Willesden: Roman catholicism

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot, M A Hicks, 'Willesden: Roman catholicism', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, ed. T F T Baker, C R Elrington( London, 1982), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp241-242 [accessed 23 July 2024].

Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot, M A Hicks, 'Willesden: Roman catholicism', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Edited by T F T Baker, C R Elrington( London, 1982), British History Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp241-242.

Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot, M A Hicks. "Willesden: Roman catholicism". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Ed. T F T Baker, C R Elrington(London, 1982), , British History Online. Web. 23 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp241-242.


There were no papists in Willesden c. 1641 or c. 1714, (fn. 1) and in spite of the early Irish immigration Roman Catholic churches and convents were not established until the late 19th century. That may have been because there were particularly active centres just over the border, for example at Quex Road. A church and convent were established at Harlesden in the 1880s, and the introduction of annual processions to the shrine of Our Lady of Willesden in 1903 provoked attacks by Protestants. (fn. 2) A church and two convents were opened at Willesden Green in the 1900s and a church and hospital (St. Andrew's) at Dollis Hill at the time of the First World War. There was a mission at Brondesbury by 1920 and there were churches at Stonebridge in 1926 and Kilburn in 1948; another convent opened at Willesden Green in 1928. Most convents have been small ones, opened in the 1960s and 1970s in newer areas like Cricklewood, although a convent and church opened in Kensal Rise in 1977. The movement to Cricklewood reflects the general movement of the Irish north from Kilburn. The drop in the attendance figures of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Kilburn from 1961 to 1978 is explained by the replacement of Irish by West Indian and Indian immigrants. (fn. 3) Individual churches and convents are described below. (fn. 4)

Our Lady of Willesden originated in services held in private house in Tubbs Rd., Harlesden, 1885. Iron chapel in Manor Park Rd. 1886. Attendance 1903: 354 a.m.; 106 p.m. Replaced by church of Italian terracotta in Romanesque style in Crownhill Rd. 1907, seating 200. Became part of Jesus and Mary convent on building of red brick church with companile in modern Romanesque style at junction of Acton Lane and Nicoll Rd. 1930 by Wilfred C. Mangan. Wooden statue of Our Lady given by Cardinal Vaughan, object of attempt to revive pre-Reformation cult of Our Lady of Willesden. (fn. 5)

St. Catherine's chapel of ease, no. 59 Chaplin Rd., Willesden Green, registered 1902. Replaced 1905 by chapel at no. 28 Park Ave., 1908 by Our Lady of Compassion, Linacre Rd., and 1939 by St. Mary Magdalen, brick church in Harlesden Rd. Close connexions with Polish Jesuits of House of Our Lady (q.v.). Masses in Polish. (fn. 6)

St. Mary and St. Andrew built 1915 in Dollis Hill Lane and replaced 1933 by brown brick church. (fn. 7)

Church of the Five Precious Wounds, Knatchbull Rd., Stonebridge, registered 1926. Replaced 1957 by church in Woodheyes Rd. and 1967 by brick church seating 400 in Brentfield Rd. (fn. 8)

Oblates of St. Mary Immaculate opened church of Immaculate Heart of Mary as chapel of ease to Sacred Heart of Jesus, Quex Rd. (Hampstead), 1948 in former Methodist chapel in Stafford Rd. (Percy Rd.), Kilburn. Average attendance at mass 1961: 3,900; 1978: c. 1,200. (fn. 9)

Church of the Transfiguration opened in former Methodist chapel 1977 in Chamberlayne Rd., Kensal Rise. Red-brick building altered to seat 1,100. (fn. 10)

The Catholic Missionary Society ran a mission ho. c. 1920-c. 1940 at Restormel, Brondesbury Park.

The Congregation of Jesus and Mary opened convents 1886 in Crownhill Rd., Harlesden, c. 1908 in Park Ave., Willesden Green, (fn. 11) and 1977 at 58 Wrentham Ave., Kensal Rise. (fn. 12)

The Religious Society of Marie Réparatrice flourished c. 1900 at Sharstead, Donnington Rd., Willesden Green, but had gone by 1920.

The Little Company of Mary or Sisters of Mercy ran St. Andrew's hospital 1913-73 in Dollis Hill Lane. (fn. 13)

A small community of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul was established 1928 in St. Paul's Ave., Willesden Green. Moved to no. 247 Willesden Lane where hostel opened for working girls 1932. Bombed 1940 and closed until 1942. Ran probation hostel for girls 1942-69. Premises converted into 10 flatlets for unmarried mothers 1970. Contains chapel for public worship. (fn. 14) Another community of Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul 1978 at nos. 72 and 74 Anson Rd. Cricklewood.

The Canossian Sisters established the Holy Family convent by 1970 at no. 9 Hillcrest Gardens, Dollis Hill.

A small convent of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux moved 1974 from Kilburn (Hampstead) to no. 83 St. Gabriel's Rd., Cricklewood. Private chapel. (fn. 15)

The Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, a nursing order, was established 1975 at no. 13 Station Rd. Harlesden. Private chapel. (fn. 16)

The Divine Word Missionaries moved 1975 from Totteridge common to no. 8 Teignmouth Rd., Cricklewood. Hostel for students training as overseas missionaries. (fn. 17)

Polish Jesuits opened the House of Our Lady 1959 at no. 182 Walm Lane, Cricklewood, as centre for pastoral work among Poles in NW. London. Chapel registered 1962. (fn. 18)

The Hungarian Roman Catholic Chaplaincy of Our Lady, the administrative office of the chaplaincy in the United Kingdom, moved from Kensington 1964 to no. 56 Randall Ave., Neasden. (fn. 19)


  • 1. B.L. Add. MS. 38856, f. 59; M.R.O., MR/RR 19/4.
  • 2. Gillett, Shrines of Our Lady, 379.
  • 3. Inf. from the par. priest (1978).
  • 4. Based on Cath. Dir.; Westminster Year Bk.
  • 5. Story of Our Lady of Willesden (pamphlet 1928 in Grange Mus.); Gillett, Shrines of Our Lady, 379; inf. from the par. priest (1978); G.R.O., Worship Reg. 31369, 42910, 52989; Mudie-Smith, Rel. Life, 416; Dept. of Environment, list of bldgs., Brent L.B. (c. 1978).
  • 6. G.R.O. Worship Reg. 39368, 41354, 42920, 59198; datestone 1938; inf. from superior of Our Lady of Mercy (1978).
  • 7. G.R.O. Worship Reg. 46505, 54493.
  • 8. Ibid. 50468, 66279, 70951; inf. from the par. priest (1978).
  • 9. G.R.O. Worship Reg. 64474; inf. from the par. priest (1978).
  • 10. Kilburn Times, 28 Oct. 1977; below, prot. nonconf.
  • 11. Chapel reg. 1960: G.R.O. Worship Reg. 67772.
  • 12. Inf. from the sister superior (1978).
  • 13. Above, pub. svces.
  • 14. Inf. from Sister Eileen (1978).
  • 15. Inf. from Sister Veronica Tracy (1978).
  • 16. Inf. from Sister Kathleen O'Connor.
  • 17. Inf. from the rector (1978).
  • 18. G.R.O. Worship Reg. 68611; inf. from the superior (1978).
  • 19. Inf. from R.C. Hungarian chaplain in the U.K. (1978).