Twickenham: Roman catholicism

Pages 161-162

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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Two or three persons in Twickenham were reputed to be papists in the later 17th century, (fn. 1) and in 1706 the vicar returned the names of two, one a fruiterer and the other Lord Dunbar (d. 1714), who had a house at Whitton. (fn. 2) Later Roman Catholic residents included Alexander Pope, but he is not known to have been in any contact with a church in the neighbourhood, (fn. 3) though there was a chapel at Isleworth during his lifetime and a secular priest died at Twickenham in 1738. (fn. 4) Horace Walpole remarked in 1765 that the Bishop of London had suffered a mass-house under his nose when he was vicar of Twickenham in 1749-64. (fn. 5) Walpole was possibly alluding to the Isleworth chapel, though this was of course outside the parish of Twickenham. There is also known to have been a Jesuit in Twickenham between 1767 and 1772, who may possibly have been there some years before. (fn. 6) In 1778 the parish was said to contain two Roman Catholic families; (fn. 7) apart from two names occurring about the middle of the century, the Isleworth mission registers contain references to only two Twickenham families. (fn. 8)

The first regular provision for Roman Catholics seems to have been made when a mission was established in 1883, (fn. 9) apparently with a resident priest from the start. The first church was in Grosvenor Road, (fn. 10) perhaps on the same site as the school attached to the mission, which was opened in 1893. (fn. 11) It was replaced in 1885 by the present church of St. James in Pope's Grove. This was designed in the Early English style by J. S. Hanson (fn. 12) and is a rather small yellow-brick building with a narrow nave, shallow transepts, and a chancel.

In 1914 a community of Sisters of Mercy settled in Twickenham and opened a convent school. Their first house was in Vicarage Road, whence they moved in 1916 to Orford Lodge, Pope's Grove, and in 1919 to the house called Pope's Villa in Cross Deep, which they still occupied in 1958. (fn. 13)

In 1927 Strawberry Hill House was formally opened as St. Mary's Training College, for which purpose it had been purchased in 1925. (fn. 14) The college had hitherto been at Brook Green, Hammersmith, and had been conducted since 1899 by the Vincentians, who continue to manage it at Strawberry Hill. (fn. 15) The college has added a chapel and other buildings to the south of Walpole's house, while keeping the old part largely unaltered. (fn. 16) The Brothers of the Christian Schools already had a house in Waldegrave Road when the training college moved there, but this was closed about 1934. (fn. 17) About 1943 they opened a hostel for the college at no. 17 Waldegrave Park which was taken over some years later by the De La Salle brothers, who still maintain it. (fn. 18) The Brothers of Charity seem to have owned no. 9 Waldegrave Gardens in 1935 and 1940. (fn. 19) Hostels have been managed by the Presentation Brothers at 7 Waldegrave Gardens since about 1943, by the Christian Brothers of Ireland at 38 Strawberry Hill Road since about 1952, and by the Brothers of Christian Instruction at 26 Strawberry Hill Road since about 1953. (fn. 20)

In the north of the parish the temporary church of St. Margaret of Scotland, in St. Margaret's Road, was opened in 1938. The mission had been established in an adjoining house in 1930. (fn. 21)

The Fathers of St. Edmund started the mission at Whitton in 1934 and opened the brick-built temporary church of St. Edmund of Canterbury behind their house in Nelson Road in 1935. (fn. 22) They have also had an infant school since 1938. (fn. 23)


  • 1. M.R.O., Cal. Proc. Brentford Petty Sessions, 1651- 1714, 83, 149.
  • 2. Guildhall MS. 9800.
  • 3. See Correspondence of Alexander Pope, ed. Sherburn, index sub Pope's character. The priest present at his death (see ibid. iv. 526n) was in Worcs. in 1747: Obit. Bk. of Eng. Benedictines, 1600-1912, ed. Birt, 98.
  • 4. Obituaries (Cath. Rec. Soc. xii), 5. For the Isleworth chapel, see p. 130.
  • 5. Letters of Horace Walpole, ed. Toynbee, vi. 370; for this vicar, see p. 159.
  • 6. 'Cath. Reg. of Isleworth' in Miscellanea (Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii), 162.
  • 7. Guildhall MS. 9558.
  • 8. Miscellanea (Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii), 302, 305, 307, 309, 314, 315.
  • 9. Cath. Dir. (1958).
  • 10. Cath. Dir. (1885).
  • 11. See p. 165.
  • 12. Cath. Dir. (1958); Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1902).
  • 13. Ex inf. the Mother Superior; for the house, see Cobbett, Mem. of Twickenham, 289-90.
  • 14. Daily Chron. 23 June 1927.
  • 15. Twickenham Libr., Prospectus of Summer Sch. 1953.
  • 16. See p. 143.
  • 17. Cath. Dir. (1925-35).
  • 18. Ibid. (1943-58).
  • 19. Kelly's Dir. Twickenham (1935, 1940): not apparently entered in Cath. Dir.
  • 20. Cath. Dir. (1944-58).
  • 21. Gen. Reg. Off., Worship Reg. nos. 52309, 58142; Kelly's Dir. Twickenham (1940).
  • 22. Gen. Reg. Off., Worship Reg. nos. 55475, 56367; Cath. Dir. (1958).
  • 23. Ex inf. Twickenham Borough Educ. Office.