A History of St. Michael's Catholic Church

From Early Times until 1997

Compiled and Written by Monica McAllister

Chapter 10: The New Church is opened

That progress was being made is indicated by the recording of the issue of a 3rd certificate by the architect to the builders on April llth 1967. However Father McGrath was concerned at the speed of progress and on May 10th wrote to the architect stating that October 27th had been fixed by the Bishop for the official opening of the church. He requested Mr. French to hurry things up as the contractors were seven weeks behind schedule. On June 24th he wrote again to request Mr. French to ensure that the body of the church was cleared for the ceremony of the laying of the Foundation Stone on July 1st.

On July 1st Bishop Cashman visited the partly completed church, blessed the building work already completed and sealed the Foundation Stone into the wall on the left hand side of the porch. The wording on this stone reads:-


Building progressed rapidly although Father McGrath was still concerned as to whether the church would be ready to be opened in October and, despite the issue of a Sth certificate on August lst, he wrote again about this to the architect on August 3rd. In his reassuring reply the architect also informed Father McGrath that he had arranged for the building to be sealed each night in order to keep out intruders.

By September 23rd all the brickwork was completed and Father McGrath requested the contractors to tidy up the verge in the Marld. That September an order had been placed with Frank Kenny & Go. of Dublin for the wooden furniture. This included the benches, which were built to fit the shape of the church, twelve sanctuary stools, a celebrant's chair and a credence table. These were due to arrive in two consignments but eventually arrived on October 25th, just two days before the official opening of the church. A dock strike had caused the delay. Later two prie-dieux to be used for marriages were ordered from the same firm.

On September 2Oth Henry and Joan Haig of Bookham received an order for the candlesticks, sanctuary lamp and bell and the crucifix. Together these cost £358 and were prepared and in place for the opening of the church. The altar and Baptismal Font, both made of Welsh slate were also in place in time for this official opening. The Font, designed to complement the altar, was placed in the Baptistry which occupied the central part of the vestibule. The main noticeboard in the vestibule was made and donated by a member of the parish.

Joseph Cribb of Burgess Hill had designed both the altar and Baptismal font and had prepared the altar stone which was set in the centre of the altar. In April 1967 he had also been commissioned to design and execute a statue of St. Michael. As this was to be carved from a block of lime wood, which was difficult to obtain, he was unable to complete it in time for the opening of the church. However before completing this commission, Mr. Cribb died. His assistant, Mr. G. Swaysland took over the work and the statue was eventually delivered to the church in February 1968.

The Stations of the Cross, originally ordered by Father Maxwell and already paid for by parishioners were unfortunately not able to be installed until the November of 1968. Otherwise the beautiful new church was completed and ready by Friday October 27th. Bishop Cashman arrived and blessed the church celebrating High Mass before a packed congregation.

The next Sunday, October 29th, Father McGrath celebrated the first Sunday parish Masses and the new church became the centre of our parish life. That day saw the first Baptisms which were those of Simone Cave and Ivan Lewer. On November 4th the first marriage, that of Neville John Thirtle to Pamela Berenice Manning, was celebrated

The official Parish Boundaries had been proposed in June 1967 and these were formally erected by the Bishop in March 1968, when Father McGrath was officially installed as the first Canonical Parish Priest. The boundaries were declared as follows:-

  • Beginning from the Ashtead Ward Boundary on the Epsom-Dorking Road and turning south, follow the Ward boundary, parallel with Farm Lane to Walton Road.
  • From Walton Road still following the Ward boundary to Ermyn Way, then down the centre of Ermyn Way, crossing the Leatherhead Road and down the centre of Grange Road into Ottways Lane.
  • Then proceeding along the footpath bounding the Convent wall and then following the Ashtead Ward boundary to include both sides of Harriotts Lane, crossing Barnett Wood Lane and continuing along the south side of Caen Wood Road (to include both sides of this road). Still following the Ward boundary to Ashtead Gap and Epsom Gap on the Kingston Road.
  • From Epsom Gap follow the Ashtead Ward boundary to meet again at the point whence we began.

Thus the limits of the parish of St. Michael's Church, Ashtead were accurately stated.

Fr Maxwell's Memorial