OLD CATHOLIC MISSIONS 2: BRIDLINGTON QUAY

The modern Catholic parish of Bridlington traces its origins to the year 1867. Prior to that date the few Catholics in Bridlington had been advised to travel to Beverley for Mass as there was a convenient Sunday morning train; only occasionally was Mass celebrated for them in Bridlington itself and on these occasions the Victoria Rooms were hired for the purpose. In 1867, Fr. Henry J. Green - ordained for the Southwark diocese but something of a wanderer and not in the best of health - heard from the Vicar General, Provost Render, that there was need of a priest in Bridlington. He was initially encouraged by Captain and Mrs Boynton of Haisthorpe, the leading local Catholics, who directed him to lodgings at 5 Oxford Terrace. However, the whole affair had gone ahead without the sanction of the bishop, Robert Cornthwaite (who was away at the time), and he refused to help with Fr. Green's maintenance or to establish Bridlington as a permanent mission, pointing out more urgent needs in other places. The Boyntons, too, seemed to wish to limit their support, having envisaged a priest coming only for the summer months whereas Fr. Green needed a permanent position.

Nonetheless, Fr. Green remained in Bridlington throughout 1867 and 1868 on an annual salary of only £30, provided by the Boyntons and others. He celebrated Sunday Mass in the Victoria Rooms at 10.30 am with evening prayers and sermon at 6.30 pm. "Bridlinglon Quay, Hull" was listed in the National Catholic Directory of 1868 as a "temporary station" and the Catholic Poor School Committee Report of the same year numbered Bridlington Catholics at 35, including 8 children who received some schooling, perhaps from Fr. Green.

Following Fr. Green's death in November 1869, Provost Render once again took a hand and asked Canon William Fisher to go to Bridlington- Canon Fisher was a very experienced priest though, again, he had had a breakdown in health four years earlier. In fact, he had not worked for four years before coming to Bridlington; yet his arrival was heralded even by the non-Catholics of Bridlington, who saw the commercial advantage of having Mass available to Catholics who might thereby be attracted to the resort. Canon Fisher seemingly had some resources of his own. which was just as well given that the bishop could still offer no help and wished to wait longer before deciding whether Bridlington could become a permanent mission.

Numbers and finances seem to have improved under Canon Fisher, who continued to use the Victoria Rooms for Mass, and Bridlington may have been accorded the status of a permanent mission around 1880-81, when it acquired the dedication "St William of York". In November 1883, a number of local Catholics signed a subscription list guaranteeing to make a total annual contribution to the mission of £50.11.0. This may have encouraged Bishop Lacy to permit the purchase of land in Wellington Road in 1885. The following year an iron church, costing £300 (£150 less than the site), was erected in Wellington Road. The church was opened on 22 June, could seat 250 people and was described as having a spire sixty feet high surmounted by a cross. In 1870, the Catholics of Bridlington had obtained carvings rescued from the choir of York Minster during an arson attack in 1829 and had made them into a reredos: this may explain the choice of dedication of the mission and this first church. Sadly, Canon Fisher did not live to see the church opened, having died on 21 April, 1886, still resident in Bridlington though retired from 1883.

The iron church cannot, however, have proved very satisfactory. In August 1893, the foundation-stone of a new brick and stone-dressed church was laid in Victoria Road. The architect was Arthur Lowther of Hull, a Catholic, who, as part of the Smith, Broderick and Lowther partnership, went on to design St. John's, Beverley, St. Patrick's, Hull, and the original St. Mary's and St. Wilfrid's, Hull. A decision was taken to dedicate the new church, not to St. William of York, but to Our Lady (Star of the Sea) and St. Peter (patron of fishermen) and the new dedication extended to parish as well as church building. At the official opening, at the end of August 1894, Bishop Lacy praised the money-raising efforts of the congregation and especially the generosity of the Boyntons. Even so, a large debt remained and it took around forty years to pay off the mortgage taken out on church and presbytery.

Nonetheless, the Catholics of Bridlington now had a fine church, lending a greater sense of permanence and, from 1895, also a convent school run by the Dominican Sisters. This was originally in Wellington Road, but transferred to the High Street in 1930. The Sisters Of Mercy replaced the Dominicans in 1962 and a new parish school was opened in January 1977. To complete the facilities of the parish, a new inter-connecting hall was built to the side of the church in 1963, replacing a previous, small, temporary hall lent by a parishioner. The new hall allowed not only for social functions, but also for additional space for visitors at Mass in the summer, sight of the altar being possible through the connecting portion of the wall.

Dominique Minskip