Parish History 1860-1900

Money was always a worry!

Finance was a constant worry and the income of the years 1859 to 1862 was as follows:

1859 £64. 4. 7. 1861 £65. 9. 1.
1860 £69.18. 9. 1862 £76. 5. 5.

More History of the Parish

An interesting insight into the number of catholics in this area of North West Kent is shown by a report made by Fr. Alberry to his Bishop. In May 1860, Fr. Alberry had a sick call to a house near Farningham some seven miles from Crayford. He found no less than 24 catholics. When Fr. Alberry became the Parish Priest, the Parish of Crayford extended almost to Northfleet, through to Farningham, the Crays, Sidcup, Blackfen, Shooters Hill, and as far as the River Thames. Following the establishment of the Parish of Dartford in 1860, Crayford Parish was reduced in size. Father Alberry was instrumental in starting the Dartford parish, and went with the priest appointed to rent a house there. The landlord said he would rent it to Father Alberry and not the other priest, whom he considered a rude man. About the same time, the Capuchin Fathers established themselves in Erith, and commenced care for that particular locality.

The school in Crayford continued to grow and was dear to the heart of Father Alberry. For a period of time, a Mrs. Bramwell resided at the Presbytery, and due to her generosity the house was extended. She donated over £500 to the school, for building the part which is now closest to Old Road. It would appear that Father Alberry had a private income of his own, probably given by his parents. In 1873, he presented twenty £100 Bonds in the Ovlett & Verbrisk Railway Company of Russia, for the endowment of the Parish of Crayford, on condition that the Mission was served by a secular priest. To this day, at half yearly intervals, the Parish receives the interest on this endowment. Father Alberry died on the 10th April 1879 and was buried in the church at Crayford. He was succeeded by Father Boase and seven years later by Father Moore, later Canon Moore.

In 1887 the school was further extended at a cost of £400. Father Hogan became Parish Priest in 1888 and was to remain until his retirement to Bournemouth in 1912.

Death of Father Alberry

‘The Tablet’ of 20th April, 1878, reported his funeral: “On Wednesday the 10th inst., the Reverend Joseph Alberry was buried at Crayford, Kent. The Bishop of Southwark sang the Mass of Requiem, assisted by the Very Rev. Canon Wenham, Assistant Priest; Rev. George Cox, Deacon; Rev. Thomas Pearce, Sub-Deacon. The Very Rev. Canon Moore directed the ceremonies. The office was sung by the clergy present, the Very Rev. Canon Crookall and the Rev. J. Recks being cantors. Among the dignatories present were the Bishop of Amycla, Right Rev. Mgr. Goddard, Rev. F. J. Wyatt, Moveley, Connelly, T. Hogan, Alexander, John Paul, O.S.F.C. and others. After the absolutions the Bishop and clergy left the church. The friends and parishioners of the deceased lingered to take a last farewell. During the afternoon the body was privately interred at Crayford R.I.P.”

From the Late Pop Hennessy

Pop Hennessy was a parishioner here, and this is part of one of his interesting reminisences about the church and the parish of Crayford in 1885: “In those days it was what one might call a country church. The Mass attendance was at the 60 mark or thereabouts, and some of those used to walk from St. Mary Cray, seven miles away. We had little money in those days. The bulk of the congregation was poor. We had little to give other than our labour, but we gave that generously . . . The congregation was three-quarters Irish. We were fortunate to have a few wealthy families-there was the White family who lived at Oakwood-Mr. White was underwriter at Lloyds. The family always saw to the decoration of the Church.”

From the Late Miss Brewer

Miss Hannah Brewer was an assistant teacher at St. Joseph’s School from 1902 to about 1960. She was also a pupil at the school and has left us this record:

“In the year 1912, Rev. Fr. Carroll from St. Mary Cray was appointed to be our new Parish Priest. He was an elderly priest, very holy, very generous, most lovable, and a great scholar. His first duty as Parish Priest was to appoint Miss Chapman from Camberwell as the new Headmistress. She was a very pleasant and agreeable young person, but very frail and in poor health. She took over the old school house, but was unable to settle, so after a period of two years, she returned to London. During her period of teaching, the school was re-decorated inside and out. Much to our sorrow and inconvenience, this work was carried out by one man, who did most of the work during school hours.

Fr. Carroll, wishing to fill the post of Headmistress, remembered a Mrs. O’Shea, a very steady reliable person who was teaching in the school at St. Mary Cray. In due course, she was appointed as Headmistress of St. Joseph’s School and proved herself to be the right one in the right place.

In those days the playground at St. Joseph’s was very limited. The girl’s playground began at the school gate and finished at the church door, while the boys’ playground was a small piece of very rough ground at the far end of the school building. This contained three large trees, and was hemmed in by an iron railing. When weather permitted, P.T. lessons were taken on the piece of ground in front of the church.

I well remember on one occasion, we teachers had an awful fright. The afternoon session had just commenced when some of the infants became very ill and had to be carried into the playground. As time passed, more and more became very sick, until most of them were stretched out in the playground. We were wondering what they had been eating when the truth came out. One of the boys who had stayed to lunch, spent his time in cutting very thin strips from the bark of the ash tree and as the pupils returned from lunch, gave them strips of bark to eat and called it lovely juicy spanish wood. Needless to say after that rough treatment, the tree died and was later uprooted.”