Parish History

English Martyrs Church

Before 1961 the only provision of Mass had come from the Diocesan Travelling Mission under the care of Canon Francis Dobson. The Canon was familiar with the area as his grandfather farmed near Purleigh Village.  The nearest church had been in Chelmsford and it was said that travelling by horse and cart, his beard froze on Danbury heights!!  Danbury was chosen as the Mass Centre for the area of Danbury, Little Baddow, Woodham Walter, Bicknacre, Woodham Ferrers and South Woodham Ferrers. A few Masses were held at the Spinney Café in 1952-54.

In 1954 Miss Mary Brown bought the bungalow “Haddon” in Maldon Road and made a room available for regular Sunday Mass. She also gave a part of her extensive gardens to the Diocese to build a permanent Church. In consultation with Fr John O’Sullivan, the Parish Priest of Maldon, plans were drawn up to build a Church to seat 156 people.

Fr Bernard Clay arrived in 1961 and the first Mass in the (almost) finished new Church was on the 10th December 1961. Gifts of a Tabernacle, seats, altar rails, kneelers, vestments, stations of the cross  etc were made over the following months and on Thursday 4th October 1962 Bishop Wall blessed the Church with a Solemn High Mass.

On 11th November the Church became a parish in its own right. The next years saw the changes as the Mass changed into English Rite. There were also financial problems which were a constant worry.

In May 1970 Fr Clay died at the age of 80 years and much is owed to Fr Clay for his selfless and difficult stewardship. His 9 years laid the foundation for the continued growth of our parish.

In 1999 major work was started to repair, upgrade and redecorate the original building including a new heating system and windows, new layout in the sacristy and confessional facilities. A new entrance porch has also been built giving increased space, access for the disabled and a more attractive appearance from the road.  This was completed in 2003.

The gardens and grounds have been developed and maintained by the parishioners to provide an attractive setting for photographs after Baptisms. First Communions and Weddings and as an outside area for other ceremonial occasions.  The most recent development (2008) is a beautiful Prayer Garden behind the entrance porch

Holy Trinity Church

In 1982 His Holiness Pope John-Paul II made a remarkable visit to England; the Falkland War was fought far away in the South Atlantic and in our little corner of Essex a new church opened in South Woodham Ferrers. This church with its paired Primary Schools (St Joseph’s RC and Trinity St Mary’s Anglican) was a Local Ecumenical Project.

More than 25 years later the project has bloomed into a true partnership with the Catholics, Anglicans and Methodists jointly managing the building and sharing their joys and sorrows along the way. It hasn’t always been easy (a bit like having your relatives to stay on a permanent basis!) but with compromise and good will the three denominations have successfully served their communities and the wider population of South Woodham Ferrers.

Several joint ventures have proved very successful including the Christmas Journey at Marsh Farm and the Bar-n-bus in the Asda car park on Friday evenings for the young people of our town. In Easter 2009 we presented a very successful “Passion of Christ” as a street play through South Woodham Ferrers.

Please follow the link for a list of our prior Parish Priests