The Assumption of Our Lady Catholic Church in Englefield Green has been saved thanks to a far-reaching programme of restoration. The building project brought people across the community together, safeguarding the beautiful church for generations to come.
There has been a Catholic community in Englefield Green for more than 120 years with the present basilica church, designed by Joseph Goldie, opened in 1931. More than seventy years later a significant damp problem, damage to the bell tower and various structural issues raised serious questions about the building’s future. Costs for the much-needed restoration were significant, matched only by determination on the part of parishioners and members of the local community to save the church.
Supported by the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton, parish priest Fr Chris Spain and members of the parish community devised an ambitious plan to fund the significant internal and external renovations needed. The parish received practical support, help, advice and friendship from parishioners, clergy, friends in the Diocese, the Runneymede Muslim Society, and a range of local groups, with the project - which involved the sale of land adjoining the church - bringing people from across the local community together.
The last Mass at the church took place just before the first Covid-19 lockdown on 19 March 2020. With Covid-19 restrictions easing and the building and restoration works nearing completion, The Assumption of Our Lady has now reopened.
Parish Priest Fr Chris Spain said: “This is a wonderful time to reflect on the rich history of the church, rejoice in the present and prepare for our future mission in this beautiful part of Surrey. May the church be a living legacy, for all the priests, deacons, religious and parishioners who have contributed to the building of God’s Church here in Englefield Green over many decades. In these difficult times, and with the many challenges ahead, may the church be a sign and witness to our locality in the world of today.”
Jim Forkin, Chair of the Parish Finance and Buildings Committee said “I had three key wishes from the outset to guide the restoration, those of warmth, colour and lighting – all three have come to fruition after long and detailed planning, reviews and execution… as soon as one enters the church it is warm, welcoming, bright, fresh and beautiful in all respects. This wil be a major driver in the renaissance of our parish – the underlying mandate.”
There is much to look forward to; the church will mark its 90th birthday on Monday 20 September.
Children from St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School have created a beautiful, brightly coloured St Joseph tapestery with the help of a professional artist. The tapestry will hang in the church’s new Prayer Chapel (picture attached).
Young parishioner, Rosie Packham, produced a drawing of the church with the thought provoking caption “May the absence of what we love make our hearts grow stronger”. The picture was attached to the door of the church and remained there for about six months - before being blown away by inclement weather.
Mgr. Canon Tony Barry was ordained in the Church on 13th July 1985. In preparation for the building works a picture collage of his ordination day was taken down from the sacristy. It was rather ‘worse for wear’, having been in place for 36 years!
One of the builders (a Catholic) used to arrive to work fifteen minutes early each day to pray the Stations of the Cross, which were just visible amidst the scaffolding.
Exciting new technology has been intalled in the church whch will enhance liturgy and worship.
For further information please contact: Canon Chris Spain (parish priest)
E: firstname.lastname@example.org or T: 01784 434280