The History of our Parish
Welcome to the Catholic community which has its home in the two churches of Sacred Heart Wadhurst and St Peter, Prince of Apostles, Rotherfield.
The Parish area covers seven villages – Wadhurst, Mark Cross, Rotherfield, Frant, Ticehurst, Flimwell and Stonegate.
In 1879 a monastery was founded just north of Wadhurst Station called The Mount. The Rosminian order of priests, mainly Italian, were resident there and people used the chapel for their Sunday Mass.
Edward Pugin designed both St Joseph’s, Mark Cross and Mayfield College. At Mark Cross there was an orphanage dedicated to St Michael which opened in 1869. Later it was to become the Junior Seminary St Joseph’s College (1925 – 1970) for training students for the priesthood. They completed their training at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh near Guildford. St Joseph’s College was also the spiritual home for many local people.
The year 1868 was the opening of Xaverian College, Mayfield for boys. This sadly closed in 1998. The Convent of the Holy Child Jesus and School for Girls, opened in 1872 at The Old Palace, Mayfield, formerly the holiday residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury.
People walked or rode many miles to attend masses in these places. They would take food with them and have breakfast after Mass before their journey home.
In addition to the above there was, in more recent years, St Benedict’s Priory in Mayfield Lane which was the Novitiate for the Benedictine Tyburn Nuns. Later is was used as a guest house and a centre for Perpetual Adoration and daily Mass. In 1993 this property was sold and converted into luxury accommodation, now known as Beechlands. The nuns continue their work in Cobh, Southern Ireland.
Finally, there was St Lawrence’s Convent in Frant (July 1942 – May 1972), run as a home for wayward girls. St Joseph’s Mark Cross supplied priests to say Mass for this community. This is now Frant Court.
Wadhurst people wanted a place nearer the village for Sunday Mass – they felt the last mile and a half to The Mount just too much even though cars and buses were making life easier. March 11, 1929 was the official opening and blessing by Bishop Peter Amigo of the new Church of the Sacred Heart in Wadhurst.
The opening of the school followed in 1935, although some teaching for Catholic children was started in local houses. the Convent of Notre Dame opened in a house called ‘Gillies’ in Mayfield Lane on 6th October 1930 and sadly closed on 14th December 1966.
The two nuns from this Convent (now Weald Hall) were the first teachers at the school which was in the grounds behind the church and was recently demolished to make way for the new school hall.
When the Notre Dame nuns left, the Rosminian nuns came to the convent for seven and a half years (January 1967 – September 1975), during which time the numbers of children at the school was increased to nearly 50 and teaching standards were raised.
When the Rosminian nuns left, it was clear that lay staff would have to take over the running of the school. Currently there are approximately 120 children at the school ranging in age from 3 – 11 years (Nursery – Year 6).
Catholic faith in the area was strong and members of the Parish living around Rotherfield were inspired to campaign for a second church! Thus we have St Peter’s, Rotherfield. It was opened after sustained local fundraising and to public delight in 1963, Bishop Cowderoy came to bless the church and congratulate the parish.