The History of St Martin de Porres Parish
We should look at three stands- the history of St Austin’s, of its daughter parish, English Martyrs, and the life of Charles Waterton one of the family who kept our faith alive in Wakefield in penal times.
Not far from here is Walton Hall (pictured above)- now a hotel, and the grounds around it a golf course.
It was once the world's first nature reserve- Charles Waterton who lived at the Hall- which stands on an island- built a wall round the grounds to create a sanctuary for varied wildlife.
Charles Waterton lived from 1782 to 1862. He travelled the world as a naturalist and brought many species back to Wakefield- he also became interested in taxidermy and some of his examples are in Wakefield Museum- the rest are at Stonyhurst College. He travelled extensively in South America. On one occasion he "rode" a cayman crocodile. He climbed to the top of St Peter's in Rome and left his gloves on the lightning conductors.
Walton Hall became the home for thousands of birds: special places were built for them. It also became a place of prayer: by the watergate a Calvary was erected, facing the door of the hall. It is still there. Waterton led a simple life: He would get up at 4am and pray for an hour: he went to bed early and rose at midnight to pray for a while. He did not entertain lavishly, but there was hospitality for visitors. He gave charitably but secretly. He kept alive the Catholic faith in this area at a time when it was strongly discouraged by legal sanction and social pressure. He was educated a the Jesuit Stoneyhurst College and it is probably through his encouragement that the Jesuits came to Wakefield as early as the 1820’s, founding St Austin’s.
His last illness was short: upon being offered Viaticum (Holy Communion for the dying), Waterton replied: "By all means". They then sang the hymn of St Bernard and a few verses of the Dies Irae. He blessed his family and died peacefully.
His coffin was taken by boat with the Bishop and thirteen Priests in a procession of boats down the lake. Hundreds of people walked along the lakeside. A flock of birds is said to have followed the procession. Waterton was buried between two oak trees at the end of the lake, marked with a simple cross An inscription at the bottom, in Latin, reads: "Pray for the soul of Charles Waterton, whose tired bones lie near here" . As they lowered his coffin into the grave, a linnet sat on the oak tree and joined in the singing.
According to a reporter at the time he was "buried in silence, broken only by the cry of the heron, in solitude as deep as that in which he had lived in the swamps of the Orinoco and the forests of the Amazon."
The grave is still there, overgrown. The oaks have gone. Its seclusion is probably its protection. Ever year, we visit the grave and bless it, remembering this remarkable man
His grave in the woods at Walton Park is pictured above.
Picture of Walton Hall courtesy of Richard Bell
The History of English Martyrs Parish
The Parish began in 1932, formed by the then parish priest of St. Austins, who arranged the building of English Martys School as thanksgiving for 100 years of Jesuits' service in Wakefield.
Orginally, the school hall was designed to be used by the parish as its church and to this day, the school and parish maintain strong links.
A new church opened by Bishop Heenan in 1957, was paid for by the generosity of the people of Lupset, for the sum of £20,000. More recently the parish has refurbished the inside of the church, making the altar the focal point. This has enabled us to bring our celebrations more in to line with the intentions of the Second Vatican Council. Most of the work was done by volunteers from the parish. One of the features of the refurbishment was the creation of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Distinguished from the main body of the church by a wrought iron screen and adorned by the Stations of the Cross, it offers a place of quiet meditation and prayer both before and after mass and during the week
Parish Priests of English Martrys
1932 Rev J Comerford
1936 Rev A Sweeny
1941 Rev F Scanlon
1952 Rev F Mawson
1959 Rev J Casey
1959 Rev C Mullan
1971 Rev P Langan
1988 - 2008 Rev T Kenny
Merged with St. Austins in 2008
The History of St Austin’s Parish
Plans drawn up by Joseph Ireland, a prominent Catholic architect, for a Catholic chapel in Wentworth Terrace
First Parish Priest Fr John George Morris is transferred to Wakefield to run "Wakefield Mission" (as St Austins was known) on behalf of the Jesuits
St Austin's opened on 4th March by Rt. Rev. Thomas Smith Co-adjutor bishop of the Northern District
St Austin's is registered as a place for solemnising marriages.
A census the previous year indicates that the church is too small to cope with the parishioners' increasing numbers. The original church extended from the present sanctuary to the east of the entrance porch. Entrance was by a door in the west wall of the church. Extensions are made to move the back wall to its current position, the door moves to where it now is, and the balcony is added.
Considerable internal decorations are made, including the installation of the current Stations of the Cross.
Foundations laid for the original St Austin's School which once stood at the top of what is now Marsh Way
Riots occur in Wakefield when a Frenchman named Baron de Camin provokes the Irish residents by giving lectures on the "Errors of Popery"
Charles Waterton, parishioner and benefactor of St Austins dies aged 83 after a fall in the grounds of Walton Hall
Overcrowding in the church inspires brief plans to build a new St Austin's church on the corner of George Street and Southgate adjacent to the Zion Chapel. However, these plans prove impractical and instead the two houses to the west of St Austins are purchased and converted into the Presbytery. The presbytery to the east can then be used to extend the church.
Work begins on a building in Ossett which was to be the beginnings of St Ignatius Parish
Diocese of Leeds created
Further alterations are made to St Austins to convert the old presbytery into a new sanctuary for the church.
The Lady Chapel is also added to the designs of Joseph Hansom.
Further alterations and decoration occurs including decoration of the sanctuary and Lady Chapel
The church bell, dedicated to St Joseph, is installed and consecrated by Bishop
Gordon of Leeds
Small altars are built either side of the front of the church, between the pillars, to house the statues of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady
St Austin's parish magazine is launched and continues to be produced monthly until 1931
St Ignatius parish in Ossett becomes independent and self-supporting- on Christmas day.
War breaks out in Europe and by October 90 young men from the parish have enlisted. The parish offers assistance to Belgian refugees in the area.
St Austin's bell rings to signal the end of the war. By now at least 83 men of the parish have been killed in the conflict.
A calvary in stone is unveiled outside St Austin's as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the war.
The memorial committee also makes plans for a chapel of ease in Portobello.
The Lady Chapel is repainted by a Mr A Jarvis of Ipswich who uses Agnes Rayner, the daughter of a local painter, as his model for the figure of Our Lady. The two were later married. There is still a Rayner family presence in Wakefield
Notes from this period mention the moving of the Medieval statue of St Anne.
This statue is believed to be one of those found in the attic of a house in Northgate in 1757 but its presence in St Austin's is something of a mystery.
The Jesuits leave St Austins after over 100 years. They are replaced by Canon Charles Leteux and his fellow priests.
A new parish is opened in Lupset dedicated to the Blessed English Martrys, and becomes a separate parish, with mass celebrated in the school hall.
St Josephs Church is opened in Crofton as a chapel of ease. It became part of St Peter & St Paul's parish in 1954 and closed in 2008 as part of the reorganisation of the deanery
Second World War breaks out. More young men from the parish leave to serve in the Second World War. Many are killed in action.
St Michael's, a former Baptist Chapel, is opened on Durkar Lane Crigglestone as a chapel of ease: it was replaced by St George's in 1955 after this area was separated to form St Peter & St Paul's: St George's closed when the new parish church was built in 1991.
Alterations are made to the Lady Chapel and confessionals are installed.
Sts Peter and Paul's church in Portobello becomes the basis of a separate parish with Father Cornelius Finn as parish priest.
A new church is built for English Martyrs in Lupset.
A new infant school is built in Edward Street
The first Roman Catholic mass since the Reformation is celebrated in Wakefield Cathedral
Mgr Thompson, parish priest since 1943 retires and Canon Barr takes over as parish priest.
Restoration work begins at St Austins, Mass is regularly celebrated at Wakefield Cathedral until repairs are complete.
The last Mass is celebrated at St Swithun's, Eastmoor on 1st April. St Swithun's was the last of many Chapels of Ease including Zion Chapel Stanley and Our Lady’s Outwood to close.
St. Austin's celebrates its 175th anniversary as a parish
Amalgamated with English Martyrs to form the Parish of St Martin de Porres