A Brief History
of St Monica's Catholic Church, Wivenhoe from 1967 - 2003Written to commemorate the rebuilding of
the West Boundary Wall, June 2003.
Before St. Monica's Church was built,
Wivenhoe's Catholics attended Mass at either St James's Church in
Colchester, the Church of St Sabina in Brightlingsea, St John's Ambulance
Hut, The Greyhound Public House or a room at the "Boys School"
(the present Wivenhoe Library site). Mass was sometimes even celebrated in
a small stable to the rear of the present church, which although it sounds
a little unconventional, to my mind not inappropriate!
In 1908 the first Mass
since the Reformation was said in Brightlingsea and just after the Second
World War the priest began to travel from there to the old school in the
Wivenhoe High St. to celebrate Mass.
With the population of the village
growing so quickly in the 1960's the provision of a Catholic Church was
deemed desirable and on the 20th April 1967 this church building of St
Monica's, as we see it today, was formally opened by the Bishop. Currently
about 90-100 people attend the 10.45am Sunday Mass.
The land upon which our church and
gardens now stand once formed part of the Corsellis estate. Zegar
Corsellis was an elder of the Dutch Church whose son, Nicholas the first,
bought the manor of Wivenhoe in 1657.
Their family home, Wivenhoe Hall, stood at the North End of what is now
known to us as the King George V Playing Fields and within its boundaries
were a stable block (at the rear of our church) a summer house (which in
the mid 1950's became the site for the present Congregational Church) and
a kitchen garden, upon which St Monica's now stands. The estate gardener
lived in the house opposite the church on the left of Cedric's Garage
The family name of Nicholas Caesar
Corsellis remained popular and the kitchen garden wall - which we
celebrate the rebuilding of today - contains a plaque bearing the initials
In 1925 Wivenhoe Hall nearly burnt down
and eventually in 1927 it was demolished. The land was purchased for
£750.00 and in 1935 the George V Playing Fields were opened. We were to
wait for a further 32 years to realise our own dreams and plans.
Our present church is constructed mainly
of cedar wood. Fr. Michael Butler, our priest at that time, dedicated the
railings and Millennium Gates at the front boundary in July 2000. The
maintenance of the building and its surroundings is supervised by the
Church Committee who rely on the physical and financial support of the
A structural survey undertaken in 2001
informed us that the western boundary brick wall was considered to be
unsafe and would therefore have to be demolished. Today, 13th June 2003 we
are celebrating it's rebuilding by a local builder Mr Frost, who was able
to utilise most of the original bricks.
St Monica's Church has literally been a
Godsend. Its congregation has also been blessed with the parish priests
who have faithfully continued their journeys from Brightlingsea to
Wivenhoe over the years to tend to their pastoral needs. Our current
parish priest Fr. Martin Boland lives in the presbytery at Brightlingsea
and is also responsible to parishioners of St Sabina's Church as well as
the church at Great Bentley. Add to this his work as chaplain at the
University of Essex and we realise the amount that we have come to expect
from our priests. They all have given unstintingly and as a parish we
continue not only to thank them but also to pray for them and hope that we
play our part by providing our support and encouragement now and in the
Much of above information was given by
local residents and some taken from various books including Nicholas
Butler's ''History of Wivenhoe" for which I give all of them full
here for the Wivenhoe Encyclopedia History Section home page