St.Jospeh's MilfordA Parishioner's Memories of St. Joseph's Church, Milford

We are very grateful to one of our parishioners who shares his recollections with us.

We came to live in Godalming in November 1957. St Edmund's was the one and only Catholic church in the Parish, served by Canon Hawkins and one curate.

Public transport was non-existent on a Sunday and few people had their own cars at the time. We came to Mass (from Hurtmore) by taxi - sometimes picking up a nurse from the Manor House on Farncombe Hill - which was their ‘home’.

A coach was provided by the parish for the Catholics from Farncombe.

In those now far-off days, the Catholics on the far south-western edges of the town were welcomed on Sundays at the Barrow Hills chapel, and there was also a small and much-loved chapel-of-ease in Elstead.

All of this at the time must have been rather diffuse for a town-based Parish, and Canon Hawkins was prompted to consider building an out-of-town-centre church to serve his most far-flung parishioners. The catalyst was the offer for a song (only £500, I seem to remember) of Mr John Hedley's orchard - next to his house, Crowland Cottage, in Portsmouth Road, Milford. This is now the site of St. Joseph's.

An architect was commissioned to prepare a design but the whole idea was put on hold by the Canon's sudden death. His successor Fr. Pledger went ahead very deftly using the same basic design but re-positioning the altar and sanctuary into the centre of the church (rather that at its far end). I guess this was the result of the edicts of Vatican II, with its emphasis on the priest facing the people? What I do remember is that the first Mass said there in English and with the church laid out this way left several of us close to tears!

Raising the money for the building of the church was a mighty parish effort which continued relentlessly for many years. Some
parishioners also gave individual items for the church. Mrs Jacqueline Bett, who used to live in one of the Georgian cottages opposite what is now Secrett's farm shop, gave the ‘Holy Spirit’ window that was first sited in the Baptistery but is now in the main church. Miss Pat Hedley (née Patricia Fleming) gave the little statue of St. Joseph in memory of her step father, John, who had given the land for the church’s site. Pat still lived in Crowland Cottage, and had taken her step father’s after his death.

I can't remember when the church was opened, but I do remember that the interior was re-ordered on various occasions. Fr Tony Clarke later removed the altar rails and re-set the font in the sanctuary - roughly near and below the lectern on the Epistle side (that shows my age!). Later again, the font was put back in the baptistery, and the sanctuary was again changed to bring the altar nearer to the congregation. Recently, the back of the Church has been converted to give more room for various uses, including Children’s Liturgy.

St Joseph’s was dedicated by our Bishop, Cormac Murphy-O’Connor (later to become Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster) on the Feast of St Joseph, Friday 19th March 1999.  Why did its consecration take so long? It had either been overlooked by the Diocese, or more likely it had taken ages for parishioners to pay off the debt. Either way, the church is now perhaps the busiest in the Parish, with a popular Family Mass on Sunday mornings and is often packed for First Communion and School Masses, baptisms, weddings and funerals. And we are glad to share St Joseph’s with the Polish community of this area.

Below are the short prayers for the church which Bishop Cormac said when he dedicated the building to St Joseph on 19th March, 1999:

Lord, fill this place with your presence, and extend your hand to all those who call upon you.
May your word here proclaimed and your sacraments here celebrated strengthen the hearts of all the faithful.
And may all here today, and all those in days to come who will celebrate your sacred mysteries in this church, be united at last in the holy city of your peace.
We ask this in the name of Jesus our Lord.