ELM PARK: KEY DATES IN THE HISTORY OF ST ALBAN’S PARISH & ST ALBAN’S PRIMARY SCHOOL
February 1938: Canon Jules van Meenen (Parish Priest of St Mary Mother of God, Hornchurch) informed Rt. Rev. Arthur Doubleday (2nd Bishop of Brentwood) of the need for provision of Mass for the increasing number of Catholics in the Elm Park district where Richard Costain Ltd was building a new estate.
July 1938: Canon van Meenen arranged for land on a half-acre site in Carnforth Gardens to be purchased from Costain for £700.
7 October 1938: Canon van Meenen submitted plans for a Church Hall to Bishop Doubleday.
21 February 1939: Site at Elm Park conveyed to the Diocese of Brentwood.
3 September 1939 (the day war was declared): Bishop Doubleday laid the foundation stone of St Alban’s Church Hall. The architects were Messrs Burles, Harris & Collings of Southend-on-Sea and the contractors Myall Bros of Shenfield.
28 November 1939: St Alban’s Church Hall opened by Monsignor O’Grady (Vicar General) in the absence of Bishop Doubleday. Constructed of brick, it cost £1250 to erect and £853 to furnish. Part of the cost of the purchase of the land and the construction and furnishing of the building (£2083 in total) was met by a legacy from Ellen Augusta Woodward (d.1938) which was applied for the purpose by Bishop Doubleday. It was intended as a temporary church, served from St Mary, Hornchurch, acting as a Mass centre on Sunday (9.30am). During the week the building was planned to serve as an annexe to St Mary’s Primary School, Hornchurch (although wartime conditions at first prevented this). It was also planned to erect a permanent church (to seat 500), presbytery and school on the Carnforth Gardens site when circumstances permitted. The opening of R.A.F. Hornchurch (an important fighter station during the Second World War) also meant that the temporary church could be used by military personnel.
6 August 1944: St Alban’s Church Hall damaged by bombing.
September 1948: St Alban’s Church Hall became an Infant Department for St Mary’s Primary School, Hornchurch.
November 1948: Verona Fathers (Comboni Missionaries) approached Bishop Doubleday (2nd Bishop of Brentwood) and Rt. Rev. George Andrew Beck (Coadjutor Bishop), offering to assume responsibility for a parish in the diocese.
January 1949: Bishop Doubleday entrusted Elm Park to the Verona Fathers (Comboni Missionaries) as a separate parish.
February 1949: Father Marcello Bano F.S.C.J. appointed as 1st Priest-in-Charge.
8 February 1949: Application to Essex County Council (by Bishop Beck) for provision of a primary school. This was the first of many attempts to secure a school, a process that took no less than 22 years to achieve.
March 1949: Father John Cotta F.S.C.J. appointed as 2nd Priest-in-Charge; Father Bano appointed as Assistant Priest.
April 1949: The priests took up residence at 45 Coronation Drive. Father Cotta drew up plans for a new church and for a parish hall (which would also serve as an Infant School).
February 1950: Bishop Beck gave Father Cotta permission to draw up plans for a new church (to be dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary) which was to be built on a plot of land between Ullswater Way and Langdale Gardens to be obtained from Hornchurch Urban District Council.
May 1950: Plans for a new church produced by Messrs Sterrett & Blouet of Westminster.
July 1950: Father Bano appointed to Uganda. Father Eric Grace F.S.C.J. appointed to assist Father Cotta pro tem.
August 1950: Father Eric Grace F.S.C.J. appointed as 3rd Priest-in-Charge, replacing Father Cotta.
September 1950: Father Orlando Pigarella F.S.C.J. appointed as Assistant Priest.
February 1951: Father Theodore Fontanari F.S.C.J. succeeded Father Pigarella as Assistant Priest.
10 March 1951: Parish of St Alban, Elm Park, formally erected and entrusted to the Verona Fathers (Comboni Missionaries); Father Eric Grace F.S.C.J. duly appointed as 1st Parish Priest. Plans were made to build an either an extension to the existing Church Hall or a new hall adjacent to it.
November 1951: Father Grace informed Rt. Rev. George Andrew Beck (3rd Bishop of Brentwood) that possession of the site promised between Ullswater Way and Langdale Gardens might not now guaranteed.
April 1952: The priests moved to 27 Coniston Way.
9 September 1952: Father Filiberto Polato F.S.C.J. succeeded Father Fontanari as Assistant Priest.
29 September 1952: Dedication (to St George) of new Catholic Chapel at R.A.F. Hornchurch by Bishop Beck. The chapel, although the responsibility of the R.A.F., was served from Elm Park whenever an R.A.F. Chaplain was unavailable.
1953: Extension to Church Hall built.
1953-1954: No permanent Assistant Priest. Temporary supply priests from the Verona Fathers’ other houses in England.
September 1954: Father Mark Prina F.S.C.J. appointed as Assistant Priest.
28 July 1955: Ullswater Way/Langdale Gardens site of just over 1 acre purchased by Diocese of Brentwood for £1,100.
October 1955: Father Salvatore Calvia F.S.C.J. succeeded Father Prina as Assistant Priest.
1956: Building commenced of Presbytery on Ullswater Way site.
August 1956: Father Filiberto Polato F.S.C.J. succeeded Father Calvia as Assistant Priest. Father Calvia later served as Superior General of the Verona Fathers (Comboni Missionaries).
September 1956: Father Polato appointed as 4th Priest-in-Charge upon the departure of Father Grace and awaiting the arrival of Father Toninello.
Early 1957: Priests moved into new Presbytery at 1 Ullswater Way (which was built at the expense of the Verona Fathers (Comboni Missionaries).
17 April 1957: Father Hugh Toninello F.S.C.J. appointed as 2nd Parish Priest, initially to complete the building of the Presbytery and to begin work on a permanent church. Father Polato resumed his duties as Assistant Priest and his work as a composer of liturgical music.
February 1959: Work commenced on building a permanent church to seat 400 on the site adjacent to the Presbytery between Langdale Gardens and Ullswater Way at a cost of £33,585 paid by the Diocese of Brentwood. The new church was constructed by Messrs J. Leary of Stratford to the designs of David Rodney Burles of Messrs Burles Newton of London & Southend-on-Sea and was inspired by the Church of San Zeno, Verona. For a detailed architectural description of the building see the Taking Stock website (Diocese of Brentwood: Elm Park).
27 April 1959: Foundation stone of new church laid by Rt. Rev. Bernard Wall (4th Bishop of Brentwood).
1960: Father Michael Bonfitto F.S.C.J. appointed as an Assistant Priest (until 1963).
29 May 1960: Concert by the Ben Uri Orchestra & London Polyphonic Choir in Queens Theatre, Hornchurch, to celebrate the opening of the new church. It featured a composition by Father Bonfitto.
14 June 1960: Church of St Alban solemnly blessed & opened by Bishop Wall. The Church Hall in Carnforth Gardens thereafter served as a Parish Hall.
1961: Mrs Sheila Fry began her 30-year employment as Housekeeper to the priests.
February 1961 onwards: Father Toninello resumed previous efforts to secure a permanent primary school.
9 December 1966: Publication by Diocese of Brentwood & London Borough of Havering of Notice for building of a primary school on former R.A.F. land.
4 August 1967: Order by Secretary of State for Education & Science granting approval for establishment of St Alban’s Catholic Primary School.
2 November 1967: Sealing of Instrument of Management for St Alban’s Primary School.
8 November 1967: Appointment of 1st Foundation Managers of St Alban’s Primary School.
25 January 1968: Final architectural drawings for St Alban’s Primary School passed to Havering Education Committee but delays ensued owing to legal difficulties regarding the proposed site for the school.
September 1968: Parish purchased a mobile classroom in which to educate children unable to gain admission to local Catholic primary schools. At this time children from the parish were being educated at the following primary schools: St Mary, Hornchurch; La Salette, Rainham; St Ursula, Harold Hill.
November 1968: St Alban’s Primary School to be built on an alternative site of 1.4 acres between Heron Flight Avenue and South End Road, part of the former R.A.F. land being developed by Costain & Co.
March 1969: Parish Centre (St Alban’s Catholic Social Club) opened adjacent to St Alban’s Church.
23 March 1970: Purchase by the Diocese of Brentwood from the London Borough of Havering for £36,525 of the 1.4-acre site for the building of St Alban’s Primary School.
April 1970: Work began on the construction of St Alban’s Primary School. The architects were Messrs Weightman & Bullen of York, the contractor C.J. Smith Ltd of Abridge (part of W & C French Ltd) and the projected cost was £53,058.
April 1971: Work began on 2nd phase of St Alban’s Primary School at a projected cost of £22,992.
26 April 1971: 1st phase of St Alban’s Primary School opened under Mr Terence Finn, Headteacher. Of the 115 pupils who entered the school at this date, 94% lived in the parish. The Annexe to St Mary’s Primary School in Carnforth Gardens ceased to be used to educate children.
February 1972: Completion of 2nd phase of St Alban’s Primary School
1972: Friends of St Alban’s Association established to assist school fund-raising.
21 June 1973: Official blessing and opening of St Alban’s Primary School by Rt. Rev. Patrick Casey (5th Bishop of Brentwood). The Mayor & Mayoress of Havering attended.
6 July 1974: Extension to Parish Centre opened.
14 October 1974: Sale of the Carnforth Gardens site to London Borough of Havering for £16,407.
1974-1975: Parish built 2 houses in Langdale Gardens as accommodation of teachers.
February 1976: Father Eric Grace F.S.C.J. appointed as an Assistant Priest.
31 August 1977: Mr Finn resigned as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
1 September 1977: Mr Richard Greenfield appointed as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
31 January 1978: Church consecrated by Bishop Casey. Relics of SS Charles Lwanga & Matthias Mulumba (Ugandan Martyrs) were sealed in the altar.
November 1980: Father Umberto Pasqualone F.S.C.J. succeeded Father Polato as an Assistant Priest.
October 1983: Father Robert Staton F.S.C.J. succeeded Father Pasqualone as an Assistant Priest.
1986: Father Cyril Eyles F.S.C.J. succeeded Father Staton as an Assistant Priest (until 1989).
31 August 1986: Mr Greenfield resigned as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
1 September 1986: Mrs J. Smith appointed as Acting Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
1 January 1987: Mr Robert King appointed as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
15 January 1987: Requiem Mass of Father Polato (who had died at the Verona Fathers’ house in Ardrossan, Scotland).
12 July 1988: Mass to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Father Toninello’s ordination.
1 August 1990: Death of Father Grace, who had served at Elm Park for 20 years: as Parish Priest (1950-1956) and as an Assistant Priest (1976-1990).
13 October 1991: Rt. Rev. Thomas McMahon (6th Bishop of Brentwood) celebrated a Mass to mark the retirement of Father Toninello after 34 years as Parish Priest and the Verona Fathers (Comboni Missionaries) relinquishing care of the parish. Father Toninello took up residence in the Almshouses at Ingatestone and then (in November 1992) returned to Italy.
2 November 1991: Father William Jordan assumed duties as 3rd Parish Priest (appointed 4 October 1991 and the 1st diocesan priest to hold the office).
31 August 1993: Mr King resigned as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
1 September 1993: Mr Ian Jones appointed as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
July 1994: Father Bob Hamill assumed responsibility for the parish.
1 September 1994: Father Hamill appointed as 4th Parish Priest.
13 March 1997: Silver Jubilee Mass of St Alban’s Primary School celebrated by Bishop McMahon.
12 July 1998: Father Toninello (in retirement at Verona) celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination.
3 October 2000: Bishop McMahon celebrated a Memorial Mass for Father Toninello (died 23 July 2000).
31 August 2001: Resignation of Mr Jones as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
1 September 2001: Mrs Bridget Ginty appointed as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
18 June 2002: 30th Anniversary celebration of St Alban’s Primary School.
31 August 2008: Resignation of Mrs Ginty as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
1 September 2008: Mrs Bernadette Matthews appointed as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
September 2009: Father James McShane appointed as 5th Priest.
5 July 2014: Ordination by Rt. Rev. Alan Williams S.M. (7th Bishop of Brentwood) of Rev. Kenneth Carleton to the Permanent Diaconate (to serve as deacon in the parish). The ordination took place 4 days after the episcopal consecration of Bishop Williams.
31 August 2015: Resignation of Mrs Matthews as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
1 September 2015: Mrs Lisa Schaberg appointed as Headteacher of St Alban’s Primary School.
September 2017: Father Maurice Gordon appointed as 6th Parish Priest.