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Years of faith,
history and legacy

The Salesian Fathers came to Farnborough in 1901 for pastoral work in the parish and school.  In 1930, the Salesians started a Mass centre in the Labour Hall in Cove Road and they celebrated Mass regularly there from 1930 to 1949.  As the population grew, the accommodation became more cramped and uncomfortable until it was obvious that action would have to be taken.

One of the original Catholic families of Cove, the Foleys, made a very generous offer of part of their land upon which the new church could be built. In 1949, the Parish Priest, Father McCormick SDB, acted and a temporary chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes was built in High View Road. It was built under a ten-year licence in order to fill an urgent need for the Catholics of Cove who had no church in the immediate area in which to worship.

The Foley property at Cove included not only the ground of the chapel but also the adjacent houses known as “The Oaks” and “The Oaks Lodge”. “The Oaks” was at one time a boys’ school, founded by a Mr Greene in the 19th century: hence Greens’ School Lane, which led up to it from Victoria Road. When Mr Greene died in 1887 the school closed, but it was later opened as a Catholic school run by Mrs Foley, and then by her daughter, Mrs Scott. When this school closed, both houses were given to extend the parish property. “The Oaks” was used as a social centre and for catechism classes, and “The Oaks Lodge” as a presbytery.

The parish covered Hawley and Cove and the parish priests were:

  • 1949 to 1960 Father William Marrs SDB.
  • 1960 to 1966 Father Vincent Power SDB.
  • 1966 to 1967 Father Donaghy SDB.
  • 1967 Father Brian Murphy O’Connor – the first diocesan priest of Cove and Hawley.

In 1969 Hawley and Cove divided into two independent parishes…

The 1970s were years of considerable change and extensive building. Firstly, “The Oaks” was demolished and a parish hall built, which was blessed and opened by Bishop Warlock on 31st March 1973. Part of the parish land was sold to form the present High View Close and the money used towards the cost of a new church. The foundation stone was laid on 10th December 1974, and the church opened on the feast of Our Lady of Ransom, on 24th September 1975. The old chapel was demolished and the site used for a new presbytery, which was occupied from 18th August 1977.

The new church was designed by Hannen French Collins, of London, and built by John Allen and Partner, Fleet. It was among the first to meet the requirements of the reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council – semi-circular in shape with a permanent altar facing the congregation. It has a capacity of 550 people, all of whom are in close proximity to the altar.  

The church features several stained glass windows. Directly above the altar is a beautiful semi-circular, stained-glass window depicting Christ. This was designed by Dom Charles Norris, OSB, using the Dalle de Verre technique. There are also two windows to the left and right of the altar which are memorials from an earlier place of Catholic worship. These stained-glass windows came from a private chapel in Eversley Manor, owned by the Copes of Bramshill. When they moved, they gave the windows to the Salesians in Cove, and they were eventually incorporated into panels placed within the church.

Other significant dates:

  • 1973 – Father Philip Connolly took over as parish priest.
  • 1975 – St Bernadette’s Voluntary Aided RC Primary School began to be in use.
  • 1977 – St Bernadette’s was blessed and officially opened by Bishop Emery.
  • 1978 – Father David Quarmby became parish priest. 

In 1983, the Benedictines from St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, took charge of the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes and it became the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Michael.

From 1990 to 1995, the parish priest was Father Michael Fava, OSB.

In 1995, Father Tony Sultana, SDB, became parish priest.  In the Autumn 1995 issue of Visions (the OLSD parish magazine) he wrote: “…. although I am a Salesian priest, the parish is now a diocesan parish.  The Salesian Provincial – at the request of Bishop Crispian Hollis – has agreed that I be seconded to the Portsmouth Diocese for a few years.”  Father Tony was to remain as parish priest for 28 years.

On 1st September 2002, Father Tony took over pastoral responsibility for the St Dominic Savio church in Hawley as well as continuing at Our Lady of Lourdes in Cove.

On 29 June 2003, Bishop Crispian Hollis celebrated the final Mass at St Dominic Savio, and the following Sunday both communities worshipped together in the church of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was later renamed Our Lady and St Dominic.  

In 2005, the church was redecorated and refurbished and a new church entrance hall (known as “Foley Hall”) was added. In June 2005, a new altar and lectern were delivered and blessed in a rededication service, in September of that year.  The foundation stone for a new hall was laid by Canon Brian Murphy-O’Connor on 5 April 2008, and the hall was finished and ready for use later that year.

In 2020, the Covid pandemic meant that the church was closed for several months, and camera equipment was installed to enable live-streaming of the Mass for the first time. 

In August 2023, Father Tony Sultana retired after 28 years service to the parish.  The OLSD parish returned to the care of the Salesians of Don Bosco with Father Anthony Clifford Lobo, SDB, as the new priest-in-charge.

Photos © J Fitzpatrick-Ellis