The Catholic community in Hayes started forming before the Second World War, as the village faced rapid expansion. In 1936 and 1937 a coach brought Catholics from Coney Hall and Hayes to Sunday Mass at St Joseph’s Church, Bromley. In 1938 Fr David Cox from Bromley said Mass at the Rex (later Odeon) Cinema in Hayes. In 1940 Mass was said at the New Inn, until September of that year, when the Inn was badly damaged by a direct hit. In 1941 the Catholic community moved into the village hall.
Fr Cox had founded the Hayes Catholic Association in 1939 to raise funds for the building of a church.
On 22 March 1946 the Diocese of Southwark bought the site for the church, presbytery and hall for £4,500. The site had been that of the Grandfields Nursery, but this had been hit by a V2 rocket in the late afternoon of 9 February 1945, killing four people, including three members of the Grandfield family.
Aftermath of February 1945 V2 rocket attack (photo Peter Gilbey)
As no traces of the victims were ever found, the seller – the one surviving Grandfield family member – wished that the site be used not for housing but for religious purposes. Each 9 February the parish holds a Foundation Mass in memory of the Grandfield family. (Each 5 May a Foundation Mass is also offered for the repose of the souls of the Coffey family.)
Following the purchase of the site, lack of funds and materials shortages delayed building work. In the early 1950s, Hayes was transferred from Bromley parish to the parish of West Wickham.
Entries in Catholic Directory, 1955 and 1967
In November 1954 a multi-purpose hall, Rosary Hall, opened. Two years later Hayes officially became a mission and the hall was converted into the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, which opened on 15 November 1956. However, in the first years the hall was still used for badminton and dances, as well as to hold Mass. In the early 1960s the decision was taken to turn the hall solely into a church.
The Church in the early years (photo Trevor Woodman)
Only in 1966 was work on the church completed, and the parish’s first resident priest, Fr Donald Dorsett, celebrated the inaugural Mass in the remodelled building. The priest’s house behind the church had been completed in 1965. In the 1980s, the parish priest Monsignor Peter Strand extended the hall, adding meeting space.
Work continued to beautify the church. In 1971 limed oak benches were installed to replace the old metal chairs. The following year saw the installation of a new altar, circular font and tabernacle stand made from Italian Botticino marble.
The coloured glass windows – with a central cross, a dove and crown on the left and the Alpha and Omega on the right – were designed by parishioner Peter Proto (1930-2010). He also designed the Millennium Window, installed in 2000, which lists the priests who have served the parish.
The distinctive sculpture of Our Lady of the Rosary high up on the facade of the church is by the Benedictine nun Mother Concordia of Minster Abbey in Kent (Concordia Scott, 1924-2014), who made many sculptures for churches. A parishioner commissioned the statue as a gift to the parish.
Inside the church is an older, wooden statue of Our Lady.
Fr David Hutton served as parish priest from January 2003 until his death in March 2017. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Hayes, where Fr Dorsett is also buried.
Fr Gregory Ackron was appointed parish priest in April 2017.
The parish is a member of Churches Together in Hayes, which also includes St Mary the Virgin Church (Church of England), Hayes Free Church (United Reformed) and Hayesford Park Baptist Church.
(Historical information from parishioners, as well as from:
Hayes: A History of a Kentish Village by Jean Wilson and Trevor Woodman http://www.hayeskenthistory.co.uk/home
The Taking Stock project http://taking-stock.org.uk/Home/Dioceses/Archdiocese-of-Southwark/Hayes-Our-Lady-of-the-Rosary)