The Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was one of many built after WWII during a time of rapid growth due to migration and the increased birth rate. Bishop Toohey is reported to have wanted a Catholic Church within walking distance of every Catholic home so he would have been pleased to declare the Tighes Hill church “open for business” in November 1955.
The presbytery or rectory next door was completed earlier in 1955 and house a number of priests who worked in the communities of Tighes Hill and Newcastle. The little time I spent researching the history of the presbytery didn’t uncover much of its history. In 2001 the presbytery was leased to Catholic Care as a base for their youth accommodation service and has been used as office space since then.
I work for a catholic organisation that provides a large number of services to the community. The service for which I work is based in the old presbytery which is much the same today, when this photo was taken, as it was all those years ago when it was home to the priests. I’ve been interested in its history and wanted to delve into the services that have occupied the old priests’ quarters since their departure. While there has been a lot written about the church next door there is a paucity of information relating to the men who lived in the presbytery.
When our service moved into the building it was in poor condition which necessitated a complete internal make over. Thanks to the visionaries on the team (of which I’m not one) the place has been transformed from a dingy and dishevelled state to a light and airy place in which to work with a team of people passionate about serving the community. In winters past those of us in the downstairs offices have literally had to rug up as it has been so cold in spite of heaters. This winter we look forward to a warmer working space as the parish, who still own the building, recently insulated the roof and are looking into insulating the ceiling of the ground floor.
The visionary phase of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its presbytery is also interesting because Mr Benfield who was responsible for its design and build was not an architect. Consequently he had to find a local architect to approve his work.
At the moment ten of us work from the building but if that number increases we’ll be looking for new premises. Part of me hopes that doesn’t happen soon. I like the architecture and solid construction that makes me think of a constant and steadfast presence in the community.