1920’s: A Church for Kenton

The first year, 1927-1928, came and went in Kenton; there had been 3924 acts of Holy Communion made, there were 144 persons on the electoral roll, between 60 and 70 frequented the 8.00am Mass on Sundays [which was, of course, in those days the only Mass at which Holy Communion was given; the Sung Mass on Sundays remained non-communicating right up until 1964], with over 300 receiving the Lord’s Body at Easter; and at festivals falling on a Sunday there was not seating enough to accommodate the crowds of worshippers. These are the statistics that were soon to be surpassed many times over – just before the war acts of Holy Communion per annum regularly exceeded 25,000, and there were over 800 on the electoral roll – but they cover the little bits of human life that are the stuff of social history. Mrs Thorogood and her farthing gatherers may seem to us in the inflated 70’s people of pre-history, but a farthing was worth a lot in those days, especially for children. It could buy two or three sweets, two farthings procured an ice cream sandwich, albeit of slender proportions, and on the Sunday School outing to Southend one year the Record reports that a dozen of the children went out in a boat for a row, twenty minutes being allowed them for their penny, which pleased them very much!

St Leonards Church Interior
St Leonards Church Interior

By July 1928 the sale of Kenton House to the parish for the permanent home of its Priest had been arranged and carried out. This became Saint Mary’s Vicarage which was demolished in the 1980’s and stood on the site of the current Vicarage.

On the other side of St Leonard’s, which stood where the present hall now stands, there was a temporary hall, so the only permanent parochial building was the clergy house, but from it the Parish Priest planned his work of building based not on money and numbers but on the spiritual quality of life that only the full preaching and acceptance of the Catholic Faith of Christ can give. By 1929, communions were nearly 10,000 a year and between 50 and 60 of the faithful made their communion during the week also, as well as on Sunday. Then as now, it is to the strength of the spiritual life of any parish if its members come frequently to the Altar and the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, not just when Holy Church requires us but at other times as well. Confirmations that year numbered 55, and the Parish Priest had made over 500 visits in his parish.

Easter is always a time of physical as well as spiritual exertion, especially for the clergy and their immediate aides, but 1929 saw an ebullient congregation celebrate the Redemption in church and then go on to dances, concerts, and the inevitable jumble sales that form so integral a part of the life of the Established Church. This year [1929] the jumble sale preceded the dance given by the Rovers and the Football Club, and there was simultaneously a musical evening at the Northwick Park Dance Hall. Fr Johnson was everywhere, naturally ‘said a few words’, and must have been worn out at the end of the day. He had, though, the knowledge that Kenton was alive and dancing both before the Lord and for the sheer joy of it.