Brief History of The White Fathers & White Sisters at Heston
Taken from various sources but still in the stage of development
the 27 December 1928, the White Fathers took possession of Westbrook House,
Heston Road, as a residence for those White Fathers studying at St Mary's
College, Strawberry Hill and London University.
At the request of the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Bourne, the
White Fathers also agreed to take charge of the new parish of Heston.
Heston was formerly part of
Hounslow Parish and before the arrival of the White Fathers, people either
went to St Michael's and St Martin's in Hounslow or to St Anselm's in
Southall for Mass.
Above: Westbrook House in Heston.
|The parlour of the Westbrook House wasofficially opened as a Chapel on
27 January, 1929. Bishop Bidwell officiated at the ceremony and Fr
Joseph Laane was installed as the first Parish Priest.
Mass continued to be celebrated in the Priest's House until 27 November
1929, by which time a more permanent Church was completed. It was agreed
with the diocesan authorities that this should be the property of the
White Fathers. As there was also need to build more rooms for the student
fathers, the Cardinal gave permission to incorporate the church and the
extra rooms in the same building.
Entry in the Catholic Yearbook 1930
(source : Vincent Celano)
NOTE : not one of the priests identified above are British. The White Fathers only became established in the UK in 1912 (at Bishop's Waltham) and the first batch of British priests would have been ordained in the mid-to-late twenties. However, it is strange that Fr AE Howell is not included in the above entry: he purportedly delivered the first sermon at Heston in 1929.
And here's the proof—taken from the same Yearbook:
(source : Vincent Celano)
Fr Laane, besides being parish priest, was also responsible for promoting
the work and raising funds for the White Fathers' Society. To assist him
in this double task he was given the services of Fr. Alfred Howell and Fr. Arthur Hughes. (The latter became afterwards Archbishop
Hughes, Apostolic Delegate of the Middle East at Cairo).
The White Sisters arrived in Heston on the 29th December 1930 and
began a postulancy for their order at 15, The Green. Amongst other duties,
the Sisters helped with the catechism classes.
Fr Laane left for the Missions in January 1931. He was well-known on account
of his immense size and the large pipes that he smoked. He had also endeared
himself to everyone because of his great kindness and friendliness. Fr.
Howell took over as Parish Priest.
During the summer of 1932, a group of parishioners built the Lourdes Grotto
which was blessed in September of the same year. In December of 1932 the
Legion of Mary had their first meeting.
The Parish Hall was built in 1933 by the Brothers of the Society. Mgr
Butt officiated at the opening ceremony.
(Click here to see more
about this event).
|In September 1935, Fr Howell, too, left for the missions. His place as
parish priest was taken by Fr Owen McCoy, who had already been
curate at the parish for two years. Fr Bernard Brown took over
Fr Howell's work of promotion in England and was appointed Provincial.
(Click here for further information
about all the priests who served at the parish).
During the next two years, the White Fathers purchased a large area of
land between The Green and Walnut Tree Roadthe site which now occupies
the site of the Rosary Junior School.
Fr McCoy left for the missions in 1937 (later to become Bishop of Oyo
in Nigeria). He was succeeded by Fr Thomas Tye.
At the start of the Second World War the Parish Priest became Chaplain
to the RAF at Heston Aerodrome in Cranford Lane. Throughout the conflict,
Heston was no longer a residence for White Father students.
The parishioners determined to help the members of the armed face, who
were very numerous in the district. They arranged regular 'socials' in
the Hall, to which the Services were invited free of charge. These occasions
became very popular, especially with the Polish community of soldiers
It was during the war years that the Scouts and Guides were started.
1944 it was decided to start a private school in the Parish Hall, behind
Westbrook House. Many Parishioners and members of the U.S.A. Airforce
helped with the preparations which included laying down a concrete playground.
By August, the school was openedas St Mary's Infant School. The
first teachers were two nuns of the Poor Servants of the Mother of
God who came over everyday from Hayes.
The school catered for children of ages 4 to 7 and was intended to provide
a sound Catholic education, culminating with First Holy Communion and
Above: pupils of St Mary's during the late forties.
Click here to see more photos
relating to the School.
|In March 1945, Fr John Maguire took over from Fr Tye as parish priest.
His health was not very good, in fact, having suffered a long imprisonment
in France during the war. (Along with several other White Father students,
such as Fr Paul Moody). By the end of 1947 he had to leave for
a sanatorium and his place was taken by a number of priests such as Fr
Lee, Fr Gaffney and Fr Briody until the appointment
of Fr Francis Walsh in December 1948. (Click here to read a biography of this great man).
Because the student Fathers had to make long journeys every day to colleges
in London, Cardinal Griffin gave permission to the Society to open a house
in central London (known, as it is today, as 'Stormmont House'—in Highgate). The
Father Provincial also made this his headquarters.
After this move, the
community at Heston consisted of the parish priest, the Provincial Treasurer
and Fr Arthur Prentice, who, although 79 years of age, helped with
the instruction of converts and playing the organ in church. At the same
time, Heston acted as an 'overflow' when the London HQ could not accommodate
the number of White Father visitors.
It would seem that Heston was a nursery for bishops: in June 1951 Fr Walsh,
the parish priest, was appointed Bishop of Aberdeen.
He was succeeded
by Fr Antony Hames, another very popular priest, during whose term
of office the Men's Club was
Three years later, in November 1957, Fr Lawrence Jones succeeded
the end of 1959, the Provincial of the White Fathers approached Cardinal
Godfrey about the possibility of handing over the parish
to the clergy of the diocese. This was agreed and Fr Peter Moore (photo left), who had been Assistant Priest at St Francis de Sales
in Tottenham, became parish priest on 1st March 1960. The White Fathers
left on the previous day.
Meanwhile, the White Sisters also decided to move and their property on
The Green was purchased by the diocese in 1961, as the site intended for
the building of a new Church which was started in November 1962.
The solemn blessing and laying of the foundation stone o the new church
was performed by Bishop Craven (Vicar Capitular) in the following
On 11th October 1964, Fr Peter Moore officiated at the last service
in the old church and then blessed and said the first Mass in the new
Below: aspects of the
'new' church which replaced the original
building at Westbrook House where the White Sisters had resided.
(photos by Paul West)
Inside the new church - photo taken from the
1967 Offertory Promise Campaign
lent by David Rose.