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Cardinal visits St Michael's Church, Ashford, in its centenary year

posted on 22 November 2006

Over three hundred Parishioners of St Michael's Catholic Church in Ashford welcomed the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor on Sunday (19th November) on his visit to Ashford.  This year St Michael's celebrates one hundred years as a Parish in the Diocese of Westminster.  Throughout the year new building works at the church, including the redesign of the Sanctuary and a new Altar, were completed.  This was just in time for the Cardinal to dedicate the Church and consecrate the new Altar.

In his homily, the Cardinal said 'I am so pleased to be able to visit you here in Ashford and to celebrate with you. Your beautiful Parish Church stands as a witness to the faith and dedication of so many people over the last hundred years. These are good times to be a Christian and a Catholic and I pay tribute to you and to the priests and people who have kept the faith alive here in Ashford over the past century'.

Although the present church dates back to 1928 the extension to the church was delayed during the war and it was not completed until 1960.  Following the Second Vatican Council the traditional High Altar was no longer used, instead a temporary wooden Altar nearer and facing the people was used.

The gift of a generous benefactor has enabled the redesign of the sanctuary in line with current liturgy including a new fixed stone altar and ambo or lectern.  The Church, originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Architect, also has a new porch, facilities for the less able and has been redecorated and lighted  to a high standard.  George Mathers, the Architect who advised on the current changes said 'What we have been able to do is to include a more contemporary feel to a much older church'. 

Parish Priest Monsignor James Overton said:  'At last we have come to the end of the reordering of our church.  It has also been a magnificent team effort in every way.  So let us now enjoy the beautiful results of all the hard work that went into it and give heartfelt thanks to God'.

Following the Dedication Mass, the Cardinal joined former Parish priests and people in a reception at the Parish Hall. 


- There was a Catholic presence in Ashford for in 1899, in response to a request from Cardinal Herbert Vaughan, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd had opened Ecclesfield, a Home for Inebriate Catholic women, on part of the site of the present St Michaels Primary School. Father Robert Browne, SJ was appointed their first Chaplain, travelling from Beaumont College
, Old Windsor to say Mass for the Sisters and the few Catholics living in and around Ashford.

- In 1906 Archbishop Francis Bourne appointed Father Martin Cave as the first Rector of St Michaels Parish. A small church was built on the corner of Feltham Road and Clockhouse Lane and opened by Archbishop Bourne on 23rd December 1907. After the new church was built in Fordbridge Road the former church then served as the parish hall. It was demolished in 1968.

- In 1925 the site of the present church on the corner of Fordbridge Road and Clarendon Road was purchased by Father Edwin Owen to meet the needs of a growing congregation. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was engaged as architect. The foundation stone of the new church was laid by Cardinal Bourne on 23rd December 1927 and the church opened for services on 21st July 1928.

- In 1938 the nave was extended but the Second World War brought the work to a halt and it was not until 1960 that the church was completed. On 13th March Cardinal William Godfrey presided at High Mass to mark its completion.

Contact Details:
Michael Nolan
Telephone: 07813 363076
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posted on 22 November 2006

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