The first mission in
Smethwick was founded by members of the Oratory
in Hagley Road, Edgbaston (in Birmingham), a fact
which accounts for the dedication of the church in
Smethwick to St. Philip Neri, founder of the Congregation of the Oratory. (fn. 54) Edward Caswall, a member of the Oratory, was organizing the building of
a school-chapel and a presbytery at his own expense
from 1858, and the first resident priest, J. S. Flanagan, was also a member of the Oratory, although he
left it a few months after coming to Smethwick in
1862. He lived in a house in Brook Street, which
was at first also used as a mass-centre. By 1863 the
school, in Watt Street, was being used for worship;
part of the building (later the infants' school) was
kept permanently as a chapel, and the rest was
thrown open for services on Sundays. The presbytery, built on to the school, was completed in 1863.
Caswall sold the school-chapel to the diocese of
Birmingham for a nominal sum in 1876, but the
Oratorians retained the ownership of the rest of the
property until 1912.
The church of St. Philip Neri in what is now the
Messenger Road section of High Park Road was
built by C. E. Ryder, priest at Smethwick from
1882 to 1912 and grandson of Henry Ryder, bishop
of Lichfield and Coventry (1824-36); he paid for
much of it himself. The nave was opened in 1893.
Over the next nine years Ryder added the west
porch flanked by the baptistery and a chapel; he also
improved the site and bought an organ. In 1904 he
built the sacristies and the south transept containing
the Lady Chapel and in 1908 completed the work
by adding the choir and the north transept containing the Sacred Heart Chapel. The church is a building of brick and terracotta designed in a mixed
Romanesque and Gothic style by Alfred Pilkington
of London. A marble high altar and sanctuary were
installed as a memorial to Ryder in 1926; the altar
was moved forward to the front of the sanctuary in
1969. The church was consecrated in 1936. A new
presbytery was built south of the church c. 1960.
The Roman Catholic population of St. Philip's parish
was some 1,500 in 1936 and 2,250 in the late 1960s.
A mission dedicated to St. Gregory the Great was
started at Bearwood in 1899 in a converted stable
and coach-house in Three Shires Oak Road. It had
a congregation of c. 20. A priest from the Oratory
was in charge until 1909. The building was extended
in that year to hold 200. In 1933-4 the church of Our
Lady of Good Counsel and St. Gregory was built
in Three Shires Oak Road; it was consecrated in
1961. Designed by P. B. Chatwin of Birmingham,
it is a brick building with classical features. The
Roman Catholic population of the parish in the
late 1960s was 2,000. (fn. 55)
In 1924 a chapel dedicated to St. Teresa and
served from St. Philip's was opened at Londonderry
in a converted stable on the Oldbury side of Queen's
Road. In 1932 the owner of the property required
a price for it which was beyond the means available,
and the chapel was closed. (fn. 56)
||This and the following para. are based on T. E. Bird,
Church of St. Philip Neri, Smethwick (copy in W.P.L.);
Cath. Dir. of Province of Birm. (1914), 93-4; Cath.
Dir. of Archdioc. of Birm. (1970); O.S. Map 1/2,500,
Staffs. LXXII. 3 (1948 edn.); inf. from the parish priest
and Miss Amy Hill, St. Philip's School (1971). The size of
the 1936 population is taken from a scrapbook at St.
Philip's presbytery. For Caswall see above p. 88.
Cath. Dir. of Dioc. of Birm. (1900), 42, 101; (1910), 80;
Cath. Dir. of Archdioc. of Birm. (1934), 158; (1935), 170;
(1970), 48; Smethwick Telephone, 29 Dec. 1961, p. 5; A. B.
Chatwin, 'Architectural Work of Philip B. Chatwin',
T.B.A.S. lxxviii. 3; W.P.L., P. 4500 (view of converted
stable and coach-house). The baptismal reg. dates from
1900. The 1910 Dir. states that the site for a permanent
church and a presbytery had been given by the Galton
||Bird, Church of St. Philip Neri, 27, 29; ex inf. Miss