Catholic Community


Friends of St Mary's Church, Cricklade, Wiltshire, U.K.


Chairman: Hugh Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Secretary: Gerry Dudley, 4 Pleydells, Cricklade, SWINDON, SN6 6NG

Treasurer: Tony Barratt, 13 Boundary Close, Stratton, SWINDON, SN2 7TF


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There is an article on the Catholic Community in Cricklade, written by Father Barton which is reproduced in Newsletter No 5. Click on the link for more details. Reproduced below is the list of the Catholic Parish Priests of Cricklade followed by a letter dated 7 November 2008, which provides further memories relating to the revival of the Catholic Community in Cricklade.


Catholic Parish Priests of Cricklade


1938 - 1943 Rev. Edmond MacSweeney Parish Priest of Fairford
1943 - 1952 Rev. Thomas P. Staunton Parish Priest of Cirencester
1952 - 1954 Rev. Francis Daly Acting Parish Priest of Cirencester
1954 - 1983 Rev. John O’Donnell Parish Priest of Cirencester
1983 Rev. Patrick Evans Parish Priest of Fairford
1983 -1993 Rev. Eamon McGlinchey Parish Priest of Fairford
1993 -1997 Rev. Anthony Fejer Parish Priest of Fairford
1997 -1998 Rev. Michael D’Arcy Walsh Parish Priest of Fairford
1998 - Rev. Richard John Barton Parish Priest of Fairford


The following is the text of a letter recently received by Friends from Michael Gannon, which details more memories of the early days of the revival of the Catholic Community here in Cricklade:

My son Dr Mark Gannon enlightened me about the article written by Father Barton on the revival of Celebration of Mass in a Catholic Church in Cricklade. One small error we noticed was the spelling of Mrs Bond, it should be Mrs Bonn.

Please find my memories below with some of the events in the revival of the Catholic Church, Cricklade, Wiltshire.

The story commences with Leo Bernard William Bonn who came to this country in 1870, leaving his native Franconia as he disliked the Prussian treatment of his native land following Prince Bismarck's victory over Bavaria and Austria in 1866.

Leo Bonn resided at Newbold Revel this was the ancestral home of the distinguished Roman Catholic de Revel family, a Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. By the time of his death Leo Bonn had ensured the care of the stained glass windows knowing that it was to be purchased by the Roman Catholic Carmelite Order. Leo Bonn had a son Walter Bonn who married a Lena Theodora Davidson (circa 1924).

Lena Theodora Davidson was from an old aristocratic family that had Catholicism links to all the Sovereigns of this country from King Charles II back to William the Conqueror .

The focus of this story, is that Lena Bonn was instrumental in resurrecting the first Mass in Cricklade for some 400 years, it took her several years of persevering, persuading and cajoling.

The marriage of Walter Bonn and Lena Davidson bore two sons Michael born January 1927 and Christopher born September 1929.

My father Matthew Gannon commenced working for Major Bonn as a Stud Groom at Street Ashton House, Nr Rugby, Warwickshire in the autumn of 1929.

In those Warwickshire years Mrs Bonn in her journey to Mass carried the 3 Gannon's, Mass was celebrated in a private house chapel owned by the Fieldings (Lord Denbigh)(once recusant) on his estate on the edge of Monks Kirby. There was also a Convent in the village with a boarding school, which Michael Gannon attended as a day pupil 1930-1932.

(The Catholics in Monks Kirby now have their own church Sf Joseph's, opened in the late 1980's.)

In December 1932 Major Walter Bonn moved his family to Common Hill House, Cricklade, Wiltshire, which previously was known as Chelworth House. (Now a private club) The Major requested that all his staff could join him if they so desired. When the Gannon's arrived at their new home around teatime on 5 December 1932, Fr. Staunton (priest at Cirencester, Glos) was awaiting in the stable yard and seeing Michael Gannon's string of Holy medals dangling from his neck gave a smile and a warm welcome.

Walter Bonn was educated at Eton, later he joined the Welsh Guards to serve in World War I with distinction and was awarded medals for gallantry. This educational process was repeated with his two sons, Michael and Christopher.

His wife Lena Bonn, was an energetic, imaginative, concientous, headstrong woman and a very, very, devout Catholic. In the early 1930's Mrs Bonn carried the Gannons to Mass in Cirencester every Sunday in company with her own family when they were home from school and Michael Gannon can remember that she spoke many times to his parents of how desperately we needed a Catholic Church in Cricklade and how hard she was trying.

Determined to create a place of Catholic worship in Cricklade and well aware of the time gap of some 400 years, Mrs Lena Bonn became the main negotiator to secure some initial accommodation for a place of worship that would suit the Roman Catholic demands, eventually succeeding with a Mr & Mrs Goodson who owned the Grocery shop in the High Street Cricklade. (Opposite the then Police Station)

This resulted in Lena Bonn eventually suggesting to Fr Mac Sweeney that Mass could possibly be celebrated in a room above the shop, overlooking the High Street in Goodson's grocery store Cricklade. Father Mac' obviously agreed and Bishop Lee must have also agreed.

The first Mass was celebrated in this room with about 15 Catholics present. It was in early summer and Michael Gannon is not completely sure but believes it could have been early summer 1937, perhaps 1938. Michael Gannon was an altar boy at this first Mass and for the first time had the Latin responses to make on his own. (he had previously been an altar boy since 1933 under Fr Staunton in Cirencester, with many other older altar boys such as Mr Gasman, Pat Stevens, Anthony Keeley and Freddie Copenhall) .Michael was fortunate in this situation that Mrs Bonn gave him tuition and pronounciation assistance with his Latin.

Michael can remember at the first Mass, The 4 Lynams from Purton Stoke, Mrs Armstrong, Mrs Bonn and her two sons, the 3 Gannons, some people from Latton, there was also the Ridge family.

Just before the war (Sept 1939) Michael Gannon remembers the celebration of Mass moving from the room above Goodson's shop into the building at the back of Goodson's shop, not far from the Gas Works.(one could smell it) The building was approached through Gas Lane. It had previously been a school and a local cinema, one of the projectionists had been a George Kilminster a Cricklade man who lived in Abingdon Court Road, well into his 90's.

In 1940 Matthew Gannon left Major Bonn's employ because of the wartime squeeze on hunting and the fact that the horses had reduced on the Major's estate leaving Matthew with gardening to make up his weekly hours. Matthew was granted the licence of the 'Foresters Arms' at the Leigh, this was a Stroud Brewery tied house about 1 mile further west from Common Hill, House. Living opposite to the pub were the Curtis family and Audrey the daughter of Mr and Mrs Curtis married Johnny Dunne one of the many Irishmen who came to this country to work on building the Airfields and Audrey converted to Roman Catholicism.

Johnny Dunne had a very good tenor voice, Michael often heard him singing in The Foresters.

When Michael Gannon attended the Elementary school at the bottom of the town (by the bridge over the Thames) 1933-1937, he remembers often seeing the Rev Bell with his mop of grey hair in his long black cassock, going hither and thither into St Mary's, which was later to become the Catholic Church.

One more aspect of the Bonn family's devotion to the Roman Catholicism is that Lena Bonn's son Michael was awarded the Knighthood of Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

In 1943 the Bonn family moved from Common Hill House to Marsden Manor on the Cirencester Cheltenham road. After the war the whole Bonn family moved 'lock stock and barrel' to Jersey.

Each Sunday that Michael Gannon served as an Altar boy 1937-1942, he was asked by Father Mac to count the number in the congregation. Obviously Father kept records of the Catholics attending Cricklade Mass and presented the numbers to the Bishop. These records are probably still available somewhere in Fairford prestbytery.

Michael Gannon joined the Navy in February 1942. We also have many memories of Father Mac Sweeney but this note is to give some credit to Mrs Lena Bonn which appears to have been slightly missed on the article by Fr Barton.

Just a few thoughts about the airfields, my father's pub backed out on the Blake Hill dispersal unit which was full of gliders, there was only a very small hedge and a ditch between the building and the field. My father had enough beer supplied by the brewery for 2 days a week and for 2 hours for each of those days in the 40's, and everyone in the area seemed to know when we were supplied, especially the troops tented behind the pub. They used to bang on the back bar window and my father used to fill up their bottles, jam jars and every other imaginable receptacle that they could manage to procure.

When I came home on leave May 1944 just before the invasion there were troops living in tents between the gliders waiting for the 'invasion on' time. There was a similar forces not far away at Down Ampney, Fairford and Southrop airfields.

The first time that they landed the bi-planes on Blake Hill was in 1934, Louis Robins the son of Major Bonn's cook accompanied me mounted on our bikes to view the planes, how exciting it seemed at that time. The bi-planes just needed a grass strip in those days, regardless of the fact that it was a bumpy field.

Apologies for the meandering, but there are so many memories of Fairford and Father Mac, the camps, the Polish camp in Fairford Park, etc etc.



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