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26. The Saint Joseph the Worker parish in Coventry, by Terence Richards - Part 1
27. The Saint Joseph the Worker parish in Coventry, by Terence Richards - Part 2
28. The Saint Joseph the Worker parish in Coventry, by Terence Richards - Part 3
29. A short history of Coventry's Theatres and Cinemas, by Bill Birch
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The Saint Joseph the Worker parish in Coventry, by Terence Richards - Part 1

The earlier years - In the beginning.

Saint Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic church, De Montfort Way, Cannon Park, Coventry, is in the deanery of Coventry and the archdiocese of Birmingham.

The parish boundary is: On the north side from the railway line to the A45 road, south along the A45 to the Kenilworth Road, then south on the Kenilworth Road to Gibbet Hill Road, and, finally, following the city boundary along Gibbet Hill Road and Westwood Heath Road.

The history of the Saint Joseph the Worker parish in Coventry begins in 1957, and it was in 1962 that the independent parish that came to have the aforementioned name was established.

The relevant time periods plus the parish priests and their nationalities are:

1962 - 1966 --- Father Bernard Boulton --- English --- He chose the parish name.

1966 - 1969 --- Father John Pinkman --- Irish.

1969 - 2011/2012 --- Father Michael Francis Jordan --- English.

It is written in British History Online that, "in the 20th century, the Roman Catholic population in Coventry and its neighbourhood both increased and became more widely distributed . . .
    "New suburban Roman Catholic parishes were formed in the years following the second world war . . .
    "In 1957, the priest in charge of All Souls church, [Kingsland Avenue, Chapelfields], was responsible for serving [a] new mass [centre] at Henry Parkes [primary] school in Prior Deram Walk, Canley, where the [attendance] averaged 240". The purpose was to cater for the significant - extensively working class - Roman Catholic population in Canley.
    N. B. Later, the above educational institution was to be renamed Sir Henry Parkes school. That name will be used throughout this historical journey.
    The White Willow Park housing development was to occupy the site of the former school from 2014.

Masses were held on Sunday mornings in the school hall from the late 1950s until 1966. The writer, and others who attended, carried chairs from the classrooms to the aforementioned hall, where the seating was then arranged.
    One of the priests from All Souls who said masses at Sir Henry Parkes school was Father John Galsius, who was English of, at least partly, Lithuanian stock. As he addressed the congregation, he would call those present "my dear brethren", sometimes folding a piece of paper as he spoke.

There was a lighter dimension at the school as well. It might have been before the establishment of the independent parish that the following occurred.
    During a mass at the venue, an altar server, possibly Joe Hastings, accidentally knocked the bell - whereupon members of the congregation, believing it to be a signal to kneel, promptly did so. That resulted in good natured amusement, while a smile could also be seen subsequently crossing the face of the altar server responsible.
    On another occasion at the school, on a cold morning, rather than say the word "chosen", a reader read to the congregation: "Many are called, but few (or few of us) are frozen". He can be suspected of thinking aloud.

The yet to be both independent and named parish of Saint Joseph the Worker had also acquired an indirect link to Australia in those far off days.
    Sir Henry Parkes school had a statue of a kangaroo in its front entrance area and was named after the man who was born in fairly nearby Moat Cottages in Canley when the latter was a hamlet in the parish of Stoneleigh. Sir Henry Parkes (1815 - 1896) emigrated to Australia, entered politics there and became known as the father of the Australian federation.

It is confirmed that the independent Roman Catholic parish was established in 1962.

The first parish priest was Father Bernard Boulton. He was possibly in his 40s or 50s regarding age, being average to tall in height and of medium build, with somewhat aquiline features and a full head of greying hair. Eventually, Father Boulton chose the name Saint Joseph the Worker for the church and parish.

Upon his arrival in 1962, the new priest lived in one of the steel houses, in what is known as the top end of Canley, with two sisters who had not previously been known to attend masses at the school.

Following the commencement of Father Boulton's time as parish priest, there might have been people from the top end of Canley, who had previously worshipped at Our Lady of the Assumption church in Tile Hill Lane, and those from elsewhere, who then began attending services at Sir Henry Parkes school. However, a substantial input of people from those areas possibly did not occur until a temporary church was built in Canley by the Kirby Corner Road/Shultern Lane junction in 1966.

There was irritation at the outset of Father Boulton's ministry. The new parish was an offshoot of All Souls, not the Assumption. However, at the school, Father Boulton would announce the times of forthcoming masses at the Assumption only, and he also once referred to O.L.A. sheets - whereas the relevant pieces of literature, for a horse racing game, were the A.S.D.A. (All Souls Development Association) sheets. The priest was appropriately advised and subsequently spoke of mass times at "neighbouring parishes".

The head of Father Boulton would noticeably move from the left to the right, then the right to the left, then back to the right, and so the cycle continued, as he read the lines of the notices before speaking. He would then announce the relevant matters twice.
    N. B. On one occasion, when announcing the notices during a mass at the school, Father Boulton confirmed that he was not from Coventry by, at least once, calling the Hotel Leofric: the Hotel Leffric.

The above priest would also make a point of directing part of his preaching at the children sitting on the front row in the school hall.

Another of Father Boulton's traits was that he would start singing Soul of My Saviour during communion, at which point the congregation would join in.

Away from the school, Father Boulton continued the practice of one or more priests from All Souls in that he would bring communion to the homes of those parishioners who were not able to attend mass.

In the context of parish income, Father Boulton introduced an outdoor collection scheme in 1963. The writer was a collector from the beginning until the end of the scheme. He and the other collectors were given rounds and would call at homes in the parish where Roman Catholics were known to live. Those visited were not exclusively people who attended mass at the school or, later, the temporary church. Homes in designated rounds were called on and financial contributions were received. The writer's rounds covered Cannon Hill Road and adjoining areas, including Canley Hall in Ivy Farm Lane. That hall referred to was a residential block accommodating men, not the private residence called Canley Hall Farmhouse in the same lane. Coincidentally, the latter residence in Ivy Farm Lane was also the home of the parishioners, the Shaw family, who were living there in the early 1970s and possibly before. Among the parishioners who contributed on the outdoor collection scheme were Mr. Tim Clifford, a Welshman of Merynton Avenue, who was the production control manager at the former Banner Lane site of Massey Ferguson, the tractor manufacturer, and the then Paula Thorogood of Cannon Hill Road, who became the head of display at the former C and A clothing retailer in the central part of Coventry. ??The latter parishioner gave 5 shillings (£0.25) a week, while her widowed mother, who lived in the same house, made a weekly contribution of 15 shillings (£0.75). That was very generous giving in those long past days of the 1960s. The money collected, conventionally cash, from all the contributors to the outdoor collection scheme, was subsequently paid in on Sundays at the school then the temporary church. The collectors were also obliged to keep record books, supplied by the parish, which were periodically audited. The outdoor collection scheme is thought to have lasted until around 1969.
    N. B. The writer was employed in a purchasing capacity at Massey Ferguson from 1964 until 1967. In 1966 and 1967, the above mentioned Mr. Clifford was the manager of the function in which the writer was engaged.

In the 1963 to 1964 period, during a service at the school, Father Boulton commented about employment, saying that, if an employee did not make a maximum effort at work, such a person was robbing the employer. The priest is not remembered saying that, when an employer had an employee working overtime and did not pay the latter for that additional work, the employer was robbing the employee.

The Labour party won the General Election of the 15th of October, 1964. Subsequently, Father Boulton, again, during a service at the school, urged relevant prayers, or whatever, regarding the newly elected government, ending his comments by pointedly saying: "especially as there's been (or just been) a change".

Whether it was when services were still being held at the school or in the succeeding temporary church, oblong collection boxes, with glass panels sloping downward for security, to be used at masses, were another introduction by Father Boulton. His prior explanation was that it was to avoid the embarrassment of accidentally dropping the collection plate and consequently having the money spilt, something that, he revealed, he had once done himself.
    N. B. Throughout this historical journey, the total financial amounts of the parish income received from the outdoor collections, the church collections or any other source/s, are not known, and, should there be the absence of relevant long term records, those who might possess the knowledge are deceased.

Christmas midnight masses were held at Charter primary school in Glebe Close, Canley, in 1963 and 1965.

In the first half of the 1960s - the 1964 period, for example - when masses were held at Sir Henry Parkes school, there was a parish magazine called The Vine. It was edited by a male parishioner who lived in Sir Henry Parkes Road. Referring to youths who would arrive at the school, but not actually attend the service, at least one edition of the publication contained the invitation: "since you're comin' to mass, come in to mass". The Vine is not remembered as being particularly successful, despite one or more appeals by the editor for people to forward written contributions - a "brickbat" or whatever - and it eventually went out of existence.

By 1965, Father Boulton had moved into a house at 50 Cannon Hill Road, where he was to remain living during his time as parish priest. The house was to be the home of the next two parish priests until the present church and presbytery were built.

When writing the Saint Joseph the Worker parish history, it is relevant to acknowledge that Christian kindness was effected by churches that were not Roman Catholic, as outlined in the written words of Father Michael Francis Jordan: "From the beginning of [the] parish in 1962, both the Methodists and the parish of St. Stephen (Church of England) were a great help and support to [the parish]. The Methodists used to lend . . . their premises for the instruction of [the] children for first Confession and first Holy Communion, as well as for meetings of [the] Union of Catholic Mothers. It was a sad day when they decided they must leave the area. St. Stephen's Mothers' Union used to invite [the mothers of the Catholic parish] to all their functions, and the friendship between St. Stephen's and the parish of Saint Joseph the Worker . . . continued to develop and grow".
    At that time, the president of the Saint Joseph the Worker branch of the Union of Catholic Mothers was the late Mrs. Eileen Christina King who lived in Gerrard Avenue with her husband and her extended family.
    The Methodist church was by the Prior Deram Walk/Daubeny Road junction in Canley.
    Saint Stephen the Martyr church is in Charter Avenue, Canley.

It is confirmed that the eventual site for the first Saint Joseph the Worker church was to be by the Kirby Corner Road/Shultern Lane junction in Canley.

Father Jordan had further written that "it took four years after the founding of the parish to obtain a site for [the] Saint Joseph the Worker church. However, the city authorities would allow only a temporary building designed to last not more than ten years without special care on a site which was also temporary. [That] was because they were not yet ready to develop the area and did not want to prejudice any future development they might carry out".

In 1966, Father Boulton and the parishioners were to move to the first Saint Joseph the Worker church.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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