In the year 1830 there was only one place in Slough and its environs where Roman Catholics could worship – Baylis House, a Roman Catholic school.
In 1850 the Pope restored the hierarchy in England and Wales. (An unfinished painting can still be seen at Oscott College, Sutton Coldfield, showing the Bishops meeting under the chairmanship of Cardinal Wiseman. John Henry Newman is also shown and it was he who preached the sermon ‘second spring’).
The restoration of the hierarchy was not taken kindly in Slough where the Rev. Edward Champaneys preached against the Pope. Anti-catholic feeling was running high in the town as in other parts of the country.
In 1884 Fr Clemente launched a nationwide appeal for the Slough ‘Mission’. On 4th November 1886, the Bishop of Northampton celebrated Pontifical High Mass in a chapel dedicated to St. Ethelbert, the first Christian King of the Saxons.
The first major division of the parish came in 1914 when a new church was built at Eton. Aldin House (now known as St Bernard’s convent) was built for Baroness Burdett-Coutts who was a close friend of Queen Victoria until she contracted a marriage that displeased the Sovereign.
The Baroness never lived at the house, presumably to avoid being too close to Queen Victoria at Windsor.
On 22 September 1869 Aldin House became a school under Rev John William Hawtrey who was formerly an assistant master at Eton. The old ‘Dolphin Inn’ closed when the school opened. Stanley Baldwin (later Earl Baldwin of Bewdley) attended St. Michael’s school in his early days. The school later moved to Westgate-on-Sea. A foundation school exclusively for girls of Welsh Parentage was then set up at Aldin House.
Continuing the affinity with teaching, St George’s School, Southwark took over Aldin House while their own building repairs were under way.
The Jesuit fathers took the house over as a college until they moved to France in the 1890’s. During their occupancy they showed great kindness to Fr Clemente who was feeling isolated and under great pressure in his mission.
The Bernadines moved into Langley, buying the House from the Jesuits in 1897.
They opened a boarding school which they run with the convent. In 1904 they took in local children for the first time.
St. Joseph’s (originally a private house) was taken over in 1906 and opened as a day school for local children of all denominations before amalgamating with St Bernard’s on 1st July 1945 as a Preparatory school. St Bernard’s convent and its growth is the prelude to the history of the parish of Langley.
Down to the beginning of the second World War there was no Mass Centre in Langley, and the small band of Langley Catholics had to walk the best part of two and a half miles to Mass in St. Ethelbert’s, Slough. Then at the beginning of 1940 an arrangement was made whereby St. Bernard’s Convent Chapel was made a temporary chapel-of-ease to St. Ethelbert’s for the Langley area and the Convent Chaplain, Father Crawfurd, also became a curate of St. Ethelbert’s with Langley and Colnbrook as his district.
It should be recorded that this arrangement was due to the zeal and love for souls of two very apostolic persons, the late Canon Marshall, at that time Vicar Capitular of the diocese, and the late Dame St. Andre, Mother Prioress of St. Bernard’s.
A public Mass for the parishioners was started on Sundays and Holy Days at 9o’clock. The first Mass was offered on Quinquagesima Sunday, February 4th, 1940. Forty-two people were present. Both the congregation and the number of parishioners rapidly grew.
This included R.A.F. and Army personnel stationed in Langley and many Irish boys and girls, come to do war-work in the factories of Langley and Slough.
In May, 1945, the National Service Hostel was opened at Colnbrook, and very quickly about 350 Irish workers arrived there. So on Trinity Sunday, June 20th, a 10 o’clock Mass was started in the Hostel.
This was also open to the public and many non-residents availed themselves of it. Missions were held at the Hostel in March, 1947; December, 1950 and July, 1952. A Mission was also held at St. Bernard’s Chapel in November 1948 and after it we started a Sunday evening Benediction there for the parishioners at 7 o’clock.
Meanwhile the London County Council had begun to construct their Estate in Langley, and in November, 1953 the Bishop was notified that the Church Site at the intersection of Trelawney Avenue and the Green Drive had been allocated to us for the building of Church, presbytery and hall.
On Sunday, November l6th, 1953 Fr. Crawfurd announced at Mass that the Bishop had authorised us to begin at once to collect for the new Church and had approved his suggestion that it be named the Church of the Holy Family. So the following Sunday the Langley Catholic Development Fund was inaugurated with a second collection at Mass. At the time of writing more than £5,700 has been raised.
The first Mass in Langley was offered on August 29th in the temporary Presbytery Chapel and the Blessed Sacrament began to be reserved there, with daily Mass during the week. On September l8th His Lordship drew up the boundaries of the future Langley Parish, extending from the county boundary with Middlesex to just beyond St. Bernard’s.
Also on September l8th Mass was said for the last time at Colnbrook Hostel (where the number of residents had dwindled very much), and the following Sunday an 8.30 Mass was begun in the Marish School, Langley; the Mass at St. Bernard’s being changed to 10 o’clock.
Christmas Midnight Mass was celebrated in St. Bernard’s Preparatory School Hall, as were also the new Holy week Services of 1956.
In November, 1955 our parish was enriched by the arrival of the Daughters of St. Paul at St. Paul’s House, Middle Green.
They were followed in February, 1956 by the Priests and Brothers of the same Congregation. Priests, brothers and nuns are busy spreading the Faith by means of the printing press, the making of religious films, etc.
On Tuesday, January 17th, 1956 the L.C.C. completed the contract of sale and. the Church Site became ours. Meanwhile Mr. J.S. Comper, F.R.I.B.A., had produced plans for our Church, and these having been approved by various authorities, a contract was signed on June 14th with Messrs. Kirk and Kirk of Putney for the building of it.
The builders took possession of the site on June 25th and the Bishop laid the foundation stone on September 30th. By the beginning of September our numbers had grown so much that an extra Mass at 11o’clock had to be started at St. Bernard’s. By the end of January the Church was ready for use.
The Marish School and St. Bernard’s Chapel were used for the last time for Sunday Mass on January 27th.
The first Mass was said in the new Holy Family Church on February 2nd, 1957.
The last public Mass in the Convent Chapel marks the close of an era. For 17 years the Chapel has served the Catholics of Langley and it would be impossible to enumerate the many kindnesses and acts of generosity for which the congregation are indebted to the Bernadine nuns. We should show our gratitude by praying for them and asking God to send them vocations.
A word about the dedication of our Church. Why the Holy Family? Could there be a more beautiful title for a church?
It embraces Our Lord Himself, His blessed Mother and St. Joseph. They are our Patrons.
Then the Holy Family is the divine pattern for all Christian families; and our new parish teems with young families with tremendous potentialities for extending the Kingdom of Our Lord.
Through the Sacrament of Matrimony these families have every help from God to make their homes living reflections of the Holy Home of Nazareth, homes after the Heart of our beloved Saviour and Lord.
It is hoped to have a large picture of the Holy Family at the back of our High Altar to be a constant reminder to all of this glorious ideal, so much needed, today when the family everywhere is undermined by materialism and irreligion.
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus, reign in our hearts and our homes by His love.