Catholics have worshipped in Petts Wood since 1937, and in a variety of venues. The first was the Daylight Inn, Station Square, hired for Sundays and Holy Days for the princely sum of ten shillings and sixpence (half a guinea or 52.5p in new money) on each occasion. The first Mass was celebrated on 24th October 1937, and the story even made it to the national press!
Catholics in Petts Wood originally came under the care of Holy Innocents, Orpington and its clergy – Fr Lawrence Bovington, and his assistant Fr Louis Fitzmaurice. As numbers increased, Fr Bovington cast about for a site on which to build a church, and eventually a small building was constructed on Lakeswood Road. It was placed under the patronage of St James the Great and saw the celebration of its first Mass on 23rd July 1939.
In 1941 Fr Hubert Simes, assistant priest at Orpington, was given charge of the church and people of Petts Wood. In the following year, the care of Petts Wood was transferred to the parish of Chislehurst. The site on which St James’ Primary School would eventually be built was secured, and in 1944, 283 Crescent Drive was purchased for future use as a presbytery.
Our first Parish Priest
In 1946, Fr Cyril Scarborough became the first resident Parish Priest and he was succeeded by Fr John Wright in 1956. Fr Wright served the parish until his death in 1978.
Meanwhile the existing church was proving inadequate, because Petts Wood had continued to develop as a residential area, and a new building was needed. In 1963, Archbishop Cowderoy laid the foundation stone of what is now the present building and later in the year it was opened for regular worship. The old premises were then altered for use as a hall, and is now our Community Centre. In 1970, nearly 30 years after Fr Simes had secured the site, the Primary School of St James the Great was opened in Maybury Close.
On 25th July 1978, the feast of St James the Great, Fr Wright was succeeded by Monsignor John Elliott, who was duly instituted by Archbishop Bowen. During the Silver Jubilee Year of the church, on 17th July 1988, Archbishop Bowen officially consecrated and dedicated the church. In Mgr Elliott’s time the church and adjoining hall were to be redesigned and enlarged. 281A Crescent Drive was purchased as an addition to the Presbytery.
In September 2006, Mgr Elliott retired, and in October of that year Fr Bryan Wells and his family were received into the parish. Fr Bryan was inducted as Priest-in-Charge on 24th November 2006 by the area bishop, the Rt Revd Patrick Lynch, SSCC. Fr Bryan and his wife Teresa left St James’ on 27th July 2014. The 11.00am Mass was Fr Bryan’s last as Priest-in-Charge. Fr Tom Cooper became Parish Priest the following week. Fr Tom retired to Ireland in April 2015 and was succeeded by Fr David Camilleri.
The recent past
Fr David was inducted at the 11.00am Mass on Sunday 31st May 2015 by Bishop Patrick Lynch. A large congregation of parishioners and friends welcomed Fr David as the new Parish Priest. Several fellow priests, including Fr Barry Hughes, concelebrated Mass with Bishop Pat. After Mass there were celebrations held in the Community Centre, with a buffet provided by the CWL.
Fr David has presided over many changes, including the refurbishment of the Community Centre, the Parish Office and the Presbytery. He has set up a Parish Pastoral Council, and instituted seven pillars which cover the spiritual, pastoral, social and administrative needs of the parish. Many other initiatives can be discerned through the pages of this website.