Bethnal Green: Roman Catholicism

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11, Stepney, Bethnal Green. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1998.

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'Bethnal Green: Roman Catholicism', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11, Stepney, Bethnal Green, ed. T F T Baker( London, 1998), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'Bethnal Green: Roman Catholicism', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11, Stepney, Bethnal Green. Edited by T F T Baker( London, 1998), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"Bethnal Green: Roman Catholicism". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11, Stepney, Bethnal Green. Ed. T F T Baker(London, 1998), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.


A Cornish recusant, Richard Tremayne, was living in Bethnal Green when he was indicted in 1588. (fn. 1) John Howe, a tenant of Bishop's Hall, was absent from church in 1640 (fn. 2) but suspicions that Sir Balthazar Gerbier was harbouring priests in 1642 proved unfounded. (fn. 3) Fifteen recusants were listed in 1678 and 1689. (fn. 4) One, a weaver in Nichol Street, was also listed in 1706 (fn. 5) and another weaver, who lived in Hare Street, was a recusant c. 1717. (fn. 6) Four men, none long-term residents, and a woman were returned as papists in 1767. (fn. 7) In 1778 there were a few papists but 'none of any note' and in 1810 'very few if any'. (fn. 8) There were English Roman Catholics in the area in the 1830s and 1840s (fn. 9) and four families of 'avowed Romanists' in St. John's parish in 1858. (fn. 10) Although Bethnal Green lay outside the area of Irish settlement, some proselytizing emanated from communities to the south. In the mid 19th century Sisters of Charity tended destitute families in Bethnal Green. (fn. 11) The Marists in Spitalfields opened a school in Parliament Street in 1869. (fn. 12)

The first permanent Roman Catholic church served late 19th-century Polish and Lithuanian refugees, who settled near their Jewish compatriots and learnt tailoring and cabinet making from them. (fn. 13)

Religious orders moved from Mile End Road, where they ran a Polish mission, to open a Polish and Lithuanian church in 1896. The Assumptionists, originally a French order, opened a chapel in 1902, (fn. 14) when the local Protestant Alliance, already alarmed at Anglican ritualism, unsuccessfully took out a summons against the Roman Catholics. (fn. 15) Roman Catholic attendances of 729 were, however, less than 4 per cent of the total in 1903. (fn. 16) The Missionaries of the Divine Love, who ran the Polish church, had left by 1905 and the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the other Polish order, by 1910. Two churches opened in 1912, a Lithuanian church in the Oval and Our Lady of the Assumption in Victoria Park Square, served by the Assumptionists. Other religious orders were the Sisters of the Christian Retreat in Victoria Park c. 1927-1941, the Marian Fathers at the Lithuanian church from 1931, and the Canonesses of St. Augustine from 1982. (fn. 17) The churches and other institutions are described below.

The abbreviation reg. denotes registration for worship. Attendance figs. 1903 are from Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 57.

St. Joseph And St. Casimir Polish and Lithuanian ch., run by Missionaries of Divine Love, reg. at no. 184A Cambridge Rd. 1896. (fn. 18) Attendance 1903: 252 a.m., 96 p.m. Moved to corner of Cambridge Rd. and Patriot Sq. where reg. as St. Mary and St. Casimir chapel 1905. Moved to Shadwell 1906. (fn. 19)

St. Casimir Lithuanian ch. opened in St. Geo.-in-the-East 1902, (fn. 20) moved to the Oval, off Hackney Rd. where ch. reg. 1912. (fn. 21) Average attendance c. 1926: 200-250. Served by Marian fathers since 1931. Bldg. in vaguely Italian style, though capitals 'Egyptian', by Benedict Williamson 1911:. inc. accommodation for clergy and social centre for parishioners opened 1974. (fn. 22)

Augustinians of the Assumption, concerned mainly with educ., invited from France by Cardinal Manning 1901 and opened chapel of Our Lady Of The Assumption in North Passage, Green St., near Globe Rd. 1902. (fn. 23) Attendance 1903: 197 a.m., 79 p.m. Moved to vacated Polish and Lithuanian chapel at no. 184A Cambridge Rd. 1905. (fn. 24) Gift of Florence Cottrell-Dormer, in memory of husband, for new ch. and priory as headquarters of order on NE. side of Victoria Park Sq., on site of Park Congreg. chapel, 1912. Assumptionists opened sch. 1925. Bldg. of stock brick and stone in Gothic style by Edw. Goldie: shallow apse, high chancel, large nave, cloistered aisles. (fn. 25)

Sch. chapel in Parliament St. used for pub. worship 1903, attendance 105 a.m., and 1934. (fn. 26)

St. Patrick's hall in Cranbrook St. reg. 1905-6. (fn. 27)

Missionaries of the Divine Love, from Polish mission in Mile End Rd., at no. 184A Cambridge Rd. 1896-1905. (fn. 28)

Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Polish order devoted to sick and poor, moved from Mile End Rd. to no. 14 Patriot Sq. 1897, to no. 1 Old Ford Rd. 1899, where ran rescue home for c. 50 boys, and to no. 37 Approach Rd. in Victoria Pk. by 1905. Left before 1910. (fn. 29)

Sisters of the Christian Retreat, French order specializing in educ., maintained St. Teresa's convent at no. 106 Sewardstone Rd. c. 1927-41. (fn. 30)

Congregation of Our Lady (Canonesses of St. Augustine), originally French order specializing in educ., moved into council property in Burnham est., Globe Rd. 1982. Moved to nos. 38 and 44 Stafford Cripps Ho., Globe Rd., 1984 and gave up no. 38 1990. (fn. 31)


  • 1. Recusants in Exchequer Pipe Rolls 1581-92 (Cath. Rec. Soc. lxxi), 175; Miscellanea XII (Cath. Rec. Soc. xxii), 123.
  • 2. Mdx. County Rec. iii. 153.
  • 3. E. Lond. Papers, x(1), 24. For Gerbier, below, educ. (private schs.).
  • 4. Hist. MSS. Com. 17, MSS. of H.L. i. 59 (11th Rep. pt. 2, p. 59); ii. 10 (12th Rep. pt. 6, p. 10).
  • 5. Guildhall MS. 9800/2.
  • 6. G.L.R.O., MR/RR 26/15.
  • 7. Rets. of Papists 1767, ii (Cath. Rec. Soc., Occas. Publs. no. 2, 1989), 135.
  • 8. Lambeth Pal. Libr., Fulham Papers, Lowth 5; Randolph 11/21.
  • 9. T.H.L.H.L., TH/8362/1.
  • 10. Lambeth Pal. Libr., Fulham Papers, Tait 440/7.
  • 11. Studies in Lond. Hist. presented to P. E. Jones, ed. A. G. J. Hollaender and W. Kellaway (1969), 433.
  • 12. Below, educ. (pub. schs.).
  • 13. Inf. from R. of St. Casimir's Lithuanian ch.
  • 14. Below.
  • 15. Booth, Life and Lab. iii (2), 82; Robinson and Chesshyre, The Green, 24.
  • 16. Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 58.
  • 17. Below.
  • 18. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 35628; G.L.R.O., AR/BA/4/71, no. 5; Cath. Dir. (1900-2).
  • 19. G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 40868, 41629; Cath. Dir. (1905).
  • 20. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 39107.
  • 21. Ibid. no. 45202; G.L.R.O., AR/BA/4/221, no. 5.
  • 22. A. Rottmann, Lond. Cath. Chs. (1926), 206-7; T.H.L.H.L., Cuttings file 226.6; inf. from rector 1991.
  • 23. P.F. Anson, Religious Orders of Gt. Britain and Irel. (1949), 18-22; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 38855.
  • 24. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 41068.
  • 25. Ibid. no. 45266; G.L.R.O., AR/BA/4/251, no. 4; Rottmann, Lond. Cath. Chs. 188-9, 191; Robinson and Chesshyre, The Green, 24; C.C.C. Clarke, xv. 155; The Times, 24 June 1912, 3d; below, educ. (pub. schs.).
  • 26. Cath. Dir. (1934).
  • 27. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 41142.
  • 28. Cath. Dir. (1896-1905).
  • 29. Ibid. (1896-1910); Anson, Rel. Orders, 289.
  • 30. Cath. Dir. (1926-42); Anson, Rel. Orders, 237-8.
  • 31. Cath. Dir. (1984-90); inf. from Sister Jennifer Dines, Congreg. of Our Lady.