Enfield: Roman catholicism

Page 249

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 5, Hendon, Kingsbury, Great Stanmore, Little Stanmore, Edmonton Enfield, Monken Hadley, South Mimms, Tottenham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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John Towneley, a recusant who was probably the man of that name from Towneley (Lancs.), was living in Enfield between 1586 and 1591. (fn. 1) He seems to have left before 1605, when Enfield acquired some notoriety in connexion with the Gunpowder Plot. White Webbs was acquired c. 1600 by Henry Garnet, a Jesuit priest, and was used as a refuge for up to 14 other priests. The composer William Byrd played the organ there at masses which were attended by members of the nobility (fn. 2) and in 1605 the house was visited by Robert Catesby and Thomas Winter, two of the Gunpowder plotters. (fn. 3) After the discovery of the plot Popish books and relics were discovered in the house, which contained trap doors and concealed passages. (fn. 4)

There were intermittent convictions of Enfield men for recusancy between 1617 and 1640, and again between 1679 and 1684. (fn. 5) In 1706 there were two known papist families in the parish, one at Scotland Green and the other at Forty Hill, (fn. 6) and in 1766 there were three reputed Roman Catholics. (fn. 7) There were still a few at the end of the 18th century (fn. 8) but no place of worship was provided until 1862, when a mission chapel was founded in Cecil Road. (fn. 9) A permanent parish church, dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. George, was opened on an adjacent site in 1901 and the former mission church became a school in 1905. The church was destroyed by a land mine in 1940, whereupon services were held in the assembly hall of St. George's school, Gordon Road, until a large church in London Road was opened in 1958. The new church is of yellow brick, with a basilican plan and some Florentine Renaissance details, designed by John E. Sterrett and B. D. Kaye. (fn. 10)

There was a Roman Catholic chapel in Alma Road, Ponders End, in 1896 (fn. 11) which was served in 1908 by priests from Lower Edmonton. (fn. 12) A parish was formed in 1912 and in 1921 the present church of St. Mary, Nags Head Road, a plain stone building in the Perpendicular style, was opened. (fn. 13)

The Crusade of Rescue and the Sisters of Charity took over a building in Holtwhite's Hill for use as an orphanage in 1890. (fn. 14) The chapel was registered for worship as the church of Our Lady of Walsingham and the English Martyrs in 1964. (fn. 15) The Sisters of the Holy Trinity of Nazareth first came to Enfield in 1902, and in 1907 took over a house in London Road, which has since been extended. (fn. 16) Soon afterwards they built another house, called the Loreto convent, in Durants Road, Ponders End.


  • 1. Cath. Rec. Soc. lvii, p. xxx; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1591-4, 149.
  • 2. P. Caraman, Henry Garnet, 264, 317.
  • 3. Essex Recusant, viii. 104; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1603-10, 292.
  • 4. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1603-10, 250.
  • 5. Mdx. Cnty. Recs. ii. 131, 134; iii. 20, 144; iv. 132, 141, 243; Cath. Rec. Soc. xxx. 265.
  • 6. Guildhall MS. 9800A.
  • 7. Ibid. 9558, f. 432.
  • 8. Ibid. 9557, f. 30.
  • 9. Cath. Dir. (1901).
  • 10. Ex inf. the parish priest, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. George.
  • 11. O.S. Map, 1/2,500, Mdx. VII. 8 (1896 edn.).
  • 12. Kelly s Dir. Mdx. (1908).
  • 13. Cath. Dir. (1969).
  • 14. See p. 257.
  • 15. G.R.O., Worship Reg. no. 69774.
  • 16. Ex. inf. the parish priest, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. George.