For the first time in its history, Pontifical High Mass was celebrated in the little Catholic Church of St. Lawrence, Chipping Sodbury—once the stable of an inn—on Sunday last, when the centenary of the church was kept.
Mgr. William Lee, Bishop of Clifton, who afterwards administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to five candidates, presided, assisted by the Very Rev, Mgr. P. Long, of the Pro-Cathedral, Clifton, Bristol, and the Very Rev. Canon P. V. Hackett, of St. John's, Bath, whose Benedictine predecessors once served the mission at Chipping Sodbury.
The celebrant was the parish priest, the Rev. B. J. Ellis, and the Rev. J. Renehan, of St. Teresa's, Filton, Bristol, and Fr. McManus, assistant priest at St. Nicholas of Tolentine's, Bristol, were deacon and sub-deacon. The plainchant music of the Mass was sung by the congregation.
To celebrate the centenary, the church has been re-roofed, the exterior repainted and the interior entirely renovated, The total cost of approximately 1400 has all been raised — the greater part by the Countess of Westmorland, assisted by members of the Chipping Sodbury branch of the Catholic Women's League, of which she is chairman.
Bishop's Practical Appreciation
The Bishop, after paying a warm tribute to the devoted work of Fr. Ellis, announced that he would send him a cheque for £100 towards present and future expenses in the parish.
The mission has an interesting history. Following the Reformation, Mass has been said in the district since 1708, when John Paston of Norfolk came to live at the Court House in the nearby village of Horton, the Manor of which had been bestowed upon Clement Paston by Edward VI in 1553.
John Paston maintained a priest until 1769, when the mission was discontinued, but Mass was said there occasionally by Benedictines from Bath in a room measuring only 9ft. by 8ft. From 1815 to 1823, Horton was served from Cheltenham, until Fr. Cooper 0.5.11., on his appointment as assistant priest at Bath, succeeded in obtaining a cheese room, where he said Mass eight times a year until 1838.
Convert Widow's Mite Just over 100 years ago a Mrs. Neve, convert widow of an Anglican clergyman, bought the Swan Inn at Chipping Sodbury, a well-known coaching house in the days when the little town had the status of a borough. She turned part of the inn into a presbytery and had the stable in the courtyard at the back adapted for use as a church.
The church, which holds about 90 people, was opened on October 26, 1838, since when Mass has been celebrated every week without a break. The first resident priest was Fr. Rolling, 0.S.13., and in 1845, Fr. Cooper, on his retirement from the Bath Mission, came to Chipping Sodbury, where he spent the £300 presented to him by the Catholics of Bath an the sanctuary and chapel of St. Lawrence.
He was followed by other resident priests until about 70 years ago, after which the mission was again served from Cheltenham and later from St. Cierard's, Knowle, Bristol, for about 20 years.