By a Staff Reporter Called by Bishop King, of Portsmouth, a " basilica," the 50 ft. by 15 ft. new Catholic chapel serving some 40 East Ilsley, Berks, Catholics, is a 250-year-old barn converted at a cost of £600. Labels on chairs delivered by their London makers to the chapel bore the address, " Cathedral Church, East Daley." A fascinating story was told me by the Parish Priest of East Hendred, who tastefully redecorated the barn with the assistance of The barn whicn, when acquired, was in " a terribly desolate condition," had been a sale room for some time, and probably before then a slaughter-house. Zealous local Catholics would taxi on Sundays to the parish church at East Hendred, several miles away, and recite frequent Rosaries at home for From Our Own Correspondent the blessing of a church of their own.
Seventy-five per cent. of the congregation is Irish, and includes boys from racing stables near-by. In June, 1947, the barn and an adjoining site were up for sale for £450. " The barn was forlorn, but the Bishop took one look at it, and said: Buy
Swallows, which had made their nests in the interior, refused to move out. Men working feverishly from October till February of this year had, said the parish priest, " to lift three birds out, which protested noisily. I wonder if they will come back?"
The transformation accomplished In the barn, described as " amazing," has included the installation of electric lighting, heating, remarkably attractive Stations of the Cross, painted by a local artist, the installation of an 18 ins. wooden statue of Our Lady, originally the property of the Weld, Lulworth, family, and believed to be ancient continental, and a harmonium bought in the village on the eve of the opening. Dedication of the chapel Is to St. Michael and St. Patrick.
The parish church at East Hentired, from which East Ilsley is served, has a venerable past, was consecrated in 1865, and was the gift of the Eyston family, direct descendants of St. Thomas More, and whose estate adjoins. The family have their own chapel of St. Amend dating from about 1296.
"One of the very few pre-Reformation chapels," said the parish priest proudly, " where Protestant worship has never been held." A second chapel (in the Anglican church) is also the property of the Eystons, and cannot be used for non-Catholic services. Denarted members of the family lie there.
HIVE OF ACTIVITY
Hallowed by Catholicism adhered to with heroic resolution in Penal Days, the East Hendred area has yet a further fascination, he explained. "The foad ends at ray church, and with it ends the old world of history and indomitable hope. Beyond It begins the new world of fear and mutual distrust."
He pointed to Harwell aerodrome nearby, now being developed as a great atomic research station. When the atom people settled here, people began to move out in panic, even from Reading, many miles away. Now they are steadily returning, and with them come the thousands of workers at the station, who settle down for good. Many newcomers are Catholic.
"Soon the district will be a hive of Catholic activity," he said. To prepare for the future he has purchased a site for a church at neighbouring Wantag& and the Bishop has recently appointed a priest for the new parish.
The parish priest also says Mass at Milton Manor, where vestments and missal used by Bishop Challoner are kept. His remains lay at Milton Pro:estant church till their transference to Westminster Cathedral
local workers, many of them voluntary. Bishop King attended