History of the Parish of Our Lady and St Joseph and its precursors

Owls do screech where the sweetest hymns
Lately were sung,
Toads and serpents hold their dens
Where the palmers did throng.

Weep, weep O Walsingham,
Whose days are nights,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to despites.

Part of a poem attributed to Sir Phillip Howard called “The Wrecks of Walsingham”:

This page is very far from complete and some of the most recent incumbants are very poorly served. It was far simpler to gather together earlier published material; furthermore, most of the earlier clergy are now dead, whereas the more recent are very much alive and might object to ill-considered statements about their achievements. It is hoped that it may lead to fresh observations being made, preferably in electronic form.

Surveying the extent of his problems in 1880 Bishop Riddell of Northampton recorded that Mass was not being said anywhere along the eighty miles of coast separating King’s Lynn from Yarmouth. During the latter part of the Victorian period Cromer and Sheringham were changing from fishing communities to being resorts. This was encouraged by local landowners who wished to increase the value of their holdings, the construction of railways, and the opening of fascilities like golf courses. Development was encouraged by the writings of Clement Scott of the Daily Telegraph who called the area Poppyland.During this time he became a convert to Roman Catholicism, undoubtedly influenced by his father, a fervent admirer of Newman, and married his first wife, Isabel Busson Du Maurier (d. 1890), the sister of George Du Maurier, the artist and author of Trilby, on 30 April 1868 at Brompton Oratory. At the same time, Scott campaigned via correspondence with the Bishop for Mass to be said in the area on Sundays.

Mass for holiday-makers

It is probable that the first Mass to be celebrated in public in North Norfolk was said on the Sundays of September 1888 in Hastings House, Tucker Street, Cromer (nearly opposite St. Peter and St. Paul, the Anglican Church).Canon Duckett instigated these Masses, but it does not appear to be recorded who celebrated them. In 1889 Mass was said at the house of Stuart Knill in Bracondale on East Cliff, Cromer during August, including on the Feast of the Assumption. Later in 1889 (Sundays in September), and in subsequent years Mass was celebrated at the Assembly Rooms adjacent to the Red Lion Hotel during the later summer months. The Assembly Rooms were entered from Brooke Street in the heart of Cromer. Presumably such arrangements continued until the summer of 1895 when the first stage of the chapel of Our Lady of Refuge was ready.

The Mission Book of St. John’s Norwich shows:The Bishop had decided in May 1888 to direct Canon Duckett to purchase land in Cromer to build a church. As is clear from his biography the Canon was a man of considerable standing in the City of Norwich yet it was not until September 1893 that Lord Suffield agreed to lease a plot to the Diocese of Northampton. It is relevant that Suffield had promoted the railway and was encouraging property development in Cromer, and although he listed being a Protestant in his Who’s Who entry increasing the value of his land and keeping the Prince of Wales amused at Gunton were more important than his religeous scruples.

1897 Cromer was served from here [Norwich] during the summer.
1898 Cromer was served this year from the first of July to the second Sunday in October by the Rev. Henry G. Hughes who not only paid his way but handed over £40, which was sent to the bishop. His Lordship paid, in October, a short social visit going over to Aylsham to see the Misses Shepheard who propose to build a small chapel in their grounds.
1899 This year Cromer was served from Peterborough. The small oratory built at Aylsham by the Misses Shepheard was opened and it was arranged that Mass should be said once a month by a Priest from Norwich (First Thursday of each month).
1900 From 3 June to 7 October Cromer was served by Rev. Louis Allen.
1901 From the first Sunday in July to the last Sunday in September Cromer was served by the Rev. Louis Allen.
1902 In May Rev. Thomas Walmesley Carter came and on the first first Sunday in July was appointed to Cromer.

Founding of Cromer Parish

The bishop’s log records his visit to Aylsham and that on 21 December 1899 he instructed his solicitors to to purchase land at Cromer. In June 1900 he recorded that the plot was duly purchased for £510. In November 1902 the Bishop fixed the boundaries of the new parish of Cromer and appointed Fr. Carter as parish priest. The bounds probably extended along the coast from Weybourne to Horsey Mere and included the towns of Nonh Walsham, Sheringham, Aylsham and Holt. Father Carter recorded his arrival at Cromer in the following words:

“Having left the houses in Cromer behind me, I trudged along a narrow lane—for the wide road of to-day did not then exist—and at last the little church came into sight. There it stood in the middle of a field planted with vegetables, looking very lonely, deserted and desolate. It had not been opened since the end of September in the previous year; but there was little in the poor little building to suffer any damage—the total belongings to the church and mission were in an antiquated tin trunk, with the letters R.D. (Richard Duckett) printed thereon, and within the bare necessities for the celebration of Holy Mass.”

Mrs. Evans, of  Melbourne House where Father Carter lodged, was the sole resident Cromer Catholic and her home was a mile from the church, but.visitors found their way to Mass. After the season ended in September, Father Carter stayed on to found a mission drawing mainly on people from Aylsham, Erpingham, North Walsham and Sheringham, most notably the Shepheard family.

The bishop approved an appeal to finish the Church and provide a presbytery which appeared in the The Tablet on 13 December 1902.

“Our Lady of Refuge, pray for us”

“During the holy season of Advent will you send an Alms towards completing the little Church dedicated to Our Lady of Refuge, and also for building a presbytery here, both of which are so urgently needed. At the present time WE CANNOT RESERVE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT because the church is not sufficiently secure, one end being only boarded in, and there is no house near where the priest can live to guard the Blessed Sacrament. Help us then to provide a permanent Home for our Divine Lord in the Sacrament of His love in this neighbourhood, where He has been denied one ever since the so-called Reformation and so satisfy the desire of that Sacred Heart whose delight is to dwell with the children of men. There is no other church for twenty miles. His Lordship the Bishop of Northampton, who mentions the needs of Cromer in his Advent Pastoral, also writes: “Dear Father Carter,—I authorise you to make a special appeal for a Presbytery at Cromer and for completing the little Church. Both are much needed. I bless your undertaking.

Arthur Riddell, Bishop of Northampton”

Send then TO-DAY your Advent alms for this most urgent need to Rev. Thomas Walmsley Carter, Melbourne House, Cromer, Norfolk”.

Pending the results of this appeal the Bishop rented a house on Station Road to accommodate Father Carter for a year: at this time both the Church and the railway station were on the edge of the town. Father Carter received some donations, but the main result of his appeal was the emergence of a substantial benefactor: Sir Hubert Jerningham who donated £600 towards the cost of the Presbytery.

Father Carter’s first convert was Miss Sarah Durrell, of Bacton. She had been under instruction and was received into the Church by Baptism in February 1903 and in May she was the bride (at the first wedding in the Church) of Mr. Frank Loads of North Walsham. In the following year Father Carter was able to celebrate the first Mass in North Walsham since the Reformation, in the drawing room of the Loads’ house. On 23 June 23 1904 the Bishop visited Cromer for the first Confirmation there.

Philip and Maria Shepheard from Abbots Hall Farm at Aylsham were regular worshipers at Cromer. They had presented the crucifix which still stands behind the altar. On the death of their son Martin, whilst boarding at Beaumont College, they presented a monstrance as a memorial, which is still in regular use.


On Sunday 3 August 1902 Father Carter laid the foundation for another mission by celebrating Mass in Morris Street — the house of a Catholic visitor to Sheringham.

Following a huge gift from an anonymous donor (whom it subsequentlty turned out to be Kate Daterding) the Bishop of Northampton wrote to Father Carter on 2 April 1908:

My dear Father Carter,
Having consulted the Chapter I am willing to allow you to carry out your proposal at Sheringham on the understanding that you will find all the funds necessary to start the “station” free of debt, and place the property in the ordinary way in the names of Diocesan Trustees. I am not sure whether you spoke of the possibility or probability of a Benefactor endowing the place; but a small endowment to enable an Assistant Priest to be maintained pro. temp at Cromer would be very desirable.
Could you be ready for an Assistant priest after Low Sunday? If so, I will tell them at Oscott to get Mr. Gough ready, and will ordain him for you. I know you will realise the responsibility of looking after him in every way, and of keeping him well employed in winter as well as in summer. Especially I hope you will insist on his saying his daily Mass and leading an edifying life in all ways. With all due expression of praise and gratitUde for your zeal, and wishing you and your every blessing I am

F. W. Keating, Bishop of Northampton

P.S. I expect to be at Norwich on May 24th and 25th.

Father Carter received the following letter from Bishop Keating:

1 Sept. 1909

My dear Father Carter,
The Chapter consent.
1) For the building of the Church at Sheringham on the understanding that it is erected free of all debt, the contract to be signed and the money found by you, no responsibility being assumed by the Diocese.
2) They also consent to the general idea of selling the present property at Cromer to a religious institute of women, provided another site, Church and Presbytery are secured out of the purchase money. But you must not commit yourself to any purchase or sale until a complete scheme has been laid before the Bishop and secure his consent.
They ask me to point out that any benefactors of Sheringham should be prudently and courteously reminded that some endowment is desirable to secure permanence to the work begun. I think I may add that the Chapter join me in appreciation of the very zealous work you are doing for the diocese in your mission.
With a Blessing and kind regards,
Yours ever in XT

F. W. Keating
Bishop of Northampton

The newly built church of St. Joseph, incorporating the original church as a side chapel, was duly consecrated on 2 August 1910 by Bishop Keating who constituted Sheringham as a separate parish and appointed Fr. Carter to take charge. The reference to a religious order acquiring the Cromer site did not develop. An order of French nuns apparently purchased a house on Park Road, Cromer, and opened a school about this time.

St. Joseph’s Chapel
Bishop Frederick William Keating opened the Chapel of St. Joseph on Wednesday 5 August 1908 assisted by Father Carter and Father Wilfred Gough. It was a wet and windy day and the candles blew out. At this time there was Mass on every Sunday at 9.30, but in winter Mass was said on only one Sunday per month. It was served by Father Carter from Our Lady of Refuge, assisted by Father Gough.

Extension and dedication of St. Joseph’s
The greatly extended church was opened during three days of celebration, led by Bishop Keating, beginning on 1 August 1910 when in the evening the office of the martyrs was recited and the relics were sealed up by the bishop to be placed in the altar. On the following day, which was very wet, the bishop and clergy circled the church three times sprinkling it with holy water. On entering the church the Bishop traced the letters of the Greek and Roman alphabets across the church floor with ashes in the form of a St. Andrew’s cross. Then the altar and inside walls were sprinkled with holy water. Four priests dressed in red chasubles brought the holy relics to the altar in the reliquary chest in solemn procession. The Bishop anointed the altar with chrism and the relics were placed within the sepulchre (a hollow in the centre of the altar). The altar was anointed again and incensed seven times. Then the Bishop went round the church and anointed and blessed twelve crosses painted on the walls to permanently mark the building as consecrated. Grains of incense were burnt in the five crosses incised into the altar. The ceremonies concluded with High Mass. On the 3rd the Bishop and priests concelebrated Low Mass then at 11 o’clock Abbot Ford, the titular Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey and formerly of Downside celebrated Pontifical High Mass assisted by Benedictine priests of the Diocese.

Jesse window
The Jesse window was presented by Mrs Emmeline Watkin in thanksgiving for her son gaining a first at Oxford. It was the subject of a separate dedication by the Bishop on 7 August 1912.

Further extension of St. Joseph’s
The permanent population of Sheringham continued to grow, as did the seasonal influx of visitors during the summer. The church was too big for the congregation in the winter, when St Joseph’s Chapel was used for daily services, but packed on Sundays in the summer. The decision to extend the church was made because the sanctuary was not large enough for ceremonial occasions such as Christmas, Holy Week and when the Bishop visited. Just enlarging the sanctliary would mean less room for the congregation, so plans were drawn up for the church to be extended with a larger sanctuary and room for more benches in the nave. Canon Carter funded the extension with money inherited from his mother who died in 1930. The extension was performed under the direction of the original architect, now Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Cornish and Gaymer Limited, ecclesiastical builders, wood and stone carvers and general contractors based in North Walsham carried out the work. The extension was built at the southern end of the church, consisting of two nave bays with one window each side and a new porch and baptistry with crenellated parapet.

Large blocks of limestone were sawn on site for the interior of the church, the new stone and plasterwork, rock maple and limestone flooring, blending in well. The original porch and entrance to the church were converted into a side chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham and a new confessional was added in the smaller bay opposite. The great Jesse window was temporarily removed and the back of the church boarded up to allow services to continue while the extension was built. The extension was opened by Bishop Lawrence Youens on 25 March 1935 and consecrated on 2 August 1936.

Death and Requiem for Canon Carter
On 19 November 1938, Canon Carter died, having been ill with a heart problem for some time. Two curates, Fr Leonard Tomlinson and Fr William Hunting, had been assisting him with the running of Sheringham parish. Fr Hunting was with him when he died. Canon Carter had worked for over thirty years in Sheringham and been responsible for many people becoming Catholics. Canon Carter’s coffin was brought into the church the evening before his funeral took place on Thursday 24 November. There was a very large congregation and many clergy at the Requiem Mass, sung in the presence of Bishop Youens. The celebrant was Canon Carter’s nephew, Fr Peter McArdle. Many more people gathered in the road to watch Canon Carter’s internment in the grounds, by the entrance to the extended church, where his grave had been lined with evergreens, chrysanthemums and roses from the presbytery garden.

From left: Father George Fressanges (Secretary to Mgr. Sqirrel); Michael Abbs; Eric Abbs; Mary Bullock; Mgr. Sqirrel; Alfred Bullock and Father Leonard Tomlinson

Completion of Our Lady of Refuge
Canon Carter contributed £300 shortly before his death, and with funds raised under Father Armstrong the Church was completed with a beautiful new Sanctuary: this was opened with Solemn High Mass on 20 December 1938 followed by lunch for the whole Parish at the New Haven Court Hotel.

World War II
Father Fressanges who had assisted Father Carter, but remained at St. John’s in Norwich was killed when the train in which he was travelling plunged into a bomb crater at Ilford.

Father Cyril Banham
Father Cyril Banham became Parish Priest at St Joseph’s in the beginning of 1939. The windows of the church had to be boarded up due to the risk of bomb damage during air raids. He regularly travelled to Holt to say Mass in the Courthouse for nuns and their pupils who had been evacuated. This activity ceased when the whole of North Norfolk became an Exclusion Zone due at first to the risk of German invasion, and later in preparation for the Allies return to Europe.

In November 1941 Father (later Canon) N.W.E. Gray came to Cromer. He had been ordained in 1904 and was the contemporary of Father Carter in founding a new parish at Fakenham in 1905, with a later mission to Wells next the Sea. Later he had established the parish of East Dereham and built the original Church there. He came to Cromer after a period in charge at Slough and was to leave for Gorleston in 1945, where he ended a long career in 1951. Fortunately, for an elderly man, there was no heavy burden from the army as in the First World War. In fact the Catholic population fell substantially during the war years through evacuation and the Mass attendance was not greatly increased by the soldiers. This presumably resulted from a better organisation of Chaplains in the services in the Second World War. Canon Gray liquidated an old debt to the diocese of £385 from the original building of the presbytery and initiated an Endowment Fund for the parish which on his departure stood at nearly £700, lodged with the Diocesan Financial Office. No regular parish priest could be appointed on his departure and Father Kevin Jones (ordained just prior to the war) acted as temporary administrator of the parish for a year before taking charge of St. George’s in Norwich until his death in 1957.

Unfortuntely the end of the war brought a severe loss to the parish. The convent school had throughout the war continued to serve the community, receiving Catholic and non-Catholic alike although most of the other schools had evacuated. After reviewing the position the Superior General of the Religious Order concerned decided to withdraw and close the convent school in Cromer as the town had become well served by other sCQools. The last Mass was said in the convent Chapel on 11 th October 1946 and the nuns departed 3 days later. Various items of furniture were purchased for the presbytery from a fund provided by the Bishop.

Father Thomas Kemp Phillips arrived in Sheringham in 1945 when he was far from well and died in 1947 and is buried in Sheringham cemetry. The congregation was very fond of this self-deprecating and kindly priest

Father (later Canon) Leonard Tomlinson arrived in Cromer on 24 October 1946. He wrote very critically of the state of repair of the Church, presbytery and even the vestments. He appears to have been very much of a handyman and proceeded to a general re-organisation erecting a garage at his own expense, putting up new Church gates and new notice boards. He recorded the heavy snow-falls of 1947 which brought total isolation and burst pipes. He initiated social activities in the parish with outings for altar boys, parish parties in the garden and a childrens party at the Red Lion Hotel for Christmas. In 1948 the Church was re-roofed and the repairs generally completed.

Father Cyril Austin Snowden
Father Snowden took charge of St. Joseph’s in 1947 and stayed until 1954. His sister, Rose was head teacher of the adjacent school. He longed for vocations to the priesthood, but although two boys attended a national Catholic Vocation Conference in London and went on to seminary they failed to complete the long demanding journey.

Pilgrimage of Prayer and Penance en route to Walsingham
During the Second World War, only members of the armed forces had been able to visit the shrine at Walsingham, as it was part of a restricted zone. On 3 July 1948, the Pilgrimage of Prayer and Penance was held to mark the end of the war and pray for peace in the United Kingdom and the world. Fourteen groups totalling fur hundred men walked from Basingstoke, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Canterbury, East Grinstead, Glossop, Leeds, Malmesbury, Middlesbrough, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Oxford, Stourbridge, Westminster and Wrexham. Each group carried a large oak cross weighing ninety five pounds.

The Bishop had made his visitation to Our Lady of Refuge in Cromer on the previous Sunday and stayed to receive the pilgrims in full Pontificals as they arrived carrying two six foot. crosses. They were followed by French pilgrims carrying the the statue of Our Lady of Boulogne. After the ceremony ninety pilgrims went to stay in the Links Pavilion which had been generously lent, by the proprietor. The management of the Colne House Hotel and the Red Lion Hotel provided the pilgrims with a full meals.

The Augustinian Priory (ruins are open and maintained by English Heritage), founded in 1197 in Beeston Regis, was one of the ancient stops on the way to Walsingham. It was therefore fitting that men from St. Joseph’s, including Colonel Dumbrell, Alfred Bullock, Francis Bullock and Ernie Silburn, carried the Westminster cross on the final stage of its journey. One parishioner recalls walking a mile down the lanes to watch the parishioners carrying the cross along the road between Sheringham and Weybourne. The crosses were blessed by Cardinal Griffin and erected as Stations of the Cross in a field adjacent to the Slipper Chapel Over the years that followed, this developed as a Shrine Centre.

Later in 1948 a Garden Fete was held at the Newhaven Court Hotel in aid of the Cromer parish finances. At Christmas a Parish Christmas Dinner was inaugurated at the Red Lion Hotel for which parishioners received turkey and Christmas pudding. A children’s party was also held at the Red Lion Hotel. In 1949 Covenants were introduced to improve Church collections throughout the year. It was necessary in this year to replace the garden fence which had been erected in 1913, with “angle stakes bedded in concrete” by Father Tomlinson himself. The trees were pruned with the help of the Cromer Golf Course green keepers. Father Tomlinson’s DIY activities extended to repairing and repainting all the Church doors and benches in the Church and Sacristy. A Fete was held at the Newhaven Court Hotel for 500 people which realised £144.

At the end of 1949 Father Tomlinson departed from Cromer for Chesham Bois and was replaced by Father Frederick Charles Nutt who moved from Chesham Bois after being in charge there since 1937, (and at Rushden previously from 1924). Father Nutt did not appreciate his predecessor’s DIY work; tersely describing the prebystery and garden as “having been left in a jolly mess” which took him two years and £500 to get into order. Father Tomlinson had dismissed the gardener because he claimed he could cope better himself! In 1954 the electric cable was extended from Station Road to supply a service to the Church and Golf Club at a joint cost of £150. Other important work accomplished over the year, included the installation of power plugs and lighting in both Church and presbytery, which necessitated the redecoration of both. In the same year a septic tank was built at the cost of £45 to replace an antiquated sewage pump.

Father Nutt assisted with arranging for the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary to acquire a house, as a school, in Overstrand. Although the school closed before 1995, the Convent continued to assist in the work of the parish at Julian House, Overstand. Father Nutt continued to look after the parish, in failing health, until he died on Christmas Eve 1971 at the age of 81, a well loved parish priest. He left an estate of around £6000 to the Diocesan authority for the endowment of the parish of Cromer.

Father Francis Armtrong
Father Armstrong arrived in Sheringham from Wolverton in 1954 and stayed until his death on 4 October 1967. He is buried in Sheringham cemetry. He organized procession of the Blessed Sacrament in the grounds of the church and employed a temporary outdoor altar

Canon Hulme at Sheringham
Canon Hulme arrived from Walsingham in 1968. He was conscious that the closure of the school meant that the children of the parish rarely socialised. He organised annual trips to Great Yarmouth by coach, visiting the Hippodrome, to see the circus, and the pleasure beach. On the way home there was often tea at Wroxham and a boat trip on the Broads. Parishioners, Mr and Mrs Paul, helped fund these trips. One parishioner remembers him visiting with a ‘new home gift,’ comprising household cleaning materials including a mop and a dishcloth. Canon Hulme retired from Sheringham in 1976.

Father Parr at Cromer
At Cromer Father Nutt was replaced in January 1972 by Father Joseph Michael Parr. Father Parr had been ordained priest in 1945 as a Passionist Father but joined the Diocese of Northampton in 1951, serving as parish priest in Bedford prior to coming to Cromer. He was an active member of the Ecumenical Movement and he initiated his activities with discussion groups, with speakers, which included the Rev. David Ainsworth, Vicar of Northrepps, and a Salvation Army Officer. In February a parish meeting was held in the Women’s Institute Hall in Cromer which was very well attended with general discussion about parish affairs. Father Nutt’s bequest was discussed, as shortly before his death he had agreed an arrangement with the Diocese to pay the salary of a teacher employed in the Convent at Overstand for two years. It was agreed to meet this cost from the legacy of Father Nutt.

It is also recorded that permission was given for redecoration of the Church in accordance with the new liturgical practices introduced by Vatican II. This permission seems to have been interpreted over-liberally by the new Parish Council. In fact all the Church fittings and furnishings were removed except for the Crucifix given by Philip Shepheard, and the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham given by Miss Cary. There is no record of their disposal and enquiries among older parishioners have produced conflicting and confused answers. It is regrettable that more consideration was not given to the feelings of the original donors. In 1977 Father Parr, who had been well liked, was transferred to Peterborough.

Father John Cureton at Sheringham
Father Cureton came from Sudbury in 1976. He had been a late vocation and had trained as a plumber and served in the armed services during World War II. He lived frugally sitting in the presbytery beside a single-bar electric fire wearing his overcoat. His practical background was put to good effect in the care he took for the structure of St. Joseph’s.

Conservation work at St. Joseph’s
From the late 1970s it became necessary to perform conservation work on the structure. Canon Hulme had commissioned a structural report on the church and presbytery from Anthony Rossi, a chartered architect and conservation and historic building consultant, who as a newly qualified architect had met Giles Gilbert Scott. Repairs were made to a number of windows, involving the removal and refurbishment of the ferramenta (iron grilles). Turnbuckles were provided to assist removal in the future and stainless steel lugs were installed to prevent the stonework being attacked by rust.

The Jesse window was suffering from the effects of its marine environment and had to be protected by external glass. Pauline Plummer — a conservator based in Norfolk, carried out cleaning and restoration work on the reredos and the rood in the summer of 1980. Her assistant was Edwin Bowes. Neil Birdsall of Hingham, who was the Consultant Architect, had recommended her. A number of parishioners including Janet Arbuthnot, Jean Dumbrell, Mrs Stagg, Gracie Silburn, Eileen and Francis Bullock helped with the work. Scaffolding was erected in front of the reredos so that each panel could be worked on in situ, with additional lighting to help in the dark corners. Removing all the sooty deposits after years of burning candles was painstaking work. Some badly cracked panels were eased together. The paintwork was touched up and some of the gold leaf replaced. When this was finished Pauline Plummer turned her attentions to the altar in St Joseph’s Chapel. In August 1982 she returned to work on the two side altars, The Sacred Heart statue and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Father Curreton left for Swaffham in 1988 and was replaced by Father Liam Crowley.

Father Hacon at Cromer
Father Parr was replaced in 1977 by Father Francis Hacon, who was proud of his Norfolk origins and like some other older clergy abhorred some of the changes brought in with Vatican II, especially the receipt of Holy Communion by the laity in their hands. He held his faith earnestly and vigorously and was an excellent priest in the tradition of his older predecessors. He had been recognised as an excellent parish priest at Fakenham and Thetford but his arrival at Cromer was preceeded by rumours that he was a reactionary; nevertheless, Father Hacon continued to serve, in his very commendable concept of his duties, until his retirement and death in late 1989.

Father Liam Crowley
Parish Priest at Sheringham in 1988/9. He started a Saturday evening Vigil Mass at St. Andrew’s Church in Holt. He was keen to organize the servers and develop a football team. The high point in the year was a Mass in the Cathedral in Norwich for the servers of the Diocese, followed by a football competition which was attended by Bishop Alan Clark.

Canon McBride in Sheringham
Father Mac arrived in Sheringham in 1989 where he hoped to retire and remain. He retired in 2000 and remained very alive, saying the occasional Mass when Father Denys was away until his death on Easter Sunday 2011.

Reordering of Sanctuaries
Following the Second Vatican Council the snctuaries had to be rearranged to enable Mass to be said by the priest facing the people. This was achieved relatively simply in Cromer, but in Sheringham a temporary wooden altar had to be placed in front of the original altar. In 1993 Canon McBride instigated more permanent arrangements. Anthony Rossi (architect to the Catholic Cathedral in Norwich) was commissioned to draw up plans for changes in the layout of the church that would implement the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965. This recommended that Mass be said from behind the altar facing the congregation and introduced the English vernacular into the Mass and the other sacraments. Bullens of Cromer, assisted by a marble mason from Norwich named Robinson, performed the work. The front altar rails were removed during the re-ordering in late 1993 and relocated at the rear sides of the sanctuary, where there is a double drop.

The high altar was the most controversial aspect of the reordering. Anthony Rossi was faced with three options, to leave the altar where it was and place a second altar in front of it, to remove the altar and get another one, or to adapt the original altar. He chose the last option and reduced the altar in length by about a quarter, removed the gradins (shelves) and brought it forward to replace the wooden altar. The altar remained sited on the original predella (altar platform), which was extended using marble from the third sanctuary step. The step had to be removed when it was apparent that it did not extend all the way back to the rear wall. The reliquary chest was now too large to fit. In conjuction with this new lighting was installed to draw attention to the painted ceiling.

This re-ordering resulted in some controversy involving the satirical magazine Private Eye, the Victorian Society, the Twentieth Century Society and English Heritage. Perhaps this was not surprising, given St Joseph’s is considered one of Giles Gilbert Scott’s finest creations and one of the best Roman Catholic churches of the twentieth century. The new arrangements make the altar and the detail of its carving far more visible to the congregation.

Cromer: Fathers Cansdale and Brown
There followed a short interregnum in Cromer with Father Morley, on loan from the Westminster Diocese, in charge. In 1991 he was replaced by Father Peter Cansdale, Under him more modern practices were introduced. An active Parish Council was formed. The St. Vincent de Paul Society was revived in the parish. A group of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion was formed and trained to perform duties including taking Communion to the sick. Ecumenical ties were established with other religious groups.

Instruction has been organised for the children of the parish and for prospective converts. The Parish Council suggested that steps should be taken to build an extension to the Church to constitute a Parish Centre and provide an overflow for summer congregations. Mr. Featherstone, of Sheringham, was instructed to draft plans, submit these for approval to the District Council and invite tenders. As the Centenary of the Church building in 1894/5 was approaching it was decided to set in motion the preparation of a parish history, and an appeal to celebrate the Centenary, with the erection of the extension. At the end of December 1993 permission was sought from the Diocesan Trustees to accept the successful tender (of some £60,000) from H. Bullen & Son Ltd., Cromer. Unfortunately at this point Father Cansdale suffered a severe stroke and was hospitalised for six months. Undeterred the Parish Council’sought the Bishop’s approval to borrow the necessary funds to start work at once and set up a Centenary Appeal Committee to organise activities for the repayment of the debt. Work was started on the extension and building is now complete. Father Cansdale was most appreciative of the way his parishioners have successfully carried out this work, continued to raise funds and carried on the normal work of the parish. Relief clergy offered Mass on Sundays and vital Church Feasts including Christmas and Easter and Canon McBride, from neighbouring Sheringham, offered. a mid-week Mass and undertook other vital pastoral duties when necessary. The Eucharistic Ministers have undertaken regular services in the Church and sustained their other Church duties.

Father Peter Brown
Amongst the improvements wrought at Our Lady of Refuge were the construction of a ramp, dedicated in memory of Father Cansdale to ease wheelchair access and the establishment of a large Memorial Garden where the ashes of former parishioners could be interred.

Father Tony Webb in Sheringham

Father Tony arrived from St. Felix in Haverhill during the Millennium and stayed until October 2007 when he moved to St. Anthony of Padua in Fakenham. He was responsible for many improvements: he coonverted the Presbytery into an office downstairs and a flat upstairs. He built a Memorial Garden where the ashes of former parishioners could be interred. For many years he organised Parish outings. He was eager for the congrgation to evangelise and just prior to one Christmas he and some of his parishioners handed out leaflets on the streets of Sheringham informing people of Mass times: this did lead to some new faces at Midnight Mass.

Father Peter Brown serves both Parishes
Father Peter had the difficult task of preparing the Parishes for merging. He was assisted by the seemingly tireless Father Mac and by rhe Parish Administrator, Keith Holt.

The new Parish of Our Lady and St Joseph led by Father Denys

Parish Hall
This was constructed to serve as a school, but for much of its existence the building has served, or also served as the main centre of Parish activities and is an important centre for social activities in Sheringham. During World War I the building served as a clubroom for the many troops stationed in the area. Although the hall is no longer associated with formal education it continues to be a vital part of Parish events and social activities in Sheringham. The hall was thoroughly refurbished in 2007-8 to celebrate the Centenary of St. Joseph’s, to bring it up to current statndards and to reduce running costs. The current role of the Hall is covered on a separte page.


St. Joseph’s Catholic Elementary School
This was founded with the benefit of Kate Deterding’s finance in a building which still serves as the Parish Hall. The school opened in 1914 with Miss Hart as the sole teacher. In November 1921 the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary based in Ascot opened a convent in The Close adjacent to St. Joseph’s (the building is currently a Youth Hostel). There were four nuns with Mother Superior Dominic Davis. Sister Teresa McCabe became the headmistress of the elementary school. The school had to close in December 1934 due to a shortage of pupils. It reopened in 1947.

In 1946 Mrs Frances White of Hillcott was educating some of the youngest children in the Parish, but the demand for Catholic education enabled the school to reopen in 1947 under Miss Rose Snowden, sister of Father Snowden. At that time RAF Sculthorpe was the base for many American servicemen. Initally these were associated with the Berlin Airlift and tension with the Eastern Bloc. By 1957 there were 10,000 personnel and the families were housed over a large area including Sheringham. But by 1963 the school closed again and the building returned to its use as a Parish Hall.

St. Mary’s Convent School
This was established in 1922 for boarding and day pupils with strong links with the IBVM school in Ascot. Most of Watkin’s children were to spend some time at the school. The Convent was able to open its own Chapel with 7.30 a.m. Mass on 2 July 1931 (with the Mother Superiors from the Bar Convent in York, Ascot and Paris in attendance). But the school never prospered, sufferlng from too few pupils. It closed for good in June 1940.

The Babies’ Home (Diocesan Residential Nursery)
The Convent was taken over by the Order of Bon Secours with Rev. Mother Lelia in charge as a home for unmarried mothers and their babies. Many of the babies were adopted especially by the USAF families. Sister Gemma was especially associated with the removal of crying babies from St. Joseph’s Chapel: this direct exit is still known as Sister Gemma’s door.

Note far more detail on the Babies’ Home and schools may be found in From allotment field to Heaven’s Gate by Teresa Collins and Jane Valsler.


It is impossible that Scott, the architect of St. Joseph’s in Sheringham, and Maufe, architect of Kelling Hall, were not aware of each other and their work. Furthermore, Father Carter, being the son of an architect, would be highly conscious of the need for a building of stature.

Giles Gilbert Scott

Scott is amongst the famous names in British ecclesiastical architecture. Giles Gilbert Scott was born on 9 November 1880 at 26 Church Row, Hampstead, London, the third son of George Gilbert Scott junior (1839-97) and the grandson of Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-78), both architects: the latter was architect of St. Pancras Station restored and reopened in 2007 to serve as the terminal for TGVs to Paris and Brussels. Gilbert was educated at Beaumont College (Windsor). Gilbert and his brother Adrian were taken by their mother, Ellen, on many cycle trips, which he called “church crawls” visiting some of the masterpieces of church architecture on the Kent-Sussex border. Both the young Scott’s were articled for three years to Temple Lushington Moore (an Irish architect noted for his modern Gothic churches which reflected his Anglo Catholicism), who had himself been articled to their father.

Giles Gilbert Scott became one of Britain’s most successful architects, being responsible for several cathedrals, a very large number of churches and public buildings. In Scotland, he designed the magnificent St. Columba’s Catholic Cathedral in Oban (Argyll and Bute). His masterpiece was Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, the largest Cathedral in Britain, which was designed whilst he was still very young. Two power stations (masterpieces of brick cladding) became landmarks in London: Battersea and Bankside. The latter is now the Tate Modern dedicated to housing modern art. In a less secular age the great turbine hall might have been re-used to form the nave for a further great cathedral. Just up the River Thames from the Tate Modern the graceful modern Waterloo Bridge is another of Scott’s works: simple, functional and elegant. Gilbert Scott also designed that uniquely British symbol: the classic red telephone box.

Scott became a Fellow of the RIBA in 1912 and received the Institute’s Royal Gold Medal in 1925. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1918 and a full Academician in 1922 — the youngest since Turner. He was knighted in 1924 after the consecration of the first portion of Liverpool Cathedral and was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1944. Scott was also made a Knight of the Order of St. Olaf of Norway for his advice on the completion of Trondheim Cathedral.

He died in University College Hospital (London) After a Requiem Mass at St. James’s, Spanish Place, London, Scott was buried by the Benedictine monks from Ampleforth outside the west end of “his” great Cathedral in Liverpool next to his wife at a point which should have been enclosed by a porte cochere had his final design of 1942 been followed.

Other than architecture, Scott’s passion was for golf: he must surely have played on the course at Sheringham. Sir John Betjeman  thought “He was a jovial, generous man who looked more like a cheerful naval officer than an architect,” [Obituary, Birmingham Post, 10 February 1960]. Sir Hubert Worthington [R.I.B.A. Journal, April 1960, p. 194] recorded  “his was a singularly beautiful character, free of the jealousies that so often spoil the successful artist. He bore life’s triumphs and life’s trials with an unruffled serenity.”

Sir Edward Brantwood Maufe

Maufe was born 12 December 1883 in Ilkley, Yorkshire, with the name of Muff (his family owned Brown, Muff & Co., of the Bradford department store), which he changed in 1909 to Maufe. He died on 12 December 1974 in Buxted, East Sussex. He read Architecture at St John’s College, Oxford and studied Design at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.

Kelling Hall was his first major commission. Other works include the Festival Theatre in Cambridge, the Air Forces Memorial overlooking Runnymede, the Oxford Playhouse, St Columba’s Church (Pont Street, London SW1) and won the competition to design Guildford Cathedral (1932): a brick building which must owe something to Scott’s work. He was the architect chiefly responsible, in the 1950s for the rebuilding of much of Gray’s Inn and the Inner Temple which had been heavily damaged in bombing during World War II. He worked for the Imperial War Graves Commission (1943-1969) as principal architect (UK), then chief architect and artistic advisor; he was knighted for his work with the Commission.