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History of the church

1840's - 1900
Plans for a New Church
The new Church
Opening of the Church of Our Lady,
Help of Christians and St Aloysius,
17 July 1889
The Great War
The Building of Stella Maris School and the new church in Cheriton
Golden Jubilee and Consecration of the Church, 21 June 1939
The Second World War
War time difficulties and problems
Post-War reconstruction
The Re-ordering of the Church
after Vatican II
Visit of the Pope to Canterbury
End of the XX Century
Centenary Thanksgiving Mass,
16 July 1989
Present day
Priests who have served the Parish
The history of the parish is based on the extracts from:

Catholic Folkestone, A Post-Reformation History by Eammon D. Rooney and Dennis Creighton-Davies

Copyright: Roman Catholic Parish of Our Lady, Help of Christians & St. Aloysius, Folkestone

Copies of the booklet may be obtained from:

The Catholic Presbytery
41 Guildhall Street
Kent CT20 1EF



The Great War
King Edward died and was succeeded by King George V, and a new era began. On 4 August 1914, war was declared between Great Britain and Germany. The town almost immediately became a 'prohibited area'. The situation naturally curtailed the normal life of the town. About August, the first little fleet of fishing boats, motorboats and almost anything that would float arrived at the harbour. The refugees from Belgium had begun to descend upon the town.

Every available space was taken up to house the refugees including church halls, schools, lodging houses and an extensive block of buildings in the Sandgate Road, It is estimated that 64,000 refugees passed through Folkestone. Some 15,000 were provided with food and shelter during the first few weeks of hostilities.

On May 25 1917, at a time when people were still doing their shopping and Tontine Street was a scene of bustle and activity, a squadron of Gothas arrived from the westward, releasing about four dozen bombs in what has been described as the biggest and deadliest raid of the war up to that point. A man was killed instantly when a large explosion occurred at the junction of Bouverie Road and Cheriton Road. Other bombs fell in various locations but it was Tontine Street that was the scene of the greatest devastation. In all, seventy persons were killed and over a hundred injured during the raid. The town did not suffer any further bombing of any significance.

Many Folkestone men served in the armed forces at this time. A former pupil of the local Catholic School particularly distinguished himself. Acting corporal William Richard Cotter was in 6th Battalion, East Kent Regiment (The Buffs). He had already been blinded in one eye when, early in 1916, he was involved in heavy crater fighting around the Hohenzellern Redoubt. His right leg was blown off below the knee and he was wounded in both arms. Yet, he succeeded in making his way unaided some twenty yards to a crater where he took command of several men of his own company. He rallied their spirits and organized them to resist further attacks successfully. His cheery, gallant leadership was an inspiration, even though his wounds, which were to prove fatal, were not dressed for two hours and he was not moved for fourteen. However, his Victoria Cross was gazetted so swiftly that his Corps commander, Sir Herbert Gough, was able to pin the purple medal ribbon on Cotter before he died as he lay in his hospital bed.
After the Armistice the country started to get back to normal.


The Building of Stella Maris School and the new church in Cheriton
In December 1925, plans for a new school on a two-acre site near Radnor Park took shape. It was intended to provide accommodation for 200 children. In October 1933, work began on the site, to plans drawn by Mr. E J Walters, and little more than six months later all was complete. On April 18 1934, his Eminence Cardinal Francis Bourne formally opened the new school, dedicating it to our Lady under the title of 'Stella Maris'. At the end of 1934, the parish was reduced by over 100 due to the opening of a new church in Cheriton. Mgr Coote sang Solemn High Mass on the occasion.


Golden Jubilee and Consecration of the Church, 21 June 1939
On the 01 January 1939 Fr Walters announced that, as the church was free of debt, consecration of the building could now take place on St. Aloysius Day.
The solemn consecration of the church took place on 21 June 1939, the ceremonies being conducted by Archbishop Amigo. Relics of Saints Jucundina and Verecunda were sealed into the altar table. Research has failed to reveal what the relics were or, indeed, any details of these apparently female saints. The singing of the Magnificat brought the four-hour service of dedication to a close. A luncheon was provided at the Royal Pavilion Hotel at which Fr Walters presided and to which he welcomed the Archbishop, civic dignitaries, visiting clergy and the many parishioners who were present. In the evening a solemn Te Deum was sung in the first Catholic Church to be consecrated in Folkestone since the Reformation.


The Second World War
On Sunday 3rd September 1939 the Second World War broke out. Fr Walters announced the news from the sanctuary steps. In anticipation of the bombing of London, schoolchildren were sent to less populous areas and Stella Maris School and the parish hall were taxed to the limit in accommodating children from the Downham district of South East London.

After the landing at Dunkirk in 1940, the children from Stella Maris School were evacuated to Wales. Folkestone emptied even more as the government ordered the evacuation of all non-essential persons. Houses were empty and shops closed down. There was no school and no hospital.

In June 1940 it was proposed to the diocese that the two Folkestone parishes of Our Lady Help of Christians and of St Joseph should be amalgamated for the duration of the war. A fortnight later His Grace the Archbishop made his periodic visitation and appraised the situation at first hand. His Grace closed St Joseph's Church at Cheriton and permitted Fr Dwyer to leave. He noted that seventy children were evacuated to Merthyr Tydfil and the school was occupied by the army.


War time difficulties and problems
The air offensive declined to some extent, apart from the nightly bombing. Shelling from the French coast increased however, most of it directed against convoys that hugged the coast but some against the town or harbour area. The two priests maintained two Sunday Masses and one weekday Mass at both churches.

The New Year of 1942 found the parish barely solvent. The United States had been drawn into the war a month earlier. This led to the redeployment of German air power and the reduction in air raids led to some relaxation of the evacuation regulations. A trickle of citizens began to return to the town.

The year 1943 opened with the feeling that invasion was not likely but the civilian population was weary and debilitated. Archbishop Amigo visited the parish in May and was well pleased with the work being done. News of the final expulsion of Axis forces from Africa coincided with the Archbishop's visit and he led the thanksgiving for those good tidings.

In addition to his priestly duties Canon Walters participated in the life of the community and maintained a lively correspondence with parishioners who had been evacuated or called to the army. Sporadic air raids and shelling still occurred as activity increased prior to the anticipated Allied landing in Europe. A member of the congregation remembers, as an altar boy, the special Mass said by Fr Walmsley for the paratroopers as the day drew near. The church was packed. Weapons and accoutrements were stacked at the rear of the church as the service proceeded. In winter 1944, Midnight Mass was restored at Christmas and the year ended with gratitude for survival and growing hope for the future
As the year 1945 opened more and more people returned to the town and Fr Walmsley set about re-establishing the school and parish societies. Stella Maris reopened on 19 March with Sister St John as headmistress. In July, Cheriton again became a separate parish on the installation of Fr O'Brien.