St.Mary's Catholic Church, Uttoxeter
with
Sacred Heart, Abbots Bromley

The church was built by Edward Pyatt, a carpenter, in the garden next to his house, sometime between 1831 and 1846, and was served, as a monthly Mass centre, from Woodlane, Yoxall.

By 1889 however the building had started to deteriorate. Father Joseph Parker, appointed Parish Priest at Woodlane that year, recorded that when he first saw the church it was in even worse condition than Woodlane, where he had found that there were pigs in the stable. The church was closed after the 1891 census was taken and sold into private ownership.

Efforts were made to re-establish the church in the village and obtain another site, including in 1908 the possibility of purchasing the half timbered house at the junction of Church Lane and Bagot Street. But the vicar of St.Nicholas, Reverend Stuart Berkeley, moved quicker and bought it for Parish Meeting Rooms.

By 1915 donations had been given, including £1000 from Mr. T. Kent of Spring Green Farm, Marchington Woodlands, towards the upkeep of a priest and on January 15th. 1915 Father G. Mesher opened a Catholic Mission in an upstairs room at the Goats Head, kept by Mr. and Mrs. Rudd.

In June the old church together with five cottages were bought from Mr. Edward Charles, a builder of Bagot Street, and work begun to renovate the building. This work, carried out by Mr. J. Chell of Balance Street, Uttexeter, included the removal of one of the cottages to enable access from Church Lane. It is possible that before this the interior was laid out the other way, (with the door where the altar is now) and the two cottages now standing by the church were converted into a house for a resident priest.

The official opening on August 4th 1915 was conducted by the Archbishop of Birmingham, assisted by clergy from Uttoxeter and Rugeley, together with members of the Uttoxeter Catholic Church Choir and Mr. Harrison, who played the organ.

At the luncheon afterwards, served by Mr. and Mrs. Rudd in the Girls School (now Richard Clarke First School), the Archbishop praised the work carried out by Father Mesher and said that he would "square" the £50 still outstanding so that they could start the real work free from debt. In reply Father Mesher thanked the Archbishop and acknowledged the gifts and valuable assistance from various people, including the family of the late Mrs. Lyons, who had given the church some statues in her memory. The photograph below is of the church in 1915.

By 1919 Father Mesher had been replaced by Father Joseph Craig who, during his stay, took a leading part in the life of the village, including being the organiser of Fetes to raise funds for the building of the Village Institute, the designing of the War Memorial and being President and playing in two village football teams! After Father Craig had been appointed to Darlaston as Parish Priest in September 1927, no replacement resident priest was appointed to Abbots Bromley and since then the Church has been served from Uttoxeter.

From photographs of the interiors it would appear that the altar used in the Mission Room was also used in the Church when it was opened in 1915. During Father Craig's time it was replaced by a marble altar given by the then Lady Bagot of Blithfield Hall, and when he went to Darlaston, Father Craig took it with him. The present altar, which was then brought in as the replacement, came from a private chapel of the Bamford family.

After Father Craig left, the house was converted back into two cottages and let out to tenants. The other two cottages, which had stood against the south wall of the church, were demolished and a priests changing room together with a confessional built. Before this confessions were heard behind a curtain by the side of the altar.

At the re-opening the heating was provided by a large stove, sited between the altar rails and the pews. In 1936 a hot water system was installed with a solid fuel boiler in a small lean-to built onto the rear of the changing room. More recently, the changing room has been converted into a side chapel and after the installation of electric heating, the boiler lean-to has been made into the priests changing room.

During the 1915 renovations, an extension was built onto the east end of the church, including an internal porch. In 1936 the present external porch was erected, at first with the door on the south side, which because of difficulties in turning coffins, was later changed to the present position. In June 1925 another renovation had been completed in which the Sanctuary was enlarged, a new sacristy built, a new marble altar (see above) installed, electric lighting fitted and the whole church redecorated.

On October 27th 1920 'Father Craig's Hall' was opened. Originally a 62' by 21' hut from the Brocton Army Camp, it was sited behind the church and was used for social events; a cinema licence was granted on November 3rd. A new Guild Hall was opened on January 5th 1938. Built by 'volunteer labour'and sited in Goose Lane, behind the house of Mr. Williams, it was later used as the village Fire Station and is now is part of Middleton House.

Just prior to the start of the Second World War a new resident priest's house was started behind the church, this was finished after the war ended. No resident priest was ever appointed and after various tenants, the house was sold into private ownership on December 6th 1978.

From the opening in 1915 to 1925 the church was known as St. Albans. Since then it has been the Church of the Sacred Heart.

The stained glass window was put in during 1955· The Stations of the Cross were given in memory of Cyril Bamford. The latest renovation work and redecoration was carried out in 1987, including alterations to bring the church into line with Vatican 2.

The registers, from when it was served from Woodlane, are now at Barton Under Needwood. Since the re-opening in 1915, the registers have been kept at St. Marys, Uttoxeter but have a number of entries missing. Even during the earlier period some residents of Abbots Bromley chose to have baptisms or marriages performed in Uttoxeter rather than Woodlane.


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