A History of St. Michael's Catholic Church

From Early Times until 1997

Compiled and Written by Monica McAllister

Chapter 3: Mawmead Shaw and the First Chapel

The congregation attending Mass in the Constitutional Hall at first numbered about forty. As the numbers increased however the provision of better accommodation became a necessity.

The first essential task was to find a suitable site for the erection of some kind of temporary church. A letter from Canon Cahill at Bishop's House, Southwark to Father Hooker of Leatherhead mentioned three possible sites and stated that, while there was no immediate need for a church at Ashtead it would be short-sighted policy not to consider future needs. The sites mentioned were Farm Lane, Craddocks Avenue, near the station and 25 Woodfield Lane. These appear never to have been given further consideration. Along Woodfield Lane, however, was a large house, which had been hit by a bomb in 1941. This house, called Mawmead Shaw, although not demolished was no longer structurally safe and the family had moved away.

It belonged to a Captain Lloyd, who was a Christian Scientist and was not particularly well disposed to the Roman Catholic Church. He and his family were away at the time of the bombing and thus escaped injury but the Irish maid, who lived in the house, sustained a broken leg. Captain Lloyd is said to have told her that this was because she was a Catholic and outside God's protection! He is also said to have declared that under no circumstances would he ever sell his property to the Roman Catholic Church.

Mawmead Shaw had extensive grounds, laid out with sweeping lawns and fruit trees. There was a walled vegetable garden and a number of greenhouses, which were extensively damaged by the blast of the bomb. The bomb had cut right through one side of the house and thus weakened its foundations and in no way would it ever be habitable again. Its only value was the site and in the early 1940s building sites were not being bought. No building was taking place or would be taking place in the foreseeable future.

The Diocese of Southwark was not slow to recognise the potential of such a site and considered that it was worth acquiring it so that, when possible, a Catholic church could be built there. Because of his prejudices, direct negotiations with Captain Lloyd were not possible and so approaches to the agents were made by a Mr. James Wright, who acted on behalf of Father Oscar Leake, who was the then Parish Priest of Leatherhead. Mr. Wright lived in Link's Rd. and, through his negotiations, the site and the derelict house were purchased for a sum which was round about £2000 in August 1944.

At the same time as proceeding with the purchase of Mawmead Shaw, the Diocese approached Leatherhead Urban District Council for planning permission to build a church, sacristy and two dwelling houses on the site. This permission was given in the April before the completion of the purchase.

Undamaged by the bomb was a corrugated iron garage and this became the first 'chapel' and Masses ceased to be celebrated at the Constitutional Hall. Ashtead was still part of the Leatherhead parish and the curate from Leatherhead who was given the responsibility of looking after the Ashtead congregation was a Father Michael Costello. Because of his name the Bishop suggested that the chapel be dedicated to St. Michael. So the first St. Michael's church came into existence in Ashtead.

Fr Maxwell's Memorial