Parish History

St Dunstan's Catholic Church, Woking

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St Dunstan

The first mention of Christianity in Woking appears in a letter from Pope Constantine in 710. The monks of Medehamstead (Peterborough) had a small daughter house in Wocchingas (Woking). In 777 control was given to the the monks of the monastery church of St. Peter. The site of the monastery is probably where St. Peter's Old Woking now stands and the original Saxon church is presumed to have been destroyed at the time of the sacking of Chertsey Abbey by the Danes in 871.

When Edward the Confessor succeeded to the throne in 1042, he placed his Norman chaplain, Osbern(later Bishop of Exeter) in charge of St Peter's. By then the Church had already been rebuilt in the Norman Style, the existing West Door dates from this time.

In the reign of Richard I a small band canons built Newark Priory and around 1259 Woking Church was served by a vicar paid by Newark Priory. These monks owned the tithes of Woking and Horsell and appointed Woking vicars from 1291 until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1571.


Newark Priory

Woking Palace built on a site just to the east of St Peter's was chosen by Henry VIII as his summer residence. During the latter part of his reign Henry appropriated the goods from many of the monasteries and Newark Priory was no exception. The reformation gathered pace under Edward VI and St Peter's was plundered.

During the reign of Elizabeth I Catholics in England suffered persecution. The ex Archbishop of York was forced to live under surveillance at his house in Chobham, a few miles northwest of Woking. A number of Catholics in the area paid fines for recusancy (refusing to attend the Protestant church). By 1676, records reveal 130 "Papists" in Surrey, less than 1% of the population.

After emancipation in 1791 some Catholic missions were established, further encouraged by an influx of refugees from France after the revolution. However by 1851 only 1.4% of church attendances were Catholic.

The new town of Woking was established on land surrounding Woking junction after the construction of the railway line to Southampton and Portsmouth. The original village of Woking is now named Old Woking. Catholic residents of the new town travelled to Send or to St. Edward's Sutton Green to celebrate Mass.

In the late 1800's the Revd W.D. Allanson established a permanent mission in Woking. In 1899 he built an iron church in Percy street.


St Dunstan's Church, Percy Street

In 1923 Fr. Plummer took over the parish from Fr. John Peall and set about building a new church in the fifteenth century English gothic style.


St Dunstan's, White Rose Lane

On 26 April 1925 Bishop Brown of Pella laid the foundation stone. Eight months later on 8 December (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), Mass was said in the new St Dunstan's church. Fr. Plummer chose St Dunstan to be the patron of the new church since he had also been patron of the church in Percy Street.

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Father Plummer

Fr Plummer died in 1954 and was buried in the grounds of the church he had established. On 13th July 2006, as part of the redevelopment of parish facilities, Bishop Kieran re-interred Fr Plummer's remains in the cemetery adjacent to St Edward the Confessor church at Sutton Place.


Saint Dunstan's Church in White Rose Lane
Line drawing by John McNamara

Saint Dunstan's community grew during the early part of the 20th century. St Hughs Church, Knaphill was opened in 1907 and in 1954 Our Lady Help of Christians West Byfleet, both have subsequently become separate parishes.

A number of Italian immigrants came to work in the market gardens in Woking after the Second World War and in 1973 the Scalabrini Father arrived to minister to the community, and so began the Italian Mass on Sunday at St. Dunstan's.

By the 1960's the Catholic community had grown large enough to justify the building of another church at Kingfield, and Our Lady Mother of God was opened in 1962.

The first parish school was opened in Onslow Crescent in 1953. In 1958 St Dunstan's School was opened and then St Francis School in 1973. Due to a change of educational policy the St Francis First School and St Dunstan's Middle School were combined in 1993 to form St Dunstan's Primary School.

The Site of St Francis was retained and the buildings used for a number of purposes until in 2006, when development of the site started. In March 2006, Our Lady Mother of God in Kingfield was closed in anticipation of the new church being built on the St Francis site.

The move to the new site occured on 8th August 2008 with the first Mass in the new building being celebrated at 10 am on 9th.  Click here for pictures. The new church was dedicated on 22nd October 2008 by the Right Reverend Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton in the presence of HE Cardinal Cormac Murphy - O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and former Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. Click here for pictures.

If you would like to find out more about the History of Saint Dunstan's Woking a paperback is available from the Parish Office price £3.00.

The Arundel & Brighton Diocese Trust is a registered Charity Number 252878. Page last updated on 30 May, 2014