Parish History

The Parish History: 1920 – Present Day
By Elizabeth Chattell  © Copyright.
Acknowledgments: Research: © Copyright Elizabeth Chattell.
Typing: Mary Beirne.
Photographs (not published on web site yet) : Madge Allen, Elizabeth Clewlow, Des Angel, Audrey Clewlew.
Art Work (not published on web site yet) : Mary Farnan
Printing of paper version: Peter Richards and Deacon Terry.

In the Beginning
In the 1920’s Great Barr was for the most part a rural area with narrow lanes running between fields and woods. The centre of activity was the old Scott Arms at the junction of the Birmingham to Walsall Road and Newton Road. It had consisted originally of an inn, a butcher’s shop, and a brewery. In the past, as the headquarters of the Great Barr Society for the Prosecution of Felons, it had been used for inquests, an outbuilding being used as the local mortuary. For some time a Magistrate’s Court had been held there, and it was still the venue for a thriving cattle market. Residents in this area were a long way from
any Catholic church since they lived on the boundaries of four parishes: Handsworth, Maryvale, West Bromwich and Walsall, and Bishop Glancey was concerned that some were unable to get to Mass at all. The task of establishing a mission in the locality was taken up by Father, later Monsignor, Henry Thomas Dovell Yeo of St. Mary’s, The Mount, Walsall, and it was he who secured the use of a large barn or stable attached to the Scott Arms, which was made available by M & B Mitchells and Butlers at a nominal rent of a shilling a year. The room, at the Newton Road end of the building, was fitted up as a temporary chapel, and the gilded cross rising above such premises attracted much attention and comment.

The first Mass took place on Easter Tuesday 14th April, 1925, when Father Yeo officiated at
High Mass at 10.30 a.m. The large congregation included many from Walsall, the music being provided
by The Mount Choir under the leadership of Mr. E.F. Joyce accompanied by Miss Baines on the small
harmonium. Dedicated to The Holy Name of Jesus, to which Father Yeo had a particular devotion, the chapel was to be served for the next 10 years by priests from The Mount, including in their number Canon Roskell and Fathers John Clavin and Thomas Hampton who were present on this first occasion, and Father Thomas Pearson, later to become Bishop of Lancaster, and Father James Dey; later Catholic Bishop in ordinary to His Majesty’s Forces. From time to time supply priests came from Handsworth or Maryvale, but on occasions a message would reach the small group of about 40 parishioners to the effect that there would be no mass’as there was no priest available. However, the normal provision was for a
Sunday Mass-at 9:15 am to which was added from June 25th an evening service at 6.30 p.m. Confessions, evening service and instruction took place on Fridays, and the Mission was registered
for baptisms from 4th August, 1925. Among the founding families who worshipped in the barn we find the names of Rudd, Clewlow, Timmins and Connolly, a closely knit community which was to remain the backbone of the mission for many years to come.

During those years members of The Mount Parish worked with the Catholics at Great Barr, raising
money and looking forward to the establishment of a more suitable building‘
Finally in 1935, Archbishop Williams sent Father James Bromley to Great Bart to assess the
possibilities of developing it into a separate parish.

1935-1938 The Temporary Church

On his arrival in Great Barr Father Bromley stayed for a time with Major and Mrs, Wilde at
the Hawthorns, 818 Walsall Road, and they introduced him to the local Catholic families, a population of
about 80 by that time including 12 children. From here he set about the planning of a temporary
church. Already a site had been found by Canon Yeo, fronting the Birmingham Road near Cross Lane, and when a house came up for sale at number 7 Cross Lane, this was purchased as 3 presbytery. Infected by the enthusiasm of their new priest, people gave generously of their time and money, so that within a year a temporary wooden church was erected by Ginger Lee & Co, of Manchester and, by the joint efforts of the Mount and Great Barr, some 60% of the cost had been raised, leaving only a small debt of some £1,500 to be paid off. The many gifts which came in included nearly all the Altar furnishings, and parishioners recollect that a visiting priest, Father O’Neil, offered to donate a statue of Our Lady, which
eventually arrived from Ireland just in time for the opening ceremony. The new church was officially opened on Thursday 12th December, 1935, the occasion also marking the formation of the new parish of
Great Barr with Father Bromley as its first Parish Priest.

At the opening solemn High Mass Canon Yeo was celebrant with Father T.F. O’Doherty as deacon and
Father J. Rowland as subdeacon. Father R. Gould was Master of Ceremonies, and a plainchant Mass was sung by a choir conducted by Mr. J. Worrallo. Among those present were Monsignor Canon C.J. Cronin, Vicar General of the Birmingham Diocese, Monsignor Canon C.A. Wheatley, Monsignor Canon G.E. Price, Canon John Roskell, Cane: E. Godwin, and about 40 priests from various parts of the Diocese.
Owing to illness Archbishop Williams of Birmingham was unable to he present, and in his absence,
the sermon was preached by Canon A H Villiers. From this time facilities for the parish were greatly increased. There were 2 morning masses, catechism, benediction and evening service on Sundays,
regular weekday masses, and an evening service on Thursdays. Fund raising did not cease at this point for Father Bromley and his growing parish were determined to have a permanent_church. Even at the luncheon at the George Hotel, Walsall, which took place after the opening Mass, speeches after the toast to ‘The New Parish‘ referred to designs already on the drawing board. Whist drives, bring and buy sales, garden fetes, and the sale of ‘bricks’ at sixpence each were all means of adding to the many generous donations. From time to time parishioners found on the seats envelopes containing one shilling each, which they were asked to take and make into £1 by whatever means they could, and Pew rents (7/6d a quarter) were collected for named benches, though Father Bromley would not permit these to be reserved for late comers.

So great was the activity that the area round the church became known as Pope’s Corner, and in less than 3 years the debt was reduced to £400. These were the years that saw the opening up of Great Barr as a residential area, with the building on Sundial, Booth’s Farm and Pheasey Estates, when familiar land marks such as Doctor Garma’s House and the Cattle Market disappeared, when public houses such as The Beacon and The Old Horns were reconstructed and extended, The Beacon cinema was built, and the Cooperative stores were opened.

Stone Laying

In view of the increasing population enough land had to be made available to meet future contingencies, and a site adjacent to the temporary building was earmarked for the permanent church. Designs were prepared by the architect Mr. E. Bower Norris of Stafford, and the builders,
Messrs. Deacon and Boardman Ltd., of Walsall, the overall cost to be in the region of £5,000.
The church was planned to accommodate 350, the Catholic populatlon at this time being recorded
as 309. The foundation stone was laid on 11th June, 1938 by the Vicar General of the Diocese
Monsignor Provost Cronin in the absence, owing to illness, of the Archbishop. The stone was marked in several places with the sign of the cross, after which Provost Cronin walked round the foundations of the whole building scattering holy water. A short address followed, and in conclusion offerings for the new church were placed near the stone. The ceremony over, both clergy and the parishioners were entertained to tea. Among those present for the occasion were Canon Yeo, Canon Leonard Emery (Rector of Oscott College) Canon Roskell (st. Chad’s Cathedral) and Fathers G. Hodgson (Weoley Castle) J. Griffin (St. Anne’s, Birmingham) D. McEvilly (Shirley) M. Dempsey (Witton) R. Walsh (Cresswell, Staffs.) N. Ford (Walsall) T. Healy (Hednesford) G. Watts (Dorridge) J. Power (Saltley) F. Flint (Wolverhampton) B. Withers (Witton) and Brother Michael (Headmaster of St Chad’s College, Wolverhapton)

The Permanent Church

The church being built was modern in style, relying for its dignity on simplicity of proportions rather than elaborate detail, with a low tower intended to take a peal of bells when funds permitted. For some time after building, a recording of bells was played through a loudspeaker, but it was eventually stopped when there were complaints in the neighbourhood about the sound levels. Inside the church, above
the entrance hall, was a choir gallery with a small pipe organ. The sanctuary was higher than the general
floor level, affording unrestricted view of the Altar from almost any part of the building, and there was
a small side Altar set in an alcove. New low—backed benches were installed, and the statue of Our Lady
was transferred from the temporary premises to the new church, where it remained until, in recent years, it was moved to the Primary School. The official opening took place on 19th December, 1938 in the presence of Archbishop Williams of Birminghm. The church was blesses by Provost Cronin and Solemn High Mass was sung by Canon Yeo, with Fathers M.J. Dempsey and G.B. Hodgson, deacon and subdeacon respectively. Father B. Withers was Master of Ceremonies and responses were sung by
a choir of priests. Bearing in mind the imminence of war. The sermon given by the Archbishop stressed the danger of a spirit of defeat and failure, both in national and spiritual concerns, and called for courage and perseverance. Among the congregation were the Mayor and Mayoress of Walsall, Alderman and Mrs. P. Collins, and the 40 clergy present included Canon L. Emery and Fathers T. H. Hampton, G Hunter, J.F. Rowland, and T. Doherty, all formerly of Walsall and closely concerned with the development of the parish.

The School

As soon as work on the permanent church was well under way, Father Bromley and his parishioners
well under way, Father Bromley and his parishioners gave priority to their concern for Catholic  education in Great Barr.

Before the war, children had been sent by bus to The Sacred Heart School, Aston, or to Maryvale ,
but two factors made this arrangement increasingly difficult. As families moved into the area there         were greater numbers of children. Then wartime were greater numbers of children. Then wartime
restrictions led to the withdrawal of essential transport,and it became evident that a school would be needed in the district. In a wartime situation, there was no possibility of launching a building programme, and no financial aid was available from the Local Education Authority, but in spite of this, a far reaching decision was taken to start an independent Catholic school.

The old wooden church which was being used as a parish hall was taken over for this purpose. Essential equipment – paper, books and furniture, was nought or begged, and on 3rd October, 1940, the school
opened for children up to the age of 14. It began with 60 names, but within two weeks 102 children
had enrolled, and by the following year there were 147. At one time over 200 children were being taught on the premises, and there was some pressure from the Education Authority to close the school and
disperse the children among local non-Catholic schools.

The teaching staff consisted originally of 2 Selly Park nuns, Sisters of Charity of St. Paul, who travelled daily from St. Chad’s Birmingham. Older parishioners can still remember those first sisters in their black habits and white coiffes – Sister Helena for the reception class and Sister Patrick Murphy for the older children.

They were later joined by Sister Pierre who became head teacher, and Sister Rose who suffered greatly from the cold and damp and Sister Aloysius Berchman who died in 1981. The sisters, all elderly, worked with great devotion, and were helped by lay teachers, such as Mrs. M. Owen, who had returned from Australia in 1939 and taught there full time for 9 years, and among others, Mrs. Lawton, Mrs. Clements
who helped with music and Mrs. Gill. No salaries were paid for the whole 13 years of the school’s existence. Cleaning and maintenenance was carried out entirely by the parents, and all material  resources were the result of magnificent efforts by the whole parish, including the children who took part in ‘Penny Concerts‘ to raise funds.

Religious instruction occupied the first half of the day, after which the children sat grouped round their respective teachers who had to arrange between themselves a teaching programme which would least disturb everyone else. As numbers expanded, curtains were used to divide the area into four ‘classrooms’. There was no heat so the children sat wrapped up in coats during the winter, and were
glad to have their school milk warmed. When weather permitted, recreation and games took place
in the nearby Redhouse Park. Facilities were so inadequate that after a Health Department inspection, some £500 had to be raised to build toilets outside.

Yet in spite of the cramped conditions and lack of amenities there was a happy and disciplined atmosphere, and the school had an excellent record of scholastic success. Seventy eight scholarships were won to grammar schools, and many went on to de well in the professional fields of teaching and medicine. One of the children, Tony Haycock, entered the priesthood and said his first mass at Great Barr, going on eventually to the United States. From time to time the war impinged on the life of the classroom. In 1940 the papers reported on the torpedoing of a ship carrying evacuees to Canada in
the charge of Father Sullivan who had assisted at Great Barr for a while. In the week of opening the
school, welcome news was received that he was among the survivors in a life boat. Although one of the first bombs of the war was dropped in Great Barr, the area was for the most part spared the disruption caused by the bombing of the city. This was fortunate since there was no air raid shelter for the children, but when the sirens sounded, Father Bromley would sometimes go into the school with his little dog. and
sometimes the younger ones would go to the Presbytery. Prisoners of War were camped not far away – Germans at Hamstead and Italians at Park Hall, and Father Bromley visited the camps. Soon the children became accustomed to seeing Italian prisoners of war working in the presbytery garden. Permission was obtained for them to attend Sunday Mass, though they were at first segregated from the rest of the congregation, but eventually as restrictions were relaxed some were allowed to visit the homes of parishioners. At Christmas they would build an Italian style crib in the alcove at the side of the church, bringing in earth as 2 Base for a model of a complete village for The Holy Family.

When the Americans came, marching up the Birmingham Road from Walsall to their camp at
Pheasey, all the school children were lined up at the side of the road to cheer them.

The first Christmas after the war was one remembered by all. Prisoners of war awaiting repatriation came to Midnight Mass held for the first time since the imposition of the blackout, singing together carols well-known and loved throughout Europe – Silent Night, Holy Night, in German, French, Italian and English.

Clearly the first priority after the war was to find a site for a permanent school. Land in Cross Lane was owned by three different people who did not want to sell. However this was such a desirable position that it is reported that Father Bromley threw a medal of Our Lady onto the ground and asked for special prayers in the parish, and the fund raising efforts went on, for the whole cost of building would have to be met by the Catholic community. Eventually the land was offered to the church and purchased for £1,350. On 25th January, 1951 the newspapers contained the formal proposal to establish a new primary
school in Cross Lane, to be maintained by the Education Authority and to be conducted as a Voluntary Aided School, the notification being signed by Reverend James Bromley, Frederick J. Wilde, and Madeline Mary Owen. Although the school was to be situated outside the City, most of the children lived within the boundary, and the Ministry directed that it should be maintained by the Birmingham Local Authority.

Two years later, on 14th March, 1953, Archbishop Masterson blessed the foundation stone.

The opening ceremony took place on Monday January 4th 1954 in the presence of Bishop Humphrey Bright and Julian Snow, M.P. for  Lichfield and Tamworth, and this was followed by  High Mass at the church offered by Father Bromley.

School began on Thursday 7th January with a staff of two Sisters of Charity and four lay teachers, the headmistress being Sister Therese.

The school had cost £38,000 and was designed to take 240 children up the age of 11, to be taught in mixed ability classes. Only four days after opening plans were being made to add another two classrooms, and it was not long beforeextra temporary accommodation had to be found in extra temporary accommodation had to be found in the Hut and in the Methodist Hall.

The Post War Parish

In the meantime the church too was trying to meet the needs of a rapidly increasing population. New
roads had been built, mainly by the German Prisoners of War who had a camp at Hamstead.

New housing estates grew up and filled the once rural areas. The Catholic population of 309 in
1938 had risen to 1,000 by 1948, and the church’s work was expanding to meet their needs.

When Father Bromley came he had taken on the chaplaincy of the Great Barr Mental Colony (later St. Margaret’s Hospital) but it was not until 1949 that a regular Sunday Mass was recorded. This was probably made possible by the advent of a second priest, Father Charles Becker of the Divine Word Fathers, a German priest, who in 1938 after ordination, had been sent to England to learn the language, and had been interned during the war. He mad many friends in the area, helping out at weekends in Birmingham and its neighbourhood, and eventually he asked to join the Birmingham Diocese, and was appointed to Great Barr in 1948.

It is at this time also that we find a note of parish groups and confraternities in Great Barr. The Catholic Young Mens Society, The Union of Catholic Mothers, Children of Mary and The Grail.

The new parishioners quickly became involved in the fund raising efforts. Dances, whist drives
jumble sales and concerts were held, and the larger gardens were opened for events in the summer. The
newspapers reported on an American tea on the lawns of Pangborne, Queslett Road, and a grand fete at
Sycamore House, Birmingham Road, which was opened by Archbishop Masterson. Novelty features included gas balloon competition, an ice-cream stall and tours of the house at one shilling a time, and the open air activities were followed by a dance to the accompaniment of Gramophone records, held in the old school, which was cleared of its many desks for the occasion. Something in the region of £1,000 was raised during the day, a considerable sum at that time.

Another successful effort was reported it 1957 when Holy Name Scouts, started that year by Fathcr Joppe, displayed tents and camping equipment and demonstrated newly acquired skills in field cooking
in the grounds of the new primary school.

The following years saw the establishment of a company of Guides under the leadership of Muriel James, and the founding of an active Amateur Dramatic Society. The needs of the elderly were
thought of when in 1957 Councillor Mrs. Owen formed the ‘Forget-me-not’ Over 60 Club, which met every week in the church hut.

Building was still going on, and ‘bricks’ were being sold at all fund raising efforts. A more spacious presbytery adjacent to the church had been completed in 1954, and in 1957 the foundations had been
laid for a new wall round the church to incorporate in the aisles.

Silver Jubilee

The end of the decade saw the completion of the church as we now know it, and in 1961 on Tuesday 14th February (Father Bromley’s birthday) the Silver Jubilee of the Parish was celebrated. The church was full for High Mass offered by Father Bromley, and afterwards everyone gathered in the Assembly Hall in Holy Name School.

The primary school children put on a concert which included a specially composed Jubilee song, and an entertainment was given by the Scouts and the Drama Group, refreshments being provided under the supervision of Mrs. E. Halfacre and the Womens Guild.

The presentation of cheques was made by Councillor Mrs. Owen. They included some £400 for Church funds, a personal gift of £100 from an anonymous donor, and a further £75 for investments, which the school children had collected by their concerts.

It was a memorable occasion, but the Silver Jubilee was to mark the end of an era, for in the following year, 12 January, 1962, Father Bromley died.

1898 – Father james Bromley – 1962

Father Bromley had been a late entrant to the priesthood after being in active service as a sergeant in France in the First World War. He was ordained at the age of 31 on 25th May, 1929. Brief appointments in London, Wolverhampton and Coventry preceded his appointment as Parish Priest in Great Barr where he spent the rest of his life.

Gardening was one of his pleasures, and he enlisted the help of prisoners of war to work in it. Fond of animals and birds, he built an aviary for his collection of canaries, and his little bull terrier “Bonzo” accompanied him everywhere.

His housekeeper, Mrs. Handy, who was with him for more than 20 years returned to her homeland, France,  for a time after his death, but came back to Great Barr  in retirement.

Father Bromley is remembered as a man of  kindly nature, but film and resolute, full of energy and a persuasive and powerful preacher in public, but reserved in a crowd and with no liking for elaborate
ceremonial. Those who attended evening service recall his frequent use of the devotions to The Holy Name of Jesus. Frequent use of the devotions to The Holy Name of Jesus.

During his years in Great Barr, he built a  church, a school, and a presbytery, dying shortly after
the completion of the church as we now know it.

The Consecration of the Church

The Consecration of the church took place in 1965, on the evening of the 7th September. The impressive ceremony was carried out by Bishop Cleary, with the assistance of Monsignor Laurence Amery. Among priests present with leather Knarns, the parish priest, were Fathers Davis Cousins, Anthony Sims, Peter Cunningham, Peter Lees and Matthias Corrigan. The newly revised note was used with a commentary by
Monsignor John Humphreys which was particularly help fill in highlighting the significance of the

The Bishop first went in procession round the outside of the church, sprinkling the walls with
holy waters, signifying purification and strengthening against the attacks of Satan. He then demanded
entrance in The Name of God by striking the door 3 times with his crozier, and all those with
him joined in saying  “The Lord of Hosts is the King of Glory – Open up” As the door opened everyone
went in singing the Litany of the Saints. Inside, the Bishop prayed to God to send his angels to protect, bless, sanctify and consecrate the church with its Altar of sacrifice.

The inside wails and floors were then sprinkled, and the Bishop prayed that those who would worship in the church would. remain loyal to the Catholic faith. At the Pltar the sign of the cross was made with holy water at the four corners, and in the centre, with the words “May this Altar be sanctified, in the flame of The Father, and of The Son, and of the Holy Ghost”.

While the choir sang Psalm 47 “Great is The Lord, and greatly to be praised…” The Bishop as representativeof God took possession of the Church in a ceremony of God took possession of the Church in a ceremony which had its origins in ancient Celtic liturgy.

Sand had been scattered in the centre aisle, and the Bishop traced in the sand with his crozier all the letters of the Greek alphabet and all the letters of the Latin alphabet, arranged in the form of a cross. Christ is the Alpha and Omega, A and Z, the beginning and the end of all things, the two languages
signifying the universality of the Church of Christ.

For the second part of the rite, the actual consecration of the church and High Altar, the Bishop was vested in white.  From the time of the Catacombs, in the early days of the church, it had been the custom for the Sacrifice of the Mass to be offered on the tombs of the martyrs who had given their lives for Christ.

Their sacrifice identified them with their master who had sacrificed his life on Calvary, and so it was thought fitting that the re-presentation of Calvary should take place on the mortal remains of those so closely allied with him.

In Great Barr the relics are those of the Holy Martyrs Clement and Innocent.

At the High Altar, the Bishop incensed the relics, and removing his mitre, reverently placed them in the “Sepulchre”, a cavity in the altar stone. Cement was then blessed, and with the help of a mason, the relics were sealed in.

At the sane time, in the side aisle, Monsignor Emery was consecrating the Altar of The Blessed Sacrament.

The walls of the church were then consecrated. Candles were alight on 12 candlesticks on the walls, and at these 12 places the walls were anointed with the oil of Holy Chrism, recalling St. John’s vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem which had 12 foundations bearing the names of the twelve Apostles and also calling to mind the solemn sealing anointing of confirmation.
(The candlesticks were removed at a later date, place being marked by small crosses set in
stone) The door also was anointed with Holy Chrism recalling Christ’s description of himself as The
Door of the Sheepfold.

The Bishop then went up to the Altar, made the sign of the cross with Holy Chrism in five places on the table of the altar, and anointed the front and four corners, and then solemnly incensed the altar all around. Finally five small taper crosses were surrounded by incense on the five places he had anointed, signifying, as the incense burned, the congregation’s prayers ascending to God’ and the Bishop prayed for the people of the parish and for all who would come after them.

Following the solemn consecration, members of the parish carried up to the sanctuary cloths and altar furnishings in preparation for the concelebrated Mass.

It was a fitting climax to 30 years of hard work on the part of priests and people.

The Growing Parish

But it was not to be a time for sitting back and enjoying the fruits of former labours. The place
Father Bromley was taken by Father John James Kearns, who came to vastly different from that found
by his predce iIt..or a quarter of a century earlier. The Catholic population was 1420 in 1962 and was to
increase to 3,250 in the next 5 years, presenting a pastoral challenge of considerable magnitude. A large
population usually involves a measure of hidden need, and with this in mind a conference of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) was started in the parish, and later, in 1971, a branch of the Legion of Mary.

A convent was established near to the church and school. The Sisters of Charity of St. Paul, who had taught in the school, had purchased The Hawthorns, Walsall Road, in 1958 after the death of Major Wilde. In 1960 they moved to a house in Newton Road, and then in 1963, to a bungalow at 27 cross Lane which was extended and adapted for their use. Their remarkable contribution to the life of the parish which had extended over 20 years was almost at an end. The Sisters moved on to work elsewhere, and the headship of the school was taken over by Mr P. Hindle. For a time in 1967 the convent was occupied by the Vocation Sisters, but in 1968 the Marist Sisters took up residence and have remained in the parish to the present time

Another primary school, St. Marks, was opened on 7th January 1970. Situated in Almond Croft off the Old Walsall Road it was built on an open plan basis to meet the needs of families in the Hamstead area.

The opening mass took place on 4th March 1971 with the theme ‘Christ the Light of the World‘. The school was blessed by Bishop Emery and mass was concelebrated with Canon R. Walsh, Father Kearns and the assistant priests of the parish Fathers P. Hegarty and T.E. Smyth, and Father S. P. McTiernan of
Perry Barr. Father P.J. Reilly of the Diocesan Schools Commission acted as Master of Ceremonies St. Marks became a Mass Centre for the area, and at the Holy Name itself an extra mass on Sunday morning and an evening mass had been added to accommodate the greater numbers, giving a total of six masses in the parish on Sundays.

The 1960’s were years of change within the church as the implications of Vatican 2 were worked out
at parish level.

The interior of the building changed little since it was essentially uncluttered in appearance. The altar was moved forward in the sanctuary so that mass could be offered facing the people, and behind it was hung a beautiful figure of the Risen Christ the gift of the Jervis family.

The Blessed Sacrament Altar was established in the side, aisle backed by a wooden panel bearing the carved aymboth of the fish, the stalks of wheat, and the chalice of wine.

As the laity became more involved, a Church Council was set up, and to help parish funds, the Covenant Scheme was adopted.

For liturgical purposes, the Latin gradually gave way to the use of the vernacular, and through th 1970s the parish familiarised itself with the pattern of the revised Sunday and Weekday Missal.

In 1979 Father Kearns was transferred to Alton in Staffordshire, and in view of the shortage of priests to the Diocese, the Sacred Heart Fathers (Betharram) were asked to take charge of the parish of The Holy Name of Jesus, Great Barr. It is they who will face the challenge of the 80s, beginning with the National Pastoral Council with all its wide ranging implications for the renewal of spiritual life in the parish, and the reorganisation of existing structures.

‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to break down, and a time to build up…’

Into the Eighties

Besides the great event of the Papal visit, 1982 saw some minor changes in the Parish Church. The Sanctuary was re-ordered and a Day Chapel constructed. This arrangement while providing a more compact area for daily Mass, encourages a sense of unity and togetherness which is at the heart of community prayer and worship. Besides, there is a practical consideratiut severe weather it is more economical to heat the enclexed area of the church than to heat the entire &Lurch for a small
number of people who attend week-day services.

On Sundays the Day Chapel is incorporated into the main church and linked into the sound system with the added advantage thet cxying infants can be less disturbing to the main congregation when located in
the Day Chapel.

The development of the Parish will now depend on the generosity of the response of the people to the challenges of our time. There is much yet to be done in the spiritual and social development of Parish Life. However, there are encouraging signs that Parishoners from all parts of the parish are beginning to take the initiative in many areas of involvement.

The building of a Parish Centre would contribute enormously to the life of the Parish  catering for the needs of the many and varied activities which are part of Parish Life. Already plans have been drawn up and preliminary difficulties ironed out but the major problem is finance. A sizeable sum would need to he in hand before building begins so that borrowing rates would not be too crippling. A new Parish Centre would he a fitting tribute to the pioneering work of the previous generation whose hard work, generosity, and vision has given us a fine church, two schools, a Hut and a presbytery. The next chapter of the Parish History is about to be written.
‘To everything there is a season: A time to build up …’

Outline History

  • 14th April 1925 – First Mass in the room behind the Scott Arms
  • 4th August 1925 – Church registered for baptism
  • 12th December 1935 – Official Opening of the temporary church. Foundation of the Parish of Great Barr. Parish Priest:Father James Bromley.
  • 22nd January 1937 – Church registered for marriages.
  • 11th June 1938 – Foundation Stone of the present church laid.
  • 19th December 1938 – Official opening of the church.
  • 3rd October 1940 – Primary School started in the temporary church.
  • 14th March 1953 – Foundation Stone of Holy Name School Laid.
  • 4th January 1954 – Opening of Holy Name School.
  • 14th February 1961 – Silver Jubilee of the parish celebrated
  • 12th January 1962 – Death of father Bromley, aged 63
  • 13th February 1962 – Father J.J Kearns appointed Parish Priest.
  • 7th September 1965 – Consecration of the church
  • 7th January 1970 – Opening of St Mark’s school.
  • 29th April 1979 – Father Thomas Kelly S.C.J appointed Parish Priest.

Parish Priests

James Bromley 1935 – 1962

John James Kearns 1962 – 1979

Thomas Kelly BA S.C.J 1979-


Assistant Priests

1948 – 1956 Charles Becker SVD

1956 Patrick Cooney

1956-1959 Leonard Johannes Joppe

1959-1960 David Charles Collier STL PhL

1960-1962 David Cousins

1962-1965 Anthony G. Sims

1965-1966 Peter Cunningham

1966-1968 William M. Boyle

1966-1970 Frederick Leo Woodward

1969-1971 Thomas E. Smyth

1970-1973 Patrick Hegarty

1974 Christopher Dooley S.J.

1974-1976 Michael Joseph Taylor PhL

1976-1979 Francis Leo Jordan

1979-Brian Boyle B.A S.C.J

1979-Cyril Hazlewood S.C.J


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