A Short History of the West Croydon Catholic Community written by the late Fr David O’Regan of this Parish

The history of St Mary’s (Our Lady of Reparation) in Croydon, Surrey goes back to 1 May 1863 when the foundation stone for the present church on Wellesley Road was laid. But the story of the Catholic Church in Croydon goes back much further. It goes back in fact to 1560 when in March of that year William Cooke died. He was the last priest of pre-Reformation times to celebrate Mass in Croydon. This Mass was celebrated in the Old Parish Church (a site now occupied by the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist). For many years afterwards Mass continued to be said in various locations by priests who had to do so in secrecy. One of these was Fr John Baptist Maloney. On Friday 19 August 1767 he was convicted at Croydon Assizes for saying Mass. He could have been sentenced to death but was instead given life imprisonment. He was later freed and deported.

Five years before this Patrick O’ Moore, was born in Spain. His ancestors had come from Ireland as refugees. He in turn became a refugee due to some persecution in Spain and fled to England. Somehow he found shelter in Croydon. His first home was at Duppas Hill; later he was able to rent a house in Southbridge Road. There may have been other refugees with him, as we believe he set up a Mass centre there.

Eventually some local Catholics joined the small community. The first recorded Mass was at Christmas 1837. Anti-Catholic feeling however was still strong in the area. A small Baptist sect forced the closure of the ‘Mass Centre’. But this indomitable ‘Irishman’ was not so easily defeated. With the help of some friends he purchased a small plot of land in Handcroft Road, Broad Green. There he built a small chapel the first St Mary’s. This chapel was opened in 1841. The old prejudices flared up again and Fr O’Moore was violently attacked while saying Mass. He was beaten up and almost died. An Irish nurse nursed him back to health. He continued to say Mass but the old enemies had another trick up their sleeves. Unfortunately Fr O‘Moore had borrowed money to build the chapel. His enemies bought up the debts and since he could not pay he was sent to a debtors prison. The Church authorities initially refused to help but later relented and paid off the debts.

Three years later Fr O’Moore said his last Mass in Croydon. He retired to Camberwell and died there at the age of 92.

The seed sown by this elderly priest flourished and eventually a larger church was needed. A suitable site was found in Wellesley Road and the foundation stone of the present church was laid in 1863. The new Parish Priest was a Frenchman named Alphonse David. Fr John McKenna from Northern Ireland succeeded him in 1894. He in turn was succeeded by Fr Mason 1914-1916; Fr Moynihan 1916-1918; Fr McLaughlin 1918-1963; Fr North 1964-1980; Fr Pierce 1981-1986; Provost Joseph Collins  till 2013 and then by Parish Priest Fr Michael Scanlon. Our present Parish Priest is Fr Patrick Feyisetan.