Heston and Isleworth: Roman catholicism

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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'Heston and Isleworth: Roman catholicism', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington, (London, 1962), pp. 129-131. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol3/pp129-131 [accessed 25 June 2024].

. "Heston and Isleworth: Roman catholicism", in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington, (London, 1962) 129-131. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol3/pp129-131.

. "Heston and Isleworth: Roman catholicism", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington, (London, 1962). 129-131. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol3/pp129-131.


In 1687 James II had a prefabricated chapel set up at the military camp on Hounslow Heath. (fn. 1) A print of the camp shows the chapel standing on the north of the Staines Road and east of the Crane. (fn. 2) To James's chagrin it was little used by the soldiers, and after the accession of William III it was removed to Conduit Street in London, where it became a chapel of ease to St. Martin in the Fields. (fn. 3) There were probably some few Roman Catholics in the neighbourhood at this time: several people at Heston and Hounslow had been repeatedly presented for recusancy early in the 17th century, (fn. 4) and one papist in Hounslow was presented in 1679. (fn. 5) In 1706 three men in Isleworth were returned as papists or suspected papists, together with an attorney who had a country house at Heston. (fn. 6) It was probably some years after this that a regular mission was established in Isleworth. The beginning of the mission has been put as far back as 1675, (fn. 7) and though there is no reference to a priest before 1743, it is possible that its origins may be found in the acquisition of what became known as Shrewsbury House or Place by Sir John Talbot. His exact identity has not been established but the later descent of the property makes it very likely that he was closely related to the earls of Shrewsbury and was therefore possibly a Roman Catholic. He owned a house at Isleworth by 1678, (fn. 8) and if its traditional identification (fn. 9) with Sir Thomas Ingram's house is correct (and this seems likely) he must have bought it in 1676 or soon after. (fn. 10) The house then seems to have belonged to the Protestant Duke of Shrewsbury (d. 1718), (fn. 11) and to have passed to the Roman Catholic George Talbot (d. 1733), often known in his lifetime as Earl of Shrewsbury. (fn. 12) His widow continued to live at Isleworth until her death in 1752, and it was as her chaplain that the first recorded priest ministered in Isleworth. From this time there was a regular succession, (fn. 13) and in 1759 the vestry of Isleworth complained that the papists kept an open and public chapel in the parish, whereby the inhabitants were enticed and seduced from the parish church. (fn. 14) It is clear from the registers of the mission that from the middle of the century there was a constant though not large community of Roman Catholics in Isleworth, but there appear to have been few in Hounslow and none in Heston. (fn. 15) The congregation on Sundays was said in 1810 to number generally about 20. (fn. 16) The earls of Shrewsbury do not seem to have transferred the property formally to the church authorities until 1824, (fn. 17) but there is no evidence that any of the Talbot family lived there after 1752, and by 1770 the house was occupied by a boys' school. There were said to be 60 pupils, all Roman Catholics. (fn. 18) The house was pulled down by 1810, except for the chapel in part of the kitchens or outbuildings. (fn. 19) Poor schools were established in 1854, and a new chapel was erected, probably in 1855, along with the school buildings. (fn. 20) This chapel was still in existence in 1958, when it was used as a store by the Lion Wharf Ltd. It ceased to be a church in 1909 when the brick and stucco church of Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Bridget was opened in Twickenham Road. (fn. 21) This was designed by F. Doran Webb and is basilican in plan, with a barrel-vaulted nave and apsidal chancel. The red-brick west tower has a pyramidal roof.

The Convent of the Faithful Companions of Jesus at Gumley House was founded in 1841. The demands of the schools conducted by the convent led to successive enlargements of the buildings, but the original house is still visible. (fn. 22) In 1892 the Poor Sisters of Nazareth established a convent at Isleworth House, which they renamed Nazareth House. They conduct a girls' orphanage and a home for the aged, for which a number of new buildings have been erected in the grounds. The chapel was built in 1902. (fn. 23) For some years about the turn of the century Silver Hall in North Street was occupied by a Carmelite convent, and the Little Company of Mary had a convent at Gunnersbury House for some time longer. (fn. 24)

The second Roman Catholic centre to be founded in the district was an orphanage for boys at North Hyde. It was opened about 1854 by Brothers of Mercy, and was conducted in a disused barracks to which other buildings were added later. (fn. 25) There does not seem to have been a regular parish attached to the chapel. (fn. 26) About 1906 Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary took over the orphanage, (fn. 27) which was closed about 1935. (fn. 28) Part of the buildings remain and are used by industrial firms. (fn. 29)

Priests from Sunbury began holding services at Hounslow Barracks in 1862. A resident priest was appointed in 1884 and lived at Burdett Lodge, in the Bath Road. (fn. 30) A school-chapel was built behind the house in 1886. (fn. 31) This is said to form part of the present (1958) school buildings, but it was replaced as a church in 1929 when the new church of St. Michael and St. Martin was opened. It was designed by George Drysdale in the Romanesque style, with a nave flanked by narrow aisles, transepts, and an apsidal chancel. (fn. 32)

The convent of Sisters of Charity of St. Paul was opened about 1909 in the Lampton Road. The nuns took over the parish schools and also opened a convent school which has since been closed. They moved to their present house in the Bath Road before 1930. (fn. 33)

The chapel of St. Vincent de Paul in Witham Road was opened in 1905. The dedication may have been connected with the house in Spring Grove established by the Congregation of the Mission at about the same time: (fn. 34) the Vincentians, however, do not seem to have ever done any parochial work, (fn. 35) and the church was served from Isleworth until 1934, when it became a separate parish. The presbytery was built two years later. (fn. 36)

Campion House in Thornbury Road was purchased in 1912 as a retreat house for the Society of Jesus. In 1919 it became a house of studies for late vocations to the priesthood. (fn. 37) The convent of Medical Mission Sisters in Thornbury Road was founded in 1932. (fn. 38) St. Joseph's Hostel in The Grove was opened in 1938 and was managed until about 1950 by Brothers of St. John of God. (fn. 39)

Heston acquired a Roman Catholic church when the White Fathers opened a house of studies in Westbrook House. The house was opened in 1928 and the church, which is served by the Fathers, in 1929. The White Sisters opened a house in Heston Green a year or so later. (fn. 40)

A chapel at Hounslow Barracks, dedicated to St. Edward, was opened in 1948. (fn. 41)


  • 1. Hist. MSS. Com. Downshire, i (1), 247; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii (3), pp. 1372, 1416, 1444; for the camp, see p. 95.
  • 2. Copy in Hounslow Libr.
  • 3. V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 51; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix (1), 168, 242; Stow, Survey of Lond. ed. Strype, pt. 6, p. 78.
  • 4. Mdx. Cty. Recs. i-iii (see index); N.S. i. 84; N.S. ii. 216; N.S. iv. 289.
  • 5. M.R.O., Cal. Proc. Brentford Petty Sess. 1651-1714, p. 83.
  • 6. Guildhall MS. 9800.
  • 7. 'Cath. Reg. of Isleworth', in Miscellanea (Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii), 299.
  • 8. Hist. MSS. Com. Buccleugh, ii (1), 28; Hist. MSS. Com. Frankland-Russell-Astley, 61.
  • 9. Lysons, Environs of Lond. iii. 98.
  • 10. 6th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 12, p. 352 (1822), ix; for the earlier hist. of this house, see p. 91.
  • 11. Collins, Peerage, ed. Brydges (1812), iii. 46, though he did not apparently die there: Complete Peerage, xi. 724.
  • 12. Hounslow Libr., Isleworth Vestry Order Bk. 1721-66, pp. 108-9; Complete Peerage, xi. 725 n.
  • 13. Miscellanea (Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii), 299-302.
  • 14. Hounslow Libr., Isleworth Vestry Order Bk. 1721- 66, p. 433.
  • 15. Miscellanea (Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii), 302-34.
  • 16. Guildhall MS. 9558, f. 459.
  • 17. Char. Com. files, and cf. M.R.O., Isleworth Incl. Award.
  • 18. Guildhall MS. 9557; a schoolmistress is named in Miscellanea (Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii), 304.
  • 19. Lysons, Supplement to Environs, 203; Brewer, Beauties of Eng. and Wales, x (5), 374.
  • 20. Miscellanea (Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii), 302; Ed. 7/88/H. & I. no. 10.
  • 21. Mdx. Chron. 8 May 1909.
  • 22. Cath. Dir. 1842, pp. 118-19; Mdx. Chron. 14 and 21 Mar. 1958.
  • 23. Ex inf. the convent; Cath. Dir. (1894 and later edns.); Gen. Reg. Off., Worship Reg. no. 39379.
  • 24. Cath. Dir. (1904 and later edns.); Mdx. Chron. 9 Jan. 1909, jubilee supplement.
  • 25. Cath. Dir. (1854); ibid. (1855), p. 200 and (1874), p. 341; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1855).
  • 26. Cath. Dir. (1855 and later edns.), but note Lond. Gaz. 1855, p. 4135.
  • 27. Cath. Dir. (1906).
  • 28. Ex inf. Fr. Tigar, Campion House, Osterley.
  • 29. See p. 118.
  • 30. Cath. Dir. (1874, 1884).
  • 31. Ed. 7/88/H. & I. no. 3.
  • 32. Gen. Reg. Off., Worship Reg. no. 51747; Hounslow Libr., Illus. (Hounslow, no. 357).
  • 33. Cath. Dir. (1910, 1930).
  • 34. Ibid. (1906); Gen. Reg. Off., Worship Reg. no. 41165.
  • 35. Ex inf. Fr. Tigar.
  • 36. Cath. Dir. (1957); inscription on presbytery.
  • 37. C. Tigar, Edmund Lester, S.J. 52, 54.
  • 38. Ex inf. the convent.
  • 39. Ex inf. the warden.
  • 40. Cath. Dir. (1930, 1932); Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1933).
  • 41. Cath Dir. (1957).