Church & History

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Construction of St Mary’s

So from 1934 onwards the deliberations of the Parish Priest and the P.C.C. turned more and more on the building of the new church. The estimated cost of the venture was thought to be about £20,000 exclusive of any furnishings whatever. An artist’s impression of the new church made its appearance on the front of the Record at this time. The architect, Mr Gibbons, had his final plans ready by the summer of 1935, and on the 15th September, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Foundation Stone of the Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Kenton, was laid.

Architects drawing of St Mary's

Architects drawing of proposed church

The forms of service used on that day are still extant. They and the Record inform us of what went on. The day was a Sunday, and weather was kind, although there were a few flurries of rain spots in the air. By a singular grace, however, no rain really fell till 14 minutes after the end of the open-air High Mass, and by that time working parties had taken indoors all the chairs, the altar hangings and fitments. The ceremony was conducted by the Bishop of Willesden, Guy Vernon Smith, and the actual stone-laying performed by Fr Johnson’s mother. At 10.00am, to the choir’s singing of psalm 84 [Quam dilecta], the procession approached the site of the foundation stone. In the name of all those assembled the Parish Priest requested the Bishop to proceed. The Bishop offered a prayer, and then the Rural Dean read a lesson from the Book of Ezra. The Parish Priest said some more prayers and these were followed by the blessing of the stone by the Bishop. The architect then handed Mrs Johnson the special trowel with which she laid the stone. Striking it with a mallet she pronounced: ‘In the name of God, Amen. I declare this Foundation Stone to be well and truly laid.’ From the site of the stone-laying a procession then made its way to the site of the High Altar, where there were hymns and prayers. This concluded the first part of the ceremony. The second part, which began at 11.00am, was the High Mass of Thanksgiving sung on the site of the new High Altar. In all, the poor congregation were made to sing no fewer than eight hymns that morning, and were occupied from 10.00am till well past midday, when the solemnities ended with the Angelus.

The Foundation Stone bears the following inscription, about which one should say that it was a frequent, though highly extraordinary, custom in those days to omit a Bishop’s surname in official documents and inscriptions, but to include any other names he might have besides his usual Christian name. This is why so many people have imagined that there was a Bishop of London called Arthur Foley, and a Bishop of Willesden called Guy Vernon. In both cases their surnames have been omitted [Winnington-Ingram and Smith respectively].