Cross Penzance Catholic Church  'The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady' part of 'The Holy Family' Parish  >  "History section index" | sitemap

HISTORY OF THE RC PARISH of PENZANCE.

BUILDING THE CHURCH

Father William Young arrived in Penzance on 19th July 1840. He found an old schoolroom in Morrab Place to live in and to use as a chapel - "big enough for about 12 or 14 persons". But as numbers started to increase this proved to be too small, and he moved to "a little Methodist chapel, near NewIyn Bridge".

His friends back in Ireland responded very generously to his appeal for funds for his "Cornish Mission". He was soon able, on 4th June 1841, to purchase part of a field called "Barber's Acre" in a rapidly expanding residential area high up on the hill on the eastern edge of town. With his experience of building churches at Baldoyle and Kinsaley in Dublin, he was ready to start a very ambitious building in Penzance. We know of no architect and no regular firm of builders - did he plan it all himself?

There is a lovely picture of his method, or lack of it, in a book by J.S. Courtney entitled "Half a Century of Penzance - 1825 to 1875":

"I was at the bank when Father Young brought a small sum of money to be at the disposal of a young woman who had opened a shop oil the terrace for the sale of Roman Catholic books. Shortly after, I was told the money was towards building the church, and weekly I was to pay the young woman for the work done. The shop soon closed, and the woman gone; The men then came to me for their wages, and before long I found it almost a matter of necessity that I should superintend the building .... in the end it all rested with a young exciseman named MacEnerny, and myself. The funds were supplied iii a marvellous manner, remitted from all parts of the kingdom. We never had a month's pay in hand - often at the end of the week scarcely a pound; but yet it went on, and the masons' and carpenters work was done.

The foundations and the great granite walls of the church steadily rose from the ground. But funds began to run out before the roof could be added. It was at this stage that Father Young went to Dublin to seek more contributions. There he met a young priest, Father William Daly, a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate, who was on an exploratory mission from his order to the British Isles. Father Young proposed to offer the new mission at Penzance to the Oblates who were planning to set up their British headquarters and novitiate. The Vicar Apostolic of the Western District, Bishop Peter Baines, had been badly let down by another religious order and was reluctant; but he was eventually persuaded to give his permission. And so, we come to the next, and disastrous, episode in the story of the Penzance mission.

Dr. George Oliver, our earliest Catholic historian of the diocese, writes that of all people "The Rev. William Young deserves the name of the apostle of Cornwall".

created 29th October 2004 - last  revised 3rd March, 2010 v1.01 -