Chipping Ongar: Roman catholicism

Pages 165-166

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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In October 1859 the Revd. Father Kyne, the priest at Brentwood, wrote to the Cardinal at Westminster: 'I have made a beginning at Chipping Ongar. I have taken in the heart of the town a house and premises for a year, Lord Petre and Miss Tasker undertaking to pay the rent between them, and even to purchase the property for £550 if within the year there is a reasonable prospect of success. . . . There are not many Catholics yet, but the Protestants are pretty well disposed.' (fn. 1) This first venture must have failed, for in March 1861 Father Kyne wrote again to the Cardinal: 'I wish there could be some beginning made at Chipping Ongar. Though it contains only two Catholic families at present still I have no doubt if a mission were once started it would grow into something. I am on the look out for a suitable house there. . . .' (fn. 2)

It was apparently not until 1865 that anything permanent was achieved. In that year there was a Masscentre at Ongar which was served by the Revd. Henry E. Fox; the parish was placed under the patronage of Our Lady and St. Joseph. (fn. 3) The priest was evidently not resident, for in 1867 Ongar was being served from Barnet. (fn. 4)

In 1869 there was Mass only on alternate Sundays, but plans for a church were already for advanced. (fn. 5) It was opened on 21 April 1870. (fn. 6) It is a small red-brick building with a western bell-turret, and it stands in the garden of a house on the west side of High Street, below Castle Street. The house is occupied by the priest.

There appears to have been a resident priest in 1870. (fn. 7) By 1874 the priest of Ongar was also serving a new Mass-centre at Dunmow. He was living at this time at Bentley Lodge, near Brentwood. (fn. 8) In 1888 the Ongar priest served centres at Saffron Walden, Epping, and Dunmow. Ongar itself had a weekly Mass. (fn. 9) There was no resident priest between 1892 and 1901. (fn. 10) The Revd. Thomas Byles, priest from 1905 to 1912, was drowned in the Titanic. (fn. 11) The Revd. John Ryland became priest about 1916. (fn. 12) In 1904-5 there was a Roman Catholic orphanage at Chipping Ongar known as St. Joseph's Home. (fn. 13) It was founded by a Father Schaefer as a branch of the St. Joseph's Home at Bow, London, but apparently did not last for long.


  • 1. Westminster Archives, Letters and Papers of Cardinal Wiseman, Box for 1859.
  • 2. Ibid. Box for 1861.
  • 3. Catholic Dir. 1865.
  • 4. Ibid. 1867. Mass was being said at 11.30 a.m. and Benediction given at 6.30 p.m. on Sundays.
  • 5. Ibid. 1869.
  • 6. The Tablet, 25 Apr. 1870. It is dedicated to St. Helen, which suggests the benefaction of Miss Helen (later Countess) Tasker. A small red-brick building, now in ruins, standing at the back of the 'King's Head' is said to have been used as a Roman Catholic Church: inf. from Mr. J. G. O'Leary. Cf. E.R.O., T/P 96: Ongar W.E.A. Survey.
  • 7. Catholic Dir. 1870.
  • 8. Ibid. 1874.
  • 9. Ibid. 1888.
  • 10. Ibid. 1892-1901.
  • 11. Ibid. 1905-12.
  • 12. Ibid. 1916.
  • 13. Char. Com. Recs.