A Short History
In the nineteenth century the area we are in was known as the Farnborough Missionary District and was served for a time by the Premonstatensian Canons, brought to Farnborough Priory (Abbey) from Storrington in Sussex by the Empress Eugenie. After their departure in 1895, priests from the diocese took over for a short time. Mass was said in St. Patrick’s School in Peabody Road and the diocese records a Fr. James Doran in charge from 1900 to 1901.
In l901 Bishop Cahill of Portsmouth asked the Salesians to come from London to take charge of the Soldiers’ Boys Home in Queens Road and also to look after the pastoral needs of Catholics living in the area (excluding Aldershot ). According to diocesan records, the Salesian community/college chapel of Our Lady Help of Christians in Queens Road was already being used by the local Catholics in l903.
When the majority of the Salesians moved out of Sherbourne Road to Reading Road in the 1960s, the chapel continued to be used by the parishioners as their parish church until 2nd November l999. The new church of Our Lady Help of Christians is their first purpose built parish church.
As the article ‘Farnborough’s New Church’ from the l946 Salesian College Magazine records, the vision of having a new church goes back to the visit of the well loved Bishop Cotter in l939, a vision that has taken 6l years to be realised. The world war of l939 -45, of course, was the first delaying factor and other attempts particularly by Fr. Nolan, were frustrated for one reason or another. During Fr. Caroll’s and Fr. Coupe’s time as parish priests some movement did take place. In l98l Outline Planning Permission was applied for and granted for the first time. This was renewed in l984, l987, l990 and l994.
In July l994 the Salesians set up the Farnborough Parish Project Team to progress matters, at team consisting of representatives from the Parish, the Salesians and the Diocese. The parish appointed the architect, Rex Butland of the Sarum Partnership in Salisbury , in April l996 and he was eventually joined by Oliver Freeman as his assistant. At an open parish meeting in January l997, Mr. Butland presented his design to the parish and this was unanimously approved by those present. He proceeded to apply to Rushmoor Borough Council for full planning permission and this was granted in June. Because of changes in l998 in College plans for moving out of Sherborne Road earlier than had been expected, the design had to be altered to include a presbytery and therefore new planning permission sought. This was granted in August.
A vital parish meeting took place on Sunday 20th September l998, attended by some eighty parishioners. The purpose was to see authorisation from the parish for the parish priest to apply for approval from the Diocese to proceed with the building on the basis of the architect’s plans and to seek approval for a loan. Both vocally and by a show of raised hands, the wish for him to do so was practically unanimous. The permission and loan were finally granted in December l998.
Demolition work on the old Sherbourne Road buildings began in July l999 and Brazier General Construction (part of the Kier Group) set up site in January 2000 to begin the long awaited building. In the afternoon of 5th March, with about 200 parishioners and visitors present, the Salesian Provincial, Fr. Francis Preston, laid the symbolic foundation stone during a short service. Behind the stone the parish priest, Fr. Peter Carr, placed a ‘time capsule’ for posterity containing the following documents:
A history of the Salesian presence in the Farnborough area since l90l
A copy of the l946 article from the Salesian College Magazine referred to earlier
The history of the past 8 year’s work towards the building of the new church
A copy of that weekend’s newsletter
A copy of the Service used for the laying of the stone
A message from the parishioners, printed in the souvenir brochure,
Who had built the church and signed by everyone present.