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1891 - The Bishop of Southwark opens the new Roman Catholic Chapel at Haywards Heath

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

The Priory of Our Lady of Good Counsel, located on Franklynn Road, was built in 1886. The building is Grade II listed and was originally built for a community of nuns from Bruges. It was Haywards Heath's first Roman Catholic Church and was used by the nuns until 1978.....

Brighton Gazette - Saturday 24 July 1886

HAZELGROVE PARK, HAYWARD'S HEATH.—This splendid residence has lately been purchased as a convent, and is in connection with the English convent at Bruges, Belgium. The title of the order is the English Regular Canonesses of the Order of St. Augustine Priory, of our Lady of Good Counsel. Mass at ten, Benediction at half past three. The priest is the Rev. Father L. Lairous. Extensive alterations have been made to the house and grounds, and a very handsome chapel has been added to the house. More work, we understand, will shortly be undertaken. A large number of men have been employed on the place. which has been a great boon to many who would otherwise have had nothing to do. On Sundays aid feast days of obligation the Mass will be held at ten; Benediction is at half past three.

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 23 June 1891



On Thursday afternoon the Roman Catholic Bishop of Southwark (Dr. Butt) attended at the Priory of our Lady of good Counsel, Hazelgrove Park, Haywards Heath to open the chapel, the foundation stone of which he laid in May of last year. The chapel is intended for the sisters of the order of St Augustine located at Hazelgrove Park, and to the young lady pupils entrusted to them to educate. The noble edifice just opened is to take the place of a small and inconvenient chapel which has hitherto done service for the sisterhood.

Priory of Our Lady of Good Counsel Haywards Heath

This is part of a block of buildings intended for the use of the sisterhood. The first part of the work of this community on making a settlement at Haywards Heath was to erect commodious schools, a chapel is just added, and the plan of the future include a convent, he residence for the Chaplain, reception rooms for the visitors and an infirmary. A portion of these buildings are in course of erection, but the convent is not yet in hand. From every point of view, looked at externally or internally, the chapel is a handsome and substantially built structure.


The opening ceremony was carried out with all the fervour and imposing ritual of the Roman Catholic Church collar and great interest appeared to be taken by a large number of visitors present, particularly by those of a different faith. The altar was beautifully decorated with flowers, ferns, and pot plants, supplied by Messrs Grimsdick, of the Hazelgrove nursery.


(the Rev. Dr. Butt, formally chaplain of his grace the Duke of Norfolk) officiated, a temporary canopy etc, being raised on the north side of the altar above the bishops chair, which was on dais. The other clergy present were the Res L.Laevens (Chaplain of the Priory), A.Isacq (Chaplain of the Mother House at Bruges), J. Morris S.J. (London), J.Wilhelm, D.D. (Shoreham), T.Purdon (Worthing), A.White, D.(of the Canons Regular, Spettisbury), A. Vantomme (Salford), etc. In the body of the chapel where the candidates for confirmation and the invited visitors, among those present being Lord and Lady Gainsborough, Mr and Mrs Gallini, Mr and Mrs A. Blount, Mrs Clifford Borrer, Mrs and Miss Raymond Barker, Mr and Mrs Goldie, Mrs and Miss Cadwallader Adams, Mrs and Miss Payne, Mrs and Mrs White, Mademoiselle Raymond, Mrs Gasquet, Mrs Pearson, Dr Wells, Mr and Mts Langdale, Mrs Latham etc. There was also a large attendance of visitors in the south transept, we is set apart for the public. The numbers of the order and a small choir of pupils where in the organ gallery, the choral portions of the service being, as is customary in Roman Catholic services, most heartily and sweetly sung. The service commenced with the “Veni Creator Spiritus,” after which father Morris gave an address


Father Morris, S. J., spoke from the steps of the alter. He said that the year had gone by quickly since they had last met on that spot. The place looked very different to what it did when in May last year his Lordship came to bless and lay the foundation stone of the church. The sisters had not been idle. They and those who worked with them had been diligent and the church had risen, and now they saw it with all its proportions.

They were assembled there as friends of the sisters; and as friends they congratulated them on the possession of their new chapel, for the comfort in which they might now worship Almighty God, and still more for the honour and glory that God would have from yet another house raised in this land. His lordship had come, not as yet to solemnly dedicate the sacred walls with the august rites of the Catholic Church–that would be in the future– But to bless and honour the first opening of that church, the first time it had been publicly used.

They were met overflowing with a sense of joy and gratitude to God at the sight of that place of worship. Father Morris said that last year, under the most disadvantageous circumstances, speaking in the open air it fell to his lot to say a few words respecting the history of the nuns and sisters who lived there, and for whom that church and convent were being built. He did not think that any apology was needed for him to retell the history in some degree. The story was worth the telling.

Father Morris then gave an interesting sketch of the history of the order of English nuns going back to the days of the Reformation. It took them back to the time of The first English martyrs, whose feast was kept on May 4. It took them to the time of blessed Thomas More and John Fisher. Margaret Clement, of blessed memory, the adopted daughter of Thomas More, was sent over from England to a school of The St. Augustine Order in Louvain, at the time of the persecutions of Henry VIII. She afterwards entered the convent of St Ursula, and in time was chosen Superioress of that house.

In the reign of Henry VIII, when he cruelly suppressed the religious houses, numbers of English nuns found shelter in that convent, and formed the first nucleus of the English nuns gathered together after the Reformation, and provided a house of refuge to which English girls went when God called them to a religious life and when a cruel reigning Power in England prevented them carrying out their lives of devotion in their native land. In 1604, after 50 years of religious life, Margaret, who had grown old and blind, gather together some 26 or 27 English nuns and these formed the nucleus of the English nuns after the Reformation.

From St Ursula’s another religious house was formed, St. Monica’s and some 20 years afterwards they were strong enough to be able to colonise, founding another convent in Bruges, and thus there became two English houses of the order of Canonesses of St Augustine in Louvain and Bruges, in 1629. Mary Wiseman, of the family which gave the Catholic Church the great Cardinal of Westminster, was of this Order.

Times went on happily abroad, but not well for those left in Poor old England. English Catholics sent their children to be educated and brought up in the true faith. Then came the terrible times of the French Revolution, and England became the refuge of the very people her folly and blunders had before driven out. Driven from their homes on the continent, the nuns found a welcome refuge in poor Protestant England, and a blessing had rested upon the land for that welcome given to the poor exiles driven out of France and Belgium in those evil times. God, he said, left nothing unrewarded for his sake.

By and bye the storm passed over, and the continent became once more free for Christians to live in. The English nuns St Augustine had their house preserved for them at Bruges and went back to it. The time came when they could do something more for England. The order possessed one solitary convent before the Reformation, and had been longer in its present house than any other existing. The time came when they should colonise. They sent out a colony. That colony had come, and was there at Haywards Heath. They had erected a school, and now that church and by and bye please God they would build for themselves a convent. Father Morris pointed out how the sisters had built a house for God first and were living in discomfort themselves instead of building their own house first and thinking of God’s house afterwards.

Their little chapel had been an inconvenient place, and to build a larger chapel was only a sheer necessity. It would have been sad thing were the other building large enough for them. It was not a church that would be filled once a week, but would be filled every day and used every day, the same day after day, in which the nuns would be able to recite the divine office, and would be able to spend hours in. That church was going to be lived in. Very few convents were able to use their chapel as those sisters could do.

Nuns at 'Our Lady of Good Counsel' Priory

There would also be those living in the neighbourhood who would be thoroughly at home in that church. God grant it might last for generations. It was going to be used for His praise and homage, and the priest would be able to offer the sacrifice of the Mass.

It was a blessed thing to see new churches. What a blessed change was coming over the face of Old England everywhere! How holy the face of England looked at one time, with its parish churches, cathedrals, and religious houses spread over the land, and England was then wonderfully Christian. That was swept away; but some churches were left. The cathedrals now looked like whited sepulchres, and how differently the parish churches had been used these many years. England for a time became like a desolate place. Christians could only meet in hidden places, the holy sanctuary was in hidden spots, and the priest could not be discerned when one met him.

The land had lately emerged from that state of things. A change had come, and the Catholic people, who were timid folk like conies, could now stand unabashed in the broad daylight. Their churches were multiplying fast. Christianity was returning to the land once more, and the holy sanctuary was found more numerous than years ago. The difference of the last 30 or 40 years was something inconceivable, a great surprise. That chapel was one place more where God would have the worship He liked; one more place where God would be appeased and be led to look down approvingly. No one could have dreamed of such a change, when there would have been many convents in England as there were now. England was to have a Christian future.

Nuns in the grounds of Our Lady of Good Counsel

The land was now studded with houses in which religious women lived and served Him. His lordship the Bishop knew the admirable fervour which reigned in those houses, the wonderful spirit of devotion that existed, and the excellent way in which they kept the vows to which they had bound themselves. The bringing up of children in such an atmosphere as that would have its effect upon future generations. Father Morris spoke of Belgium being the cradle of the Order, nursing it in its infancy, and referred to the energy and perseverance that characterised the Belgians, their fitness for adapting themselves to English ways, and hoped that with the religious houses they would have Belgians come over as Missionaries, the more of them the better.

The preacher alluded to the worldliness of the English people, who apparently lived for wealth, ambition, and station, as if there were no hereafter. He pointed out that worship of God should be a primary thought with them. That church was brought there in spite of them. God’s providence had sent a Catholic house in their midst, and in doing that He wanted to draw the spirit of the world out of them. They would be all the better for more thought about God, and would go about their work and remember their families. God intended that place to speak to them as they passed by. It was something else in the the neighbourhood, something more than there used to be. That building would say to them that the Catholic was the old religion, and the Catholic religion would be the last and only religion in England when every other religions had faded away. The people would be free to come there and hear the Word of God spoken as in times of the Cathedral buildings which was taken away from them in the era of the Reformation.

The story begun to be told at the time of the Reformation had worn out. The truth would never fail. Men might tell lies about them, but the preacher urged his hearers to get to know and hear the Catholic religion for themselves, and not to take it from Protestant books. If they wanted to know what the Catholic religion was, let them go and ask Catholic, not a Protestant, and listen to their Catholic services, and not take it secondhand, all from anyone else. With that chapel placed there they would have to answer to God for the use they made of it. At that chapel they would hear nothing that was unreasonable. The old bugbears were all simply nonsense. No one would make them go one bit faster than their consciences would allow them to go. He asked that people might come and listen, and then act as their consciences dictated. God had not two truths, nor had he more than one church, which had come down from Christ, and if it wasn't meant for everyone, it was meant for all his hearers.


After the conclusion of this address, which was listened to with great attention, and the singing of the hymn to the holy martyrs, the Bishop administered the sacrament of confirmation to ten candidates, afterwards addressing then on “Faith” which he is lordship said was the greatest of all virtues. The benediction of the blessed Sacrament followed in which “O salutaris” was sung.and the Te Deum and the “Tantum ergo”, the service is closing with the final blessing by the Bishop and the blessed sacrament.


The chapel is all Gothic style of architecture, being of redbrick with Bath stone dressings. The main body of the chapel is 108 feet long by 27 feet, and it is proportionally high, with a fine open roof. The loftiness of the building strikes one on entering, as does the great regard that has been paid to the admission of light. There are 13 windows handsomely traced with stonework, and filled with cathedral glass. At the south transept accommodation is made for the public in a space of twenty four feet square. This looks directly on the altar, which is divided from it by handsomely carved arch of stone, with a screen of open ironwork.

All the entrances to the chapel are embellished with stonework, the doors being of solid oak. The altar space, in which is placed the altar from the old chapel, a handsomely carved piece of workmanship, is paved with alternate diamond shaped black-and-white marble. This is about 21 foot in extent, and behind it is the sacristy, approached by doors on either side of the alter. At the western end of the chapel is a gallery intended to accommodate the organ. For Thursday service a harmonium only was used. Underneath this is the portion set apart for the lay sisters and pupils of the Priory. From this the nuns spacious choir is approached by a few steps, a stone parapet dividing this from the other portion of the Chapel.

Leading from the chapel and schools are well lighted cloisters, 12 foot wide. On the north side of the altar a small chapel will be provided, intended to accommodate the sick, who desire to be present at mass. The roof is open framed with pitch pine boarding, and is tiled. The hammer beams are headed with carved images of angels. The roof carries a bell tower, and at that the West end gable is a stone carved niche bearing a stable. Each of the end gables is surmounted by a cross. The floors are laid with pitch pine blocks (the contractors’ patent). The fittings will be of oak, but at present the seating accommodation is only temporary. Artificial lights will be supplied by Star gas jets and by the aid of a candelabra. The walls of the interior are at present white, but the colouring will be used when the walls are fit to bear it.

The handsome building is a credit to its designer, a member of the firm of Messrs Goldie, Child, and Goldie, of London, and to its builders, Messrs Goddard and Sons of Farnham and Dorking.

Thank you to Daniel Gibbons for the photographs


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