FROM THE ARCHIVES
A Brief History
Although the diocesan directory dates the first mission that was to become the Parish of Our Lady of the Angels as 1829, the origins of the Parish go beyond this.
The very name ‘Nuneaton’ is derived from St. Mary’s Abbey which, until the reformation was the home of Benedictine nuns who had settled in the small town of Etone. This, along with St. Nicolas’ Parish Church and Chilvers Coton Parish Church, are silent witnesses to Nuneaton’s Catholic past. Until the 19th Century, Nuneaton’s Catholic population was negligible until Irish immigration from 1824. With a marked increase in the Catholic population which this brought about, there was a need for Mass and the sacraments, and so Mass began to be celebrated at Leather Mill Farm, Caldecote – a handy venue for the Irish harvesters. As more of the immigrant Irish found work in the construction of the railways, many settled in town, mostly around Bond Street, and it was in a cottage there that Mass was now celebrated. In 1837 land was purchased on Coton Road for the building of a permanent church. The foundation stone was soon laid, and the new chapel opened in 1838, designed by Joseph Hansom. This new chapel was under the care of the Dominicans, based at Hinckley. The Dominicans remained until 1880 when they were replaced by the Franciscan Capuchin Fathers, who cared for the Parish for nine years before they moved to Olton Friary in Solihull at the invitation of Archbishop Ilsley. From 1889 the Parish passed into the hands of diocesan clergy, and it is also the year that St. Mary’s, Nuneaton (named presumably after the pre-reformation St. Mary’s Abbey) became Our Lady of the Angels, Nuneaton.
The following years were years of consolidation and growth and the Catholic population itself increased. Schools were built, and the church was much enlarged in 1936. From Our Lady’s , the new Parish of St. Anne’s, Chapel End, was established, and a new Mass centre ‘St. Bernadette’s’ in Stockingford was opened in 1960. Sadly, changed circumstances and a reduction in the number of priests meant its closure in 1994. Today the Parish of Our Lady of the Angels covers Nuneaton town centre and the surrounding areas of Caldecote, Weddington, St. Nicolas Park, Horeston Grange, Whitestone, Attleborough, Chilvers Coton and Stockingford. Of course, the story of Our Lady of the Angels continues, and the Parish is becoming increasingly diverse with new parishioners coming from India, Eastern Europe and Africa. You will see in this website how, in many and varied ways, the Catholics of this town try to be worthy of their inheritance.