarten School for little boys."

A modern-day school for boys under the care of a University Graduate and with the approval of the clergy will be opened in September. Apply to the Principal at 2 Alpha Terrace, North Road.' Previously a Mr Waldron had maintained a school in London Road.


"On Sundays in October 1894 attendance at St Helen's averaged 133 at Mass and 63 at evening Service. Total offertories averaged €1.10s.Od a week at St Helen's and shillings at St George's, Shoeburyness. 


In 1895, Father Denny received a new appointment to be rector of Hackney, but elected to stay at Southed until he had completed the erection of the High Altar in memory of his predecessor. This altar together with its reredos was designed in the style of the 13th century to accord with the character of the church. It was solemnly blessed on Trinity Sunday 1895. Among the large and representative congregation were the Mayor & Mayoress (Alderman and Mrs Brightwell). A week or two later Fr. Denny said farewell to his congregation and introduced them to their new rector Father McKenna - thus beginning a new chapter in the history of the Church in Southend.


Fr. Patrick McKenna, Giants Causeway (1888)

​An interesting photograph in the parish archives, taken in 1888 - while Fr. Moore, aged 82 was still in office, records that in the summer of that year Fr. Patrick McKenna, four years ordained and curate at St. Mary Moorfields in London, sat himself, while on holiday, upon the Giants Causeway in County Antrim. Was he looking into the future, or was he meditating upon giants? He might well have pondered upon Fr. John Moore, a giant of a man, still carrying on his task at the age of 82 after 26 years beside the west cliff at Southend. Little could the young priest have guessed that he himself would fill the same position for more than 54 years to die in office in his ninetieth year!

​Father McKenna was inducted as the new Rector of St Helen's by Canon Norris, Rural Dean of Brentwood, on Sunday 21st July 1895 to the accompaniment of heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Nevertheless, there was a good congregation at Benediction.

It is recorded that he was sent to Southend in the hope that in the bracing air of the Essex coast his enfeebled constitution might recover and this hope was soon to be realised. In the meantime, he took stock of the situation. His parish comprised St Helen's Church, the military church of St George at Shoeburyness, Nazareth House, St Mary's Orphanage and extended to Vange in the West and to Burnham-on-Crouch in the North. His principal church, St Helen's unfurnished shell, recently built. There was a debt of £500 and no endowment or salary. To add to the burden thus placed upon him, his curate, Father Roche, was slowly dying of consumption.

A note in the magazine records the withdrawal of the use of the cab on Sunday evenings by the authority of the War Office for the Evening Service at Shoeburyness at 6 p.m. until further notice. This meant a walk to Southend Station, taking a train to Shoeburyness, and a walk, in darkness, slush and rain, carrying the Blessed Sacrament which was not then permitted to be reserved in the tabernacle at Shoeburyness.


Fr. Patrick McKenna

An important event in November 1895 was the presentation of an address and a purse of sovereigns to Fr. Denny by the Mayor, Alderman Brightwell, on behalf of the congregation and friends. Councillor Tolhurst placed his drawing room at the disposal of the meeting, besides inviting a number of guests to a sumptuous dinner to mark the occasion. Several members of the Southed Town Council and Corporation were present as well as several prominent members of the congregation. The Mayor said this was to him the most pleasant act of his official year. Fr. McKenna proposed a vote of thanks to the Mayor.


A few days later the Mayoralty Dinner was held at "The Ship Inn".


Among the Catholics present were Councillor Tolhurst, Mr Mulheme and Mr Hinderer. Fr. McKenna, who occupied a seat to the right of the new mayor, Councillor Prevost, was called upon to respond to the toast of "The Religious Denominations". He said among other things that he would try to follow faithfully in the footsteps of his two predecessors, one of whom had been summoned to a better place than Southend and the other to a worse place, for Fr. Moore had gone to heaven and Fr. Denny to Hackney, an eastern suburb of London.


Passing to other matters the magazine mentions that a universal vote of thanks has been accorded to the new illuminator of our church - the incandescent gas lamp which made a display of its splendid capacity and power for the first time on November 10th in place of the eighteen plain gas jets hitherto in use.


In 1896, the nave and sanctuary could accommodate 180 persons but in the summer months as many as 250, sometimes 300, were huddled in the church at the two Masses at 8 a.m. and 11.15 a.m. Other Masses were at 7 a.m. in Nazareth House and 9 a.m. at Shoeburyness.


Cardinal Vaughan made his Visitation of St Helen's on July 19th when 103 were confirmed. The Cardinal said, "You must build a school as soon as possible - this is more important than a second aisle."


November 1896. Fr. McKenna appealed for a more worthy chalice.


Mr Councillor Tolhurst, a parishioner, is chosen as the new mayor of Southend, and the Inaugural Banquet is held at the Ship Inn. Fr. Mckenna is the mayor's Chaplin.


In 1897, a new missal stand was wanted - the present one was borrowed!

The rector thanked Miss Croke Robinson for the gift of a new silver chalice and ciborium, also copes, vestments, and cottas for servers.

July 1897. To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the Mayor, Councillor Bernard Tolhurst, presented a statue of the queen to the town. s part of the civic celebrations a massive procession of all the school hildren of Southed was arranged. Lots were drawn for the order of the different groups, and the children of the Catholic school drew first place, followed by the orphans of St Mary's Convent and the children of Nazareth House.


August 1897. Plans were drawn up for the proposed elementary school to be erected in the church grounds for 150 children who were taught by the Sisters of St. Mary's Convent who, as certified teachers, would earn for the school the usual Government grants.

November 1897. The ancient earth fence with its miry ditch which separated our church grounds from Milton Road was replaced by an oak fence along the entire frontage.


February 1898. Cardinal Vaughan gave £105 for the elementary school.


April 1898. Count Antonio de la Rosa died at Nazareth House aged 87. He had been a general in the army of the last king of Naples and commanded the military escort which accompanied Pope Pius IX in his flight from Roma to Gaeta in 1848. Later he was the right-hand man of the ill-fated Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, who was shot in 1867. The Count spent his latter days in comparative obscurity and poverty in England, ever a staunch Catholic.


July 1898. Cardinal Vaughan again visited the parish, coming from Southminster to Southend. Among the congregation were the Mayor of Southend, Alderman Burrows, Alderman Brightwell and Alderman Tolhurst.


November 1898. "The church is too small! What hopes of an aisle? The harmonium squeaks and a visitor has it overhauled"


December 1898. The Congregation of 1898 was greater than that of 1895 - vet there was no corresponding increase in the offertories! The sanctuary walls and chancel arch were showing cracks owing to subsidence. Underpinning would cost 250 or the building of an aisle, which would remedy the problem for £900. The opening of the elementary school on March 13th was delayed on account of influenza.


April 1899. Enlargement of the church was proposed. "Is Fr. McKenna cracked?" asks a parishioner. "Already he is £550 in debt over the school. He now undertakes a further debt of £800 to build an aisle!"


April 4th 1899. St. Helen's School opened at last with 85 pupils. Numbers increased day by day and there were 152 names on the roll at the time of the centenary.

May 1899. Fr. McKenna said Mass in Mrs Bryant's House at Hadleigh. There were twelve present.


January 1900. A tender of Mr Thomas Whur is accepted for the erection of an aisle to enlarge the church for €1,000, "unless some unforeseen hitch occurs, such as an invasion of England by the Boers who seem capable of anything". A loan of €1,000 was secured at 4% interest.


March 1900. A wooden wall temporarily replaced the South wall while building proceeds.


June 1900. Heating apparatus was installed in the have and aisle. There was now an altar of carved oak in the Lady chapel with a statue of Our Lady in white alabaster, the gift of a devoted friend of St Helen's. The Southend Standard wrote "this magnificent alabaster statue of the Blessed Virgin, is the work of M. Beyaert of Bruges. From an artistic point of view this excellent specimen of the work of the chisel seems to leave nothing to be desired and from a devotional point of view it is as near perfection as possible. The Roman Catholic community in Southed is to be congratulated on the acquisition of a very fine specimen of Christian art, which is the gift of a devoted friend of the church."


This photograph was taken about 1900 and shows there were no side aisles, stained glass windows or porch.

November 1900. At last a piano in the school! There are now 181 pupils on the school register.

August 1901. The Southed tramways were inaugurated. Running from Southchurch to Leigh, and from Prittlewell to the High Street they provided better facilities for Parishioners to get to Mass.

October 4th 1901. Father Thomas Denny died.


An interior shot of the Church taken around the same time as the previous image.

The High Altar was erected in 1895 and the original altar rails and gas lighting are evident.

November 1901. Cardinal Vaughan visited St Helen's to see the new aisle and the school.

1902. Desperately needing money to repay the loans, Fr. McKenna appealed for "gold, silver, diamonds (superfluous), umbrellas, (no crutches please!" for the Fancy Fair.

June 1902. "How do we find money for another aisle while other debts remain?" Someone offered to lend the money less £150 and the interest. Canon Scoles prepares the plans.

November 1902. The north aisle was now being built. Now that electric mains have been laid under the pavements and streets of Southend, Fr. McKenna hoped St Helen's would be the first church in the Borough to be it by electricity. The order was given and the church was lit by electric light for the first time at Christmas, by which time the building of the north aisle s finished and the whole church complete.

1903. Under the new Educational Act the Government made payments to Catholic schools.

1904. New altar rails were installed for the Lady Chapel, of South Staffordshire marble with a grey plinth of Derbyshire fossil, in memory of a devoted parishioner, Thomas P. Dobbin, who died in 1903.

December 1904. St. Aloysius Guild Hall was presented for the benefit of the mission and erected at the west end of the church where the new school building was to replace it in 1928.

1905. The cost of erecting the school building was £1,200 plus £300 for furniture, fencing and playground. The debt on it had been reduced to £30. The church was cleaned by the 'new and extraordinary process of vacuum suction' at a cost of £5. The school report mentioned three upper standards and three classes of infants. Bishop Bellord, former Bishop for the British Armed Forces, died at Nazareth House. As an army Chaplain he had ministered the last rites to the Prince Imperial, son of Napoleon 3rd and the Empress Eugenie.

September 1905. The enlargement of the Guild Room was completed. This Was to be used as extra school accommodation until the building of the new block in 1928.

1906. Death of Miss Ann Daines, aged 83, who had been present at Fr. Moore's first Mass in 3 Capel Terrace in 1862.

October 1906. At last the antique and unsightly pen which had served as a choir loft since 1869 was replaced by a magnificent carved oak gallery of Gothic form designed by Canon Scoles. Fr. Mckenna recorded that the entire work was done gratuitously. Mr. Berry, the non-Catholic husband of a parishioner not only gave the use of his machinery but also his own and his sons' labour entirely gratis for work which involved cutting through thirty inches of solid brick and mortar, with the help of other willing hands.


1907. The church debt was now reduced to £400.

March 1908. A new organ costing £360 was installed, half the cost being contributed by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, the New York philanthropist; the balance being subscribed mostly by families living in the parish.

The Foundation Of New Parishes

The year 1908 is a memorable year in the story of the development of the Catholic Church in Southed. Archbishop Francis Bourne had become Archbishop of Westminster in 1903 on the death of Cardinal Vaughan. On the 12th June 1908 he made his Official Visitation of St. Helen's Church, arriving in his automobile with his Secretary, Rev. Dr. Jackman.


His Grace's attention had been drawn to the possibility of making some further provision for the needs of religion in the district of Southed. There were three distinct localities that at once came before his vision. The first place was Shoeburyness because, as they knew, for a long time past, the Holy Mass had been said there mainly for the sake of the Catholic soldiers who lived there; the distance being too great for them to attend that church. Then his attention had been drawn to the great growing district springing up between Shoeburyness and Southend. That was not a very rich area, but a large number of Catholics lived there. Then his attention was called also to Leigh, where again they had a new area covered with houses and a large population. The Archbishop understood that there was a considerable number of Catholics living in that district. The first place that would have any claims for development was Shoeburyness because they had a permanent Catholic population. They were there not by choice but by their duty, and for these a great deal had been done in the past. They desired to do more in the future, and he had seen when he visited them in 1904 their Rector's wish in that direction. He desired something should be done and that this should be constituted a separate mission with its own priest. The rector had his sympathy but they had to consider whether they could found a mission there without impoverishing the existing mission. Next, they would have to consider the district between Southed and Shoeburyness, a poor district he would gladly help if he had the means. But they must not imagine he had a large sum for the starting of new missions: the collections on Trinity Sunday being the only money he received. That only came to £400 and consequently was often overdrawn, though from time to time he had money placed at his disposition to start new missions. That, however, was very rare. Whatever their needs at Southed they were at present outbalanced by the large districts around London, in which their Catholic people were bound to live.


Soon after the Archbishop's Visitation, Fr. Alfred Ingle was appointed to take charge of Shoeburyness and within twelve months Fr. McKenna was able to inform his parishioners that a generous benefactor, Mr Alfred Tolhurst, of Northfleet, Kent, had offered him land on the south side of Southchurch Road, near Chase Road, and that the Archbishop had accepted it with thanks and blessings to the benefactor. The next step was to find the money for the building. Providentially it was soon forthcoming. Fr. Jules Van Meenen, a zealous young priest of the Archdiocese offered to build a church and take over a portion of the extensive mission at Southend.


It was agreed that the new mission should comprise all the eastern portion of Southend as far as the High Street and Victoria Avenue.


Henceforth, St. Helen's became known as "The Catholic Church, Milton Road, Westcliff-on-Sea" while the new church would be known as "The Catholic Church (Sacred Heart). Southchurch Road, Southend-on-Sea".


A few days before that, appointed for the laying of the foundation stone of the new church, there occurred an event described by Fr. McKenna as "the event of the moment - surpassing in its way any other event of the year or the century - the visit of the combined Home Fleet and Atlantic Fleet to the Thames during the week 17th - 24th July".


A large number of war vessels of all shapes and sizes, from the monster Dreadnought to the comparatively tiny submarine, crowded the estuary of the river off Southend Pier. Hundreds of thousands of people came to Southed and Westcliff-on-Sea to view the naval display. The sightseers were so numerous that the food and drink supply in the town ran short the whole afternoon and evening of one day.


The object of this display was to encourage the people to accept greater expenditure on naval defence in view of foreign threats at sea, and since Southed with deep water anchorage, was within easy reach by train from London many people were able to see the fleet for themselves. What interested the Catholics of Southed was the fact that of the 1,500 Catholic officers and men on the ships, over 900 were present at Mass in St. Helen's on Sunday, July 18th. The hours of the various Masses had to be slightly altered. About 460 blue jackets and marines under the command of an officer attended Low Mass at 9 o'clock. About an equal number was present at 9.40 when Low Mass was said by the naval chaplain. The sacred building was taxed to its utmost capacity at each Mass. After the second Mass the men formed into marching order in Milton Road, in the presence of hundreds of spectators. The solid, compact body of 900 men, bronzed by the sea and weather, standing erect in ranks four deep, on the highway by the Catholic church was a sight which the inhabitants of and visitors to Southend and Westcliff will long remember. No other church in the borough had anywhere near so many sailors at their service as St. Helen's. The exterior of the church and grounds were profusely decorated with variegated streamers. The green flag with the harp and the Union Jack hung high up from the topmost cross of the church. But the most conspicuous part of the decoration was a large yellow flag with the cross keys floating from the pinnacle at the east end of the building.


Here it seems appropriate to quote from an impressive letter addressed by Father John Moore to His Eminence Cardinal Wiseman at Westminster in November 1864, a printed copy of which was preserved and passed to Father McKenna in 1895: - "how we long to see 'Notre Dame of Southend' as familiar to the Catholic mariner of every port and clime, as loved and cherished by him as 'Notre Dame de Havre', 'Notre Dame de Boulogne', and other celebrated shrines of our Lady throughout the world, so dear to the Catholic sailor." His prayer was answered after forty-five years when 900 sailors attended Mass at St. Helen's in July 1909 and paraded in Milton Road!


With the memory of this event still fresh in everyone's mind, the foundation stone of the new church was laid on 25th August 1909, when it was expected that the building would be ready for use in three months' time. Meanwhile Fr. Van Meenen offered the Holy Sacrifice in a large room of the Presbytery at 164 Southchurch Road. This house, now demolished, was situated near to Tyrrels Drive.


Fr. Patrick McKenna

The Solemn Opening of the new church took place on 8th February 1910, witnessed by a large congregation of Catholics and non-Catholics. The Archbishop presided and preached. At a luncheon given in the Palace Hotel afterwards he publicly thanked Mr. Alfred Tolhurst for the gift of the site and the anonymous donor of the sum of money which enabled the Rector to build this fine church.


The Archbishop's Visitation Address in 1908 had given first priority to a proper church at Shoeburyness. However, if this had not been possible, he had fulfilled his promise by sending Fr. Ingle to take charge of Shoeburyness as a separate mission, and before long the little corrugated iron church was enlarged in length and extended by the addition of a 'transept' used as a sacristy. This simple building was to serve as a parish church until 1938 when the present fine edifice of brick was built.


The Archbishop's concern for the people living at Leigh was exemplified when in November 1912, Fr. John O'Neill was appointed to take charge of this large area, which included Eastwood, Hockley, Chalkwell, Rayleigh, Thundersley, Bowers Gifford, Benfleet, Hadleigh and Canvey Island. The first Mass was celebrated in a private house in Torquay Drive and later in Leigham Court Drive. Land was purchased in what is now Leigh Road. On this stood an old Volunteer Drill Hall which became the temporary church of St. Patrick & St. Joseph, formally opened in March 1913.


With the establishment of new missions on both sides and the independence of Shoeburyness, the area for St. Helen's was considerably reduced. St Helen's assumed the role of Mother Church of the area and in 1912, Westcliff was made the centre of a Deanery.


Of the years 1914 - 1918 there are few details recorded in the parish archives. But one can imagine the changed circumstances - the call up of the young men, the coming and going of warships and transports from Southend Pier, the noise of the gunfire in Flanders carried on the wind, air raids, the blackout and the falling of bombs. There would have been also the arrival of the wounded brought from the battlefields to be cared for in the local hospitals. Southed was in the front line. Indeed, older residents recalled the official plan to be followed in the event of an enemy landing on the Essex coast. All civilians were to be evacuated from the south-east coast of Essex across the London to Colchester main railway line, where a stand would be made.


Canon McKenna later recalled that the most memorable events of his time at Southend were those connected with The Great War. From 1913 to 1919 he took no holiday, the only occasion of his absence being on Sunday August 12th 1917, when he was summoned to Ireland to see his aged mother before she died. That very day, in the afternoon, a number of enemy aircraft made an attack upon the town causing much damage. News of the disaster reached him at Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) with the arrival of the mail boat next morning. The report included the statement that Milton Road, southend, (in which his church, house and school were situated) had suffered severely. The report was erroneous to the extent that it was Milton Street where the damage had been done, not Milton Road.


There were nights and sometimes days in that time of the air raids when he, with his household, prayed in a group in the sanctuary and sometimes in the crypt. Many bombs fell all around them. St. Bernard's Convent was struck by an incendiary bomb and Nazareth House was set on fire by some fiery missile.


It was during this time of turmoil in 1917 that the Diocese of Brentwood came into being with Rt. Rev. Bernard Ward as its first Bishop. Canon McKenna as Rural Dean of Westcliff was chosen to be one of the first six new Canons of the Brentwood Cathedral Chapter.


By the end of the war, St. Helen's was free of all debt and so Bishop Ward came from Brentwood to consecrate the church under its official dedication to our Lady Help of Christians and St. Helen with all the traditional ceremony of Catholic Ritual on the 12th August, 1919. It is sad to add that the Bishop died suddenly five months later.


In 1920 Canon McKenna was building again, this time St Helen's Social Hall, on the comer of St. Helen's Road and Milton Road, at a cost of £2,000 including furniture and fittings. Before long this was in use to provide extra accommodation for the school until the Junior Block could be erected.


The abnormally dry summer of 1921 proved a costly one for Westcliff. The east end of the church was found to have subsided and gave signs of falling outwards. It was necessary to have it underpinned and strengthened by two large buttresses. The appearance from the road was improved but the burden of the expense caused the improvement to be little appreciated.

With the gradual recovery from war time scarcity, expansion began all over the Westcliff Deanery.


This postcard was sent from Canon McKenna to Miss Hart and Miss John.

"With best wishes for a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year 1923."

Stained-glass windows are now apparent and the original altar rails are still in place.

1925 saw the opening of the magnificent church dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes at Leigh-on-Sea, built by Fr. Francis Gilbert. 1928 was a 'bumper year. There was the new Junior School Block at Westcliff, while at Shoeburyness Fr. W. Toft had built his new Presbytery, and also a chapel of ease, St. Gregory's, at Thorpe Bay.


In 1939 the new church at Shoeburyness, built by Fr. Toft, was completed and dedicated to st. George & the English Martyrs shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Canon Whitfield had also built a fine church hall for use as a chapel of ease at Prittlewell, served from the Church of the Sacred Heart.


The Second World War held up further development for the time being.

Canon McKenna, who might justly have been resting on his laurels donned his steel helmet and set himself to resume his old war time routine. His school children moved to safety and St. Bernard's Convent and school were also moved to the country.


The crisis came for St. Helen's on Friday 10th December 1943 when at 7.45 p.m. two high explosive bombs were dropped by enemy aircraft about 400 yards from the church, creating extensive damage by blast. The church, presbytery and schools suffered badly. The High Altar had been badly shaken and became dangerous for use owing to a subsidence which loosened the whole fabric. Canon McKenna, 84 years of age, was knocked unconscious whilst at supper, by falling plaster and his assistant Fr. Littleton also suffered slight shock on that memorable evening.


Canon Patrick McKenna (1895-1949)

Fr. Littleton had been the Canon's assistant priest and companion since 1924. Five years after the bombs fell his health failed and he was taken into a small private nursing home in Valkyrie Road maintained by two devoted parishioners who were qualified nurses, Miss Herlihy and Miss Wrampling.


There, the Canon administered the last sacraments to his confrere. Six months later he himself was taken into the same nursing home where he died on the 4th January 1949, aged 89, still within the parish he had served so faithfully for 54 years. His earthly remains were interred in the North Road Cemetery close to those of Fr. John Moore.

It was the end of a long chapter in the history of the Catholic Church in Southend.


This photograph is believed to have been taken around 1949 as it shows the new table altar rails, but has no stained-glass windows. It is possible these had been removed during the Second World War and not yet replaced.

After the death of Canon McKenna St. Helen's was under a 'Priest in Charge' until Canon Thomas Bishop, many years parish priest at Romford was appointed to Westcliff and arrived to take charge on March 3rd 1949. He found much to do. The foundations of the High Altar had to be renewed after the hasty repairs of bomb damage. New stained-glass windows were required in the sanctuary, the chapels, and the south aisle, in place of temporary repairs of war damage. The interior of the church was redecorated and the sacristy entirely reorganised. Later, St. Helen's School was modernised as far as the limitations of the small site permitted. The post war period was a time of renewal in the parish as elsewhere.


Canon Thomas Bishop (1949-1965)

Always meticulous about the observance of the rubrics, Canon Bishop raised the standard of ceremonial at St. Helen's to a high level. Whenever circumstances permitted, on Sundays and Feast Days, there was Solemn High Mass with deacon and sub-deacon. The Choir too, under the direction of Mr Swainson attained a high standard in accordance with the spirit of the time. There could have been few churches in the Diocese of Brentwood where the liturgy of the Tridentine Mass was more impressively observed. Canon Bishop loved these traditional forms and it came hard, at his advanced age, to adapt to the new ways introduced by the Second Vatican Council.


Fr. Francis Dobson (later Canon) (1965-1972)

After fifteen years, however, the Canon's health began to fail and he felt compelled to ask to be allowed to resign his charge. This was at last possible in September 1965 when Fr. Dobson, the author of this history was appointed to succeed him.


This was the time when the decrees of the 2nd Vatican Council were beginning to bring about changes in the liturgy. Soon Mass was said in the vernacular and a temporary altar to permit the celebrant at mass to face the congregation was installed. Sunday evening Mass was introduced. The people were encouraged to sing at Mass rather than listen to a choir. Changes which some of the older people found hard to accept at first. The children, however, began to find a new excitement in the Mass and were ready to play their part.


With the approach of the Centenary Year, it was necessary to plan for a fitting celebration.


Mr D.R. Burles, a devoted parishioner and architect, prepared a plan for the re-ordering of the Sanctuary. This involved the dismantling of the High Altar and rebuilding the same stone materials to a new design in a forward position suitable for the new liturgy for concelebrated Mass. The former Lady Chapel became the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, adapted for the devotion of the faithful for Sunday Benediction. When these alterations had been completed and the dust had settled, the organ was completely overhauled and walls and stonework were cleaned and decorated.


Article from Southend Standard (30 October 1969)

The actual centenary of the opening of St. Helen's occurred on October 26th 1969. At that time Bishop Bernard Wall, who had ruled the Diocese for fifteen years had resigned his office on reaching the age of seventy-five and the Diocese was awaiting the appointment of a successor. Formal celebration of the Centenary was therefore postponed to a day in June 1970 when the new Bishop would be able to preside. 


St. Helen's parish celebrated 26th October, a Sunday, with Solemn High Mass sung for the last time in the Tridentine Rite before the new liturgy became obligatory. It was a symbolic end to the first hundred years of development of the Catholic Church in the Southend area.


A more formal celebration of the Centenary Year of the Catholic Church in Southend-on-Sea was held on Wednesday, 10th of June, the following year when the new Bishop of Brentwood, Rt. Rev. Patrick Casey celebrated a solemn Mass of Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. in St. Helen's with all the parish priests of the six parishes of the borough as concelebrants. Also present were Rt. Rev. Bishop Foley of Lancaster and other clergy who had once held appointments to parishes within the Borough.


Other church dignitaries representing the churches of Southed were the Rural Dean, Canon Erskine of St. Mary's, Prittlewell, Rev. Dewi Rhys of St. George's Presbyterian Church, Rev. D. McKenzie of the Avenue Baptist Church and Rev. W.W. Lawrence of Crowstone Congregational Church.


The Mayor and Mayoress of Southend-on-Sea, Alderman and Mrs. Schofield, were the chief among a number of civic guests representing the Corporation of Southend-on-Sea. Also present were Sir. Stephen MAdden and Mr. Paul Channon, members of Parliament for the Borough, accompanied by Lady MAdden and Mrs. Channon; Captain Collings R.N. and Mrs. Collings, Lieutenant Colonel Brett R.A. and Mrs. Brett of the Military Establishment at Shoeburyness; Alderman Mussett, Chairman of the Education Committee and Mrs Mussett J.P.; Mr H. Bell, Borough Treasurer, and Mrs Bell J.P.; Dr. Mellor, Deputy Medical Officer of Health and Mrs. Mellor; and chief Superintendent F. Bonfield of the Southend Police Force and Mrs. Bonfield.


Impressive music and singing for the Mass, in the spirit of the new liturgy were provided by Mr. Kevin Mayhew and his choir who, with their headquarters in Southend, were beginning to establish a new tradition in Catholic Church music soon to be widely known in Great Britain and other parts of the world. Mr John Rombaut was the organist.


By means of a television camera and microphone the ceremony was followed by many people in St. Bernard's School Hall who were unable to secure a seat in the church.


Later in the evening, the company adjourned to the Kursaal Ballroom for the Centenary Dinner at 8.30 p.m. at which, after the Royal toast, the Bishop of Brentwood proposed the toast of "The Mayor Mayoress and Corporation of Southend-on-Sea". The Mayor spoke in reply, expressing his pleasure at being present on this memorable occasion. Proposing the toast of "Our Guests", Canon Dobson, as parish priest of St. Helen's and successor of Fr. John Moore, welcoming the guests, said he was especially glad to welcome Captain Collings R.N. and Lieutenant Colonel Brett R.. representing the Military Establishment at Shoeburyness and through them, to express the gratitude of the Catholic community for the part played by the War Office in making possible the residence of Fr. John Moore in Southend in 1862.


The Rt. Rev. Bishop Foley replied on behalf of the Clergy and Mr. H.Bell, the Treasurer, on behalf of the laity.


This celebration marked the end of the first hundred years of the Catholic Church in Southend-on-Sea since the Solemn Opening of St. Helen's by Cardinal Manning in October 1869.

Roman Catholics celebrate 100 years


SOUTHENDERS of all faiths shared in Thanksgiving Mass at St. Helen's Church, Westcliff, and celebration dinner (picture) at the Kursaal, on Wednesday of the Roman Catholic Church's 100 years in the Borough.


A toast to the Mayor and Corporation was by the Bishop of Brentwood, Rey, Patrick Casey, who paid tribute to the “wonderful co-operation between the local authorities and the Catholic Church throughout Essex, never greater than in Southend."


The Mayor Ald. Mick Scholfield said, "One of the greatest things happening in this country at the moment is the spirit of unity developing between churches of the Christian faith."


The toast to the guests Was proposed by Canon Francis Dobson, parish priest of St. Helen's


The reply for the clergy was by the Bishop of Lancaster, Rev. Brian C. Foley, who said. "When I was a curate at Shoebury. I used the rectory in Great Wakering for the children's instruction classes. so we were very ecumenical even then. Those priests who served in Southed and its area considered themselves privileged," he said.


Mr. Herbert Bell, Borough Treasurer, replying for the laity, said the greatest change in 100 years must have been the development of catholics from a small, exclusive community to one laking full part in the civic life of the country.


Main Events of the First 100 Years


1869. St. Helen's Church opened.

1870. St. Mary's Convent & School opened in Canewdon Rd.

1873. Start of Nazareth House.

1881. St. George's opened at Shoeburyness.

1899. St. Helen's Elementary School opened.

1903. St. Helen's Church completed.

1909. Church of the Sacred Heart built in Southchurch Rd.

1910. St. Bernard's Convent replaced St. Mary's & Sacred Heart Elementary School


1912. Temporary Church at Leigh-on-Sea.

1925. Church of Our Lady of Lourdes opened at Leigh.

1928. St. Gregory's Church, Thorpe Bay, opened.

1929. St. Helen's School enlarged.

1939. New Church at Shoeburyness opened and Chapel of
Ease at Prittlewell            


1947. Lindisfarne School opened as a Preparatory School for St. Bernard's Convent


1955. Church hall built at Eastwood.

1960. St. Thomas Moore High School for boys opened.

1962. Chapel of Ease built at Great Wakering. 

1963. Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School opened.

1964. New Church of St. John Fisher at Prittlewell opened.

1968. Lindisfarne Preparatory School closed. The building became Lindisfarne

            Catholic Centre.

1969. St. George's Primary School at Shoeburyness commenced.

Priests who have held appointments at St Helens

Priests who have held appointments at St Helens 01.jpg
Priests who have held appointments at St Helens 02.jpg


Fr. Thomas McMahon became Chaplain to the University of Essex and Parish Priest at Stock 1969-80 and was consecrated Bishop of Brentwood July, 1980.


Fr. Dobson acknowledged the help he had from an article in the Brentwood Diocesan Directory of 1955 by Fr. Brian Foley, Bishop of Lancaster; from Miss Marcia Pond who made available her research into the story of Countess Tasker; from "The Tablet" of 1888, the Brentwood Diocesan Magazine of November 1923; and above all from the monthly parochial notes of Fr. T. Denny & Fr. P. McKenna in the "Southend & Shoeburyness Catholic Magazine for the years 1894 to 1912. By an extraordinary chance, when the High Altar of St. Helen's was being moved and rebuilt to provide for the hew liturgy in 1970, one of Fr Denny's printed leaflets dated 1895 was discovered hidden in the masonry for 75 years. Besides giving parochial information for the month, it tells the story of Father Moore's little chapel in the upper room and the coming of Countess Tasker.

​Significant Events (1969-2019)

Since the centenary celebrations, the following events have taken place


Fr. Charles Johnson

1972-1983. Fr. Charles Johnson was the Parish Priest.

The current Parish Hall was St. Helen's School and the old Parish Hall used to be on the opposite side (north) of St Helen's Road. This was sold to Woodyatt Motors Ltd on 31 December 1973 for £10,250.

In 1974, the controversial matter of whether communion could be taken on the hand was of concern.

In 1976, concern switched to whether to kneel for receipt of the blessed sacrament. The Diocese contributed £500 towards the cost of converting the school into the new Parish Hall.


Fr. David Crabb

1983-1993. Fr. David Crabb became the new Parish Priest.

In May 1984, £33,000 was spent on complete refurbishment of the presbytery. It was debated whether female priests should be allowed which Pope Paul VI had opposed despite, (in a letter to Fr Crabb), a Mr E. Whisstock advocating their appointment in view of the lack of male candidates.

July 1991 saw a new central heating system installed for which a loan was granted and repaid two years earlier than anticipated.


Fr. Joseph Whisstock was ordained in his home parish on Saturday 26 October 1991.

Fr. Thomas Lavin was the millennium Parish Priest from 1993-2001.

In March 1997, there was a general overhaul of the pipe organ.


Fr. Tomas Lavin


Fr. Britto Belevandram


Fr. Bartholomew Lynch


Fr. Jean-Laurent Marie


An Adoration Chapel was created during 2006 during Fr. Jean-Laurent's tenure as priest, to intensify the devotion to Jesus and the Blessed Sacrament.


Having been ordained at St. Helen's in 1971, Fr Joseph Whisstock returned to the church as Parish Priest in 2009 until 2018.

Daniel Kelly, an altar server for many years under Fr, Tom Lavin's guidance, was ordained to priesthood by Bishop Thomas McMahon on 17 September 2011.

Fr Joseph celebrated his 25th anniversary in the priesthood at St Helen's church on 26 October 2016.


Fr. Joseph Whisstock

The ordination of Fr. Daniel Kelly

Our beloved large crucifix, positioned in the garden outside the church, was severely damaged on New Year's Day 2015. After only three months, having being lovingly restored, it was doused in petrol and set alight and was damaged by vandals beyond repair. A new crucifix was erected later that year.

Fr. Joseph Whisstock


Fr. Alex Poblador is proud to be St Helen's Parish priest for its 150th anniversary celebrations.


Fr. Alex is a Rogationist religious priest from the Philippines and is the youngest in his family of six siblings. He was born in Manila but grew up in a small town called Zarraga in Iloilo City. Since the age of 8 he had the calling to become a priest and applied to become an altar server in his parish. Since then, that calling turned into a desire and from that desire a choice was made and that was the beginning of his vocational journey to priestly life.

After completing his formative years in the Philippines, he dedicated the first years of his priesthood in the field of formation and pastoral care for vocations. Being a Rogationist religious missionary, he has also had the opportunity to be assigned to some countries and missionary stations where that community is present such as Albania, Italy, Spain and now here in England.


Canon Dobson's original account of the centenary, which was printed in 1969 for the associated celebrations at that time. Archive material and photographs appropriate for the period and details covering the last fifty years were added by Robert Baillie.

Gratitude to Fr. Stewart Foster, Diocesan Archivist at Brentwood Cathedral.

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