Sunday Mass Times
Sunday 10.00am Children’s Liturgy, 12.00 noon and 6.30pm
Sunday Mass Times
A Short History of St Dunstan’s Parish
The origins of the parish go back to 1893, when a retired priest, Father Michael Dolan, came to live in Springfield Road, Kings Heath, which was then still a village. He was given permission to have an oratory, or small private chapel, in his house, in which to say Mass, since there was no Roman Catholic church on the south side of Birmingham between St Anne’s in Bradford Street and the town of Studley, some ten miles to the south. To meet the needs of Catholic neighbours, his oratory was granted semi-public status; and, as numbers grew, he came out of retirement and was appointed as Kings Heath’s first parish priest in 1896. In the same year, he built a simple ‘iron church’ on the corner of Westfield Road and Station Road. Mass was first celebrated there on Christmas Day 1896 and the baptism of Arthur Gardiner, the first in the new parish of St Dunstan, was recorded on 7th March 1897. The church was formally opened by Bishop Ilsley on 25th April 1897. In his later years, Father Dolan had the help of two assistant priests – Father Francis Dwyer (1911-1913) and Father John Hughes (1913-1916). He retired for a second time in 1916 and was succeeded by Father Francis John Sumner (1916-1923) and Father John Francis Bromfield (1923-1929). The former initiated and the latter completed negotiations for the purchase of Kingsfield House, with its gardens and orchards. This is the site of the present church and community centre and two of the parish schools, St Dunstan’s Primary School and Bishop Challoner Secondary School and Sixth Form College.
Father (later Canon) O’Sullivan initiated the building of two parish primary schools – St Dunstan’s, built alongside the secondary school and opened in 1964; and St Alban’s, on Broad Lane, opened in 1969. He also carried through the plan for a new church and presbytery, which fulfilled the intentions of Father Bromfield when Kingsfield House and its extensive grounds were purchased in 1924. The foundations had been laid by October 1966 and the Church of St Dunstan was solemnly blessed and opened by the Most Reverend George Patrick Dwyer, Archbishop of Birmingham, on 30th November 1968. The subsequent conversion of the church hall into the present community centre was completed in 1973.
Father Albert Leo Kelly was appointed Parish Priest of St Dunstan’s in 1929 and served for the next thirty-three eventful years. On Good Friday 1941, the church in Station Road was destroyed by two delayed-action German bombs. For a while after that, Masses and other services were held in the Anglican church hall on the High Street, which was made available through the kindness of the Revd. Michael Parker, Vicar of All Saints’. Then two rooms on the ground floor of Kingsfield House were knocked into one and supplied the place of a church for some time. Since conditions were cramped, Father Kelly hired the assembly hall in Colmore Road School as a stop gap while further alterations were made to Kingsfield House. As the congregation continued to expand, a small brick church – Our Lady of Fatima – was built in Bell’s Lane on a plot of land owned by Birmingham Corporation in Druid’s Heath. This was opened in 1951, but when the lease expired in 1959, it had to be demolished. In the meantime, permission was sought to build a more substantial church on the Kingsfield House site. The late Archbishop Masterson insisted, however, that a school and church hall be built first. Bishop Challoner Roman Catholic School, the first secondary modern school in the archdiocese, and St Dunstan’s Church Hall were duly opened in 1953. Father Kelly continued to shepherd his flock there until he retired in 1962, when Father Eugene O’Sullivan was appointed as Parish Priest.
Canon O’Sullivan suffered from ill health in his later years, and his successor, Father Christopher Noel Fitzpatrick was appointed in 1988. He adapted the presbytery for modern needs by extending it with a conference room and other facilities and prepared the church for consecration by enlarging the sanctuary, closing off a Blessed Sacrament chapel with an engraved glass screen, and installing a new altar table and ambo. The ceremony of dedication was performed by the Most Reverend Maurice Couve de Murville, Archbishop of Birmingham, on the Feast of St Dunstan, 19th May 1993.
Further major developments in the parish have included the institution of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in 1996 and the building of a sports’ hall (opened on 29th June 2004) along with other modern facilities (including a fashion design centre, an auditorium, and a recording studio) at Bishop Challoner Catholic School and Sixth Form College. The College has been granted the status of Training School and specialised Sports and Science College and is now known as Bishop Challoner Catholic College.
Our current parish priest is Fr Philip Harrop who joined our parish in 2013 and is also Dean of South Birmingham Deanery.
The History of Saint Jude’s Parish
In 1931, when Father Murphy came to Yardley Wood, his parish stretched to what is now the Parish of St Jude’s. At that time, a fifteenth-century farm, tenanted by Mr and Mrs Dyer and known as Daisy Farm, stood on the site of what is now called ‘Old St Jude’s’. When it was demolished in 1936 and Birmingham Corporation started to develop the Daisy Farm estate, Fr Murphy began negotiations to purchase the home paddock. Glenavon Road was made in 1939, but the war put an end to further building for almost ten years and it was not until 1947 that the sale of the paddock was completed. In 1950, a ‘temporary building’, St Jude’s church, was erected by a builder from Sutton Coldfield for £2000, in accordance with building regulations and within the limits allowed at that time. It was formally opened on St Jude’s Day, 28th October 1950, the first mass being celebrated by Fr Murphy.
A simple building of brick, concrete and asbestos roofing, the tiny church was no monument to architecture, yet we remember that Our Lord was born in a stable, and St Jude’s, frequently wet and damp when not in use on winter days, could become warm and living when used for Saturday evening confessions, Sunday Masses and Benediction on Sunday evenings. To Fr Murphy, who was very fond of St Jude’s and its people, it was his ‘Hut’ or his ‘Cathedral’.
This first building was a chapel of ease with mass on Sundays and Holy Days. In 1960, St Jude’s School had been opened on the site of Kingswood Farm, also demolished. Druid’s Farm, which was very old indeed and had a frontage on Druid’s Lane, backed onto the south wall of St Jude’s garden, which had the elder tree that it was customary to plant beside English farm houses for hundreds of years.
The curates who assisted Fr Murphy at St Jude’s up to 1966 were Fr O’Meara, who moved on to become a Parish Priest in the Black Country; Fr Geoffrey Naylor, who had a rather tragic life, died young, and is buried in the cemetery of Prinknash Abbey; Fr Patrick Reagan; Fr O’Connor, who was made big by nature and had a big personality; Fr Millard, who left to become chaplain to a boys’ college; and Fr, later Canon, O’Reilly, who was working for the Schools Commission at this time and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate the purchase of a further portion of land adjacent to the church. In addition, there were supply priests, Fr Quinn and Fr Simpson from the Sacred Heart Fathers at Droitwich.
The congregation continued to worship in the 1950 building after Father Cassidy was appointed first Parish Priest in September 1966. When we learned that St Jude’s was to become a separate parish, we were rather stunned. Many parishioners had loyally supported Yardley Wood until they had a magnificent church and we now had to start all over again for ourselves. Fr Murphy gave us a financial start, which was swallowed by the improvements effected by Fr Cassidy to comply with Vatican II requirements. Eventually, in 1981, we moved into the present beautiful church, approached by an avenue of chestnut trees which led to Kingswood Farm.
During the early 1990s, when Fr Cassidy began to be impaired by Parkinson’s Disease, Fr Rufus Halley, a Columban Father, was attached to St Jude’s to help out. He went back to the Philippines, where he was assassinated in August 2001. He was followed by Fr Mark Lagorio, who took over the running of the parish in 1993 before Fr Cassidy died in 1995. Fr Mark remained with us until late 1999. Fr Anthony Talbot was Parish Priest from 1999 until Fr Frank Rowe was appointed in September 2004. When Fr Frank retired at the end of 2009 due to ill health, the Archbishop asked Fr Christopher Fitzpatrick to take us under his wing and the new parish of St Dunstan’s and St Jude’s was established from the beginning of 2010.
[This history of St Jude’s has been compiled from notes assembled for the opening of the new church in 1981 by Catherine Curtiss, Phyllis Arnold and Gilbert Crowe, and supplemented by Pat Black.]