Abbey Church History – Early times:
On 3rd November 1896 Cardinal Vaughan transferred the parish of Ealing into the hands of Abbot Edmund Ford, having first offered this mission to them back in 1895, when the foundation stone for Westminster Cathedral was laid. At that time the Benedictines had been ministering to local Catholics from a house in Acton since 1832.
The Castle Hill House estate, covered what has become Blakesley Avenue, Charlbury Grove and Marchwood Crescent, was up for sale and Abbot Ford bought it and also two acres of land. Father Bernard Bulbeck, from Downside, took up residence in March 1897 using the conservatory in the house for a make-shift chapel. The house itself was much too large and so was let and the mission’s first priests moved into 2 Marchwood Crescent at the end of 1899.
Abbot Ford, in accepting the mission from the Cardinal, always had in mind to set up a school in Ealing and by 1899 it was noted that the cost of buildings purchased was already £10,000 and a further £5,000 was the estimated cost of the first part of the intended church. The first part of the church was completed by 1904.
A war memorial chapel of the Holy Souls was completed in 1928, balancing the existing Lady Chapel. Plans to construct a further five bays, together with a western front, were helped by a substantial legacy of £25,000 from Mrs Matilda Schwind in 1929. These additions were built in yellow Guiting stone from a quarry near Cheltenham, faced with Bath stone to match the existing central bays, and completed in 1934 at a cost of £31,000, which excluded the new Compton organ installed at the same time.
On October 1st, 1940 a 1,200lb bomb fell on 5 Charlbury Grove but failed to explode and was not defused until early December. The most severe damage however occurred at twenty-five minutes past nine in the evening of October 7th when a high explosive bomb fell between the Priory Church and the gym, wrecking the organ chamber and damaging the War Memorial Chapel. Another bomb fell through the roof of the church but failed to explode. This one was of the delayed action bombs but the local authorities had more pressing priorities than to defuse a bomb lying in an empty church.
The area was cordoned off and it finally exploded at six o’clock the following morning. It blew up the entire East end of the Priory Church, turning the sanctuary and the choir into a single crater filled with roof and debris. All except two stained glass windows were blown out, the west window was warped by the blast and two or three bays, shaken by the explosion, seemed likely to be demolished.
Having lost the Compton organ in the war a small Walker organ was purchased and placed mall Walker organ was purchased and placed to the left of the temporary sanctuary. Repairs began on the church in 1953 with the west Window being restored in 1954.
Full restoration work on the church was not started until September 1957 and was completed in 1962. It was opened officially with a Pontifical High Mass on 11th July, 1962, attended by Cardinal Godfrey with the sermon being preached by Abbot Bryne of Ampleforth, Abbot President of the Benedictine Congregation. Thus the first monastic church in London since the reformation was finally complete again.
Abbot Laurence Soper put in place the most recent development of the Church which includes cloister, sacristies, new choir and stalls, altar and dais, baptistery, Chapter (Newman) chapel, Blessed Sacrament Chapel and a niche for the Statue of Our Lady of Ealing
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© Ealing Abbey, copyright 21 November 2013