Ashford town is changing and growing. The once quiet market town now has a busy international railway station, numerous industrial estates, extensive retail outlets and an expanding general hospital. The government has put in motion a programme of house building that will ensure that Ashford will double in size by 2030. St. Teresa’s, Ashford is one of two parishes serving this growing population.
The parish was born in Calehill, a manor house close to Little Chart and about five miles from Ashford. The first Mass after the Reformation was said in the family home of John Darrell in a chapel dedicated to St. Joseph. Fr. James Darrell, a Jesuit and son of John, served as the priest for Ashford district from 1769 to 1775. A number of priests worked in the area until 1884 when Fr. O’Toole became parish priest. At this time Ashford’s population was growing due to the expanding railway works.
Dr O’Toole began the collection of funds for the building of a church in Ashford. In 1862, a chapel was opened on the present site of St Teresa’s. This temporary chapel was replaced by a fine church designed by Edward Pugin, son of the famous Augustus Welby Pugin. When the parish celebrated the centenary of the opening of St Teresa’s the parish priest, Canon Ambrose Woods, wrote, “After a century of excellent service, the old St Teresa’s, so loved by the parishioners, is now too small, even on normal Sundays.” The seed was planted for the building of the new St Teresa’s.
In 1987 St Simon’s, South Ashford became a separate parish. When Fr Tom Cooper became parish priest in 1988 one of his first tasks was to commission the building of our new spacious church. It was designed by Tom Holohan and Associates and consecrated by Archbishop Michael Bowen on 28th April 1991. The Church of St Ambrose in Oxenturn Road, Wye is served from Ashford. It was opened in 1954 by Archbishop Cyril Cowderoy.
During the Second World War the army occupied Wye College. The chaplain said Mass each Sunday for the men and local residents were invited to join them. After the war Mass was said in the old Vicarage in Bridge Street which was owned by a Mrs Whatmore. Her son Fr Leonard used to say Mass for the people of Wye. Later the adjoining stable was converted into a chapel and this remained in use until St Ambrose chapel was built.
In the late 1940s, Southwark Diocese purchased the house and land which had belonged to the Whatmores. In 1954 the present St Ambrose chapel was built and in 1973 the altar area was modified to reserve the Blessed Sacrament.
The two old oak carved benches, presently on either side of the altar, provide an interesting link with the past as they originally came from the private chapel at Calehill.
Our church now…