Just about 100 years ago James Dobson, the grandfather of Canon Dobson, Parish priest of Kelvedon arrived at Purleigh from Preston, Lancashire, with his three sons and two daughters, the nearest Church was Chelmsford, where they went to Mass for some ten years. Father Lucas of Witham commenced celebrating Mass at Maldon on alternate Sundays, and at Braintree on the other Sundays. In 1890, Cardinal Vaughan made a missionary tour of Essex; he celebrated Mass in Silver Street, lodged at the King’s Head and gave several talks in the public hall.
In about 1896, Mr James Dobson and Mr Waring negotiated, in spite of great difficulty, the purchase of a piece of land on which our Church stands and in 1898 the present Church hall was opened as a temporary church – and intended to be used later as a school.
According to the Parish registers, the resident Parish priest was Rev. P. O’Leary in 1900. In 1902, we have Fr P. Ryan, and in 1903 Fr Veris followed by Fr Fitzpatrick in 1904, who was also Chaplain to the Carmelite Nuns.
In the Parish archives we have the First Visitation Returns to the Archbishop of Westminster for the year 1905. They are in the wonderful broad distinctive script of the Very Rev. Dr Adrian Fotesque, the renowned scholar and writer on liturgy and on the Greek Church. He had succeeded Fr Michael Fitzpatrick on October 1st 1904. On June 8th 1905, he obtained his Doctorate in Biblical Science gaining great distinction in Semitic languages. We find him studying Arabic Maldon and finishing his great work on the Eastern Church in 1906, having also revised the Arabic Grammar. He applied for a year’s leave to study in Syria and left Maldon in October 1906.
In the visitation returns for 1905, we find the total congregation numbering 56. It comprised of 11 men, 21 women and 24 children – the number of infant baptisms 12, and the average number at Mass on Sunday – 40. The boundaries of the Parish were all the land from the Blackwater to the Crouch and from Danbury to the sea!
Early in 1900, we find a community of German Nuns in a Convent on Cromwell Hill, running an orphanage for little boys – ‘Carmelites of the Sacred Heart’. A Mass was sung at the Convent at 8.00a.m. and at
10.00 a.m. The second Mass was sung in the Church at Victoria Road. Each Sunday there was Benediction at the Convent with a sermon said in German. The nuns took care of the church in Victoria Road and polished it each week. When the First World War came in 1914, the German nuns left and were succeeded by Dutch nuns.
A community of Benedictine nuns established a convent in Victoria Road almost opposite our present church. These houses, now ordinary dwelling houses still bear traces of the nun’s occupation, and they still have doorways which once connected them together.
In November 1906, Fr John O’Doherty followed Fr Adrian Fotesque as Parish Priest. Fr Bernard Handley came in 1907. Fr Sidney Williams followed Fr Handley and there was then a congregation of some 116.
Up to 1911 the Catholic Parish was known as St Mary’s Maldon, but on the Visitation Returns for 1911 we find the Parish titled “Assumption of Our Lady, Maldon”
Formal Erection of Maldon Parish.
On the 22nd of March 1917, the Diocese of Brentwood was cut off from Westminster and established its own right. On the 30th August 1918, the Parish of Maldon under the title of the “Assumption of Our Lady” was formally and canonically erected and constituted, and the Rev Sidney Williams was canonically instituted as its Parish Priest. Fr Sidney was a convert Clergyman who became a Catholic while he was preparing to write a great work, showing how and where the Roman Church was wrong. During his 17 years as Parish priest he worked hard to establish a building fund for the erection of a new church. He was succeeded in October 1923 by Rev John Petit (later Bishop of Menevia). He continued the efforts of Fr Williams with the building fund. He resigned as Parish priest on the 10th August 1924 and on 20th August Fr Dacey succeeded him. The following Sunday the Bishop came and urged the parishioners to greater efforts for the building fund.
On the 19th October 1924, after Mass the site of the new church was blessed by the Parish priest in the presence of a good number of the congregation.
On Wednesday 14th January 1925 at 2.45p.m., Bishop Arthur Doubleday laid the foundation stone of the new Church. The building fund had reached the sum of one thousand pounds, one shilling and one penny. This was a considerable sum of money for those days, especially when we remember that the total Catholic population was just 173, with an average Sunday congregation of some 70 adults and 14 children. The total cost of the building, including furnishings, benches and oak fence was five thousand and sixteen pounds.
Formal Opening of the Church
November 18th 1925 saw the formal opening of the Church. The Mass was sung by Canon McKenna (Westcliff), Fr Gilbert (Leigh on Sea) - Deacon, Fr Cahill (Wanstead) – Sub Deacon. The Bishop presided.
The following clergy were also present.
Fr Dacey Maldon, Fr Clay Harwich,
Fr Bishop Romford,
Canon Shepherd Stock,
Fr Littleton - Westcliff,
Fr Cameron Grays
Fr Wilson - Brentwood
Fr Sloane Southend
Fr Whitfield Southend
Fr Nye, Portsmouth
Fr Long Westminster
Fr Thompson Chelmsford
Fr Field, Dunmow
Fr Smith, Burnham
Fr Toft, Shoeburyness
Fr O’Donnell, Tilbury
Fr Shell, Stratford
Fr Williams Witham
Fr Snell Stamford
Fr Caughlin, Braintree
The sermon was preached by the Bishop and the collection amounted to eighteen pounds, fourteen shillings and sixpence.
In July 1933, Fr Dacey was transferred to Brentwood Cathedral as Administrator and Fr Healy became Parish priest, followed by Fr John O’Sullivan on September 3rd 1948.
Silver Jubilee - 21st November 1950
Three Bishops came for this celebration. Bishop Petit, M.A., Bishop of Minevia celebrated Pontifical Mass assisted by Bishop Beck of Brentwood who preached the sermon. Bishop Arthur Doubleday presided at the Mass. On Monday 20th November, there was a buffet supper and concert in the Swan Hotel Ballroom as a reception for Bishop Petit, the former parish priest of Maldon.
The clergy who attended were:
Bishop Petit – Celebrant
Canon Dacey – Deacon
Canon Dobson – Sub deacon
Canon Hemming – M.C.
Canon Wilson – M.C.
J. F. O’Sullivan – Assistant Priest
Canon Howell – Assist at Throne
Canon Gilbert – Assist at Throne
Fr Madden & Fr Foley – Acolytes
Fr Branney – Thurifer
Fr Byrne – Book-bearer
Diamond Jubilee - 7th September 1985
The Bishop, Right Reverend Thomas McMahon concelebrated Mass with Canon Francis Dobson of Kelvedon together with Fr Edmund Dobson, Parish priest of Maldon. The Deacons were Rev Sidney Lewis and Rev David Thompson.
Present at the Mass was Joseph Henry Dobson who served the first Mass in the Church in 1925. He was a cousin of Canon Dobson and it was their Grandfather who arranged the purchase of the land on which the Church now stands.
Today we thank God for those who have gone before and who did so much to preserve the faith for us here in Maldon. We pray the future will continue as before and see the community grow and expand. What God has begun may he bring to fulfilment.
Catholic Parishes of
Burnham-on-Crouch and Maldon
Sunday Mass Times
Saturday Confessions 4pm
Saturday Vigil Mass 5pm
Sunday Mass 9am
Weekday Mass times see Newsletter
Sunday Confessions 11am
Sunday Mass 11.30am
Weekday Mass times See Newsletter
From various records and scraps of letters and other documents, we learn that after the upheaval of the Reformation, when the old Churches of St Mary’s, All Saints and St Peter’s were taken over by the new Protestant State Church, and after Beeleigh Abbey and the Friary and other religious houses had been suppressed by order of the King, the Catholic priests had to go into hiding to celebrate the Eucharist in secret. There are various references to Catholic priests being smuggled into Maldon from the Continent, many of them with English names, probably having gone abroad to be educated for the Priesthood.
The Eucharist continued to be celebrated in and around Maldon in various places and in secret. Many people from Maldon were sent to the Tower of London for refusing to attend the new services, and several died there. Soon after Catholic Emancipation, in 1828, a temporary place of worship was set up in and old converted Forge in Silver Street and a document for the year 1897 gives permission for the Catholic priest to celebrate marriages there. Some people claim that on the site or near to the site of the old Forge in Silver Street stood the Church of St Helen referred to in the will of John Paget of Maldon in 1529, when he left money to this Church