Hornsey, including Highgate: Roman catholicism

Pages 182-183

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 6, Friern Barnet, Finchley, Hornsey With Highgate. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.

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A seminary priest, Leonard Hyde, was arrested at Highgate in 1585. (fn. 1) Recusant gentry included Francis Yates of Highgate in 1587, and, from Hornsey, George Mackworth in 1589, (fn. 2) Mary Jerningham in 1593-4, (fn. 3) and Catherine, wife of Anthony Kitchen, in 1594. (fn. 4) The foremost was Sir John Arundell (d. 1591), of Lanherne (Cornw.), confined for three years to Alderman Rowe's house at Muswell Hill but in 1590 allowed to choose another place near to London. (fn. 5) Sir John was host to young Mr. Stourton and young Mr. Arundell, both listed as papists, in 1588 (fn. 6) and his daughter Elizabeth married John Charnock, (fn. 7) a local gentleman fined for recusancy in 1593-4. (fn. 8) Another prominent recusant was Jane, Lady Lovell, of Highgate. (fn. 9) In 1608 the rector presented Walter and Nicholas Henningham for non-attendance at Highgate chapel. (fn. 10) Arundel House was also suspect as a centre of Roman Catholic intrigues: inquiries were made in 1615 about food which had been procured by the earl of Arundel's servants for Henry, prince of Wales (d. 1612), on the May Day before his death. (fn. 11)

After Lord Arundel's public profession of Pro testantism in 1615 (fn. 12) there was little evidence of recusancy, even in Highgate. The gardener of one Heveningham was said to be in touch with visiting papists in 1679 (fn. 13) but the parish contained no reputed Roman Catholics in 1706. (fn. 14) A 'few' were recorded later in the century and sixteen in 1767. (fn. 15) Martin Hounshill, chaplain to the duke of Norfolk, was buried at Hornsey in 1783 (fn. 16) and two French emigré priests lived at Highgate in 1797. (fn. 17)

For most of the 19th century Roman Catholics worshipped outside Hornsey. From 1858 a wide area was served by St. Joseph's retreat, on Highgate Hill. In 1869 its chapel was often crowded, especially with Irish from Upper Holloway, (fn. 18) many of whose children attended St. Joseph's or, later, St. Aloysius's schools. (fn. 19) The Passionists of St. Joseph's opened St. Mary's chapel and school in Tottenham Lane in 1871 but apparently did not maintain them for long. (fn. 20)

Many new residents of Stroud Green had no desire to retain links with the mission at Eden Grove, in less prosperous Holloway. (fn. 21) In 1892 they formed a committee, which in 1893, as Stroud Green Catholic association, began to raise funds for a church. Coombe House, at the corner of Womersley and Dashwood roads, was bought in 1894, when mass was celebrated there. It was designated St. Augustine's, since canons regular of St. Augustine were intended to serve the mission, but was soon committed to canons regular of the Lateran, who changed the name to St. Peter-in-Chains. A red-brick church, in a Gothic style, was founded in 1898 and completed in 1902. (fn. 22) There were attendances of 473 in the morning and 125 in the evening on one Sunday in 1903. (fn. 23) The church was still served by canons regular of the Lateran in 1976.

Muswell Hill was included in the new East Finchley parish from 1898. (fn. 24) Sisters of St. Martin of Tours arrived in 1904, a separate parish was formed in 1917, and the temporary church of Our Lady of Muswell opened in 1920. The church, accommodating 300 and designed for future conversion into a hall, was so called because it stood in Colney Hatch Lane, near the medieval estate of the nuns of Clerkenwell. A permanent church was first used for worship in 1938 and consecrated in 1959. It was built of brick in the Byzantine style, to the designs of T. H. B. Scott, (fn. 25) and seated 600.

Harringay was served from West Green in Tottenham, (fn. 26) originally called the parish of West Green and Harringay, until the purchase of the Methodists' church in Mattison Road. (fn. 27) Mass was celebrated in the adjoining hall in 1963, when a priest-in-charge of Harringay district was appointed, and the parish of St. Augustine of Canterbury was created in 1964. The former Methodist church was used for worship from 1964.

Pastoral work among West Indians in Haringey and neighbouring boroughs was undertaken by the Revd. John Robson from 1972. No. 416 Seven Sisters Road was later acquired as the Caribbean pastoral centre and adapted for worship and social activities. (fn. 28)


  • 1. Cath. Rec. Soc. v. 105.
  • 2. Mdx. Cnty. Rec. i. 171, 187.
  • 3. Cath. Rec. Soc. lvii. 93.
  • 4. Mdx. Cnty. Rec. i. 219.
  • 5. Acts of P.C. 1588-9, 410; 1590, 393.
  • 6. Cath. Rec. Soc. xxii. 123.
  • 7. Ibid. xviii, pp. xxi, 146.
  • 8. Mdx. Cnty. Rec. i. 221, 224.
  • 9. Hist. MSS. Com. 9, Hatfield House, xvii. 613-14. Lady Lovell may have been Jane, dau. of John Roper, Ld. Teynham, and w. of Sir Rob. Lovell.
  • 10. M.R.O., Cal. Mdx. Sess. Rec. 1608-9, 159.
  • 11. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1611-18, 324, 334.
  • 12. D.N.B.
  • 13. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1679-80, 44-5.
  • 14. Guildhall MS. 9800/2.
  • 15. Ibid. 9557.
  • 16. Lysons, Environs, iii. 55.
  • 17. Mdx. Local Hist. Council, Bull. xiii. 2.
  • 18. Howitt, Northern Heights, 405. The chap. was in Islington.
  • 19. See p. 199.
  • 20. Potter Colln. 20/50; see above, p. 193.
  • 21. Except where otherwise stated, the para. is based on min. bks. of the Stroud Green Catholic Assoc. i (1892), ii (1893-5), and TS. notes penes the par. priest.
  • 22. S. J. Kitchener, 'Hist. Hornsey, Chapter 4' (MS. penes Hornsey libr.).
  • 23. Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 408.
  • 24. Except where otherwise stated, the para. is based on J. A. Goodall, Our Lady of Muswell (pamphlet, 1959) and information from the par. priest.
  • 25. Muswell Hill and Friern Barnet Jnl. 20 Jan. 1939.
  • 26. V.C.H. Mdx. v. 355.
  • 27. The rest of the para. is based on St. Augustine of Canterbury (souvenir brochure, 1965).
  • 28. Ex inf. the director.