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Updates and amendments, Parish History Book

Further details of our history unfold

In his foreword to the book, Fr Kieron noted that "by its very nature a publication can never be exhaustive, so that there will, no doubt, be some omissions."

Fortunately, we have already received additional information from veterans, including Fr Terence McLean Wilson, the most senior surviving priest from the 1950's.

In addition, follow up research, based on Fr Terence's letter, into the parish archives, some damaged by water, and conserved by Alison McCann of the West Sussex Record office, has produced some papers which highlight the zestful years 1957-1981 when parishioners and priests transformed the pastoral landscape in our parish.

Firstly, we can correct the chronology which confused records of events. The former Southwark diocese records state that Fr Tak arrived in March 1956. In fact he came in December 1955. Fr Terence's letter states: "I appear to be the only survivor to be able to give an accurate account! My recollections on page 61 of the St Richard’s Parish History are perfectly correct (apart from one error – Fr Eamonn Barry, not Duffy, was a fellow curate – this must be a ‘senior’ moment on my part – Eamonn Duffy being in fact an eminent historian!) I arrived in Chichester on Monday November 21st 1955. Fr Tak took up his appointment as parish priest a fortnight later, i.e. about December 5th/6th 1955. There was no Football Pool in the parish at that time, or any special fund raising scheme at all. The Football Pool was inaugurated in 1957, after Fr Michael Sexton arrived in the parish, in the spring of 1957. "

Research at the Record office yielded two letters from Fr Tak and a sheaf of documents which make it clear that he worked at speed and with confidence to end the passive years when parishioners and priests became frustrated by the inadaquate facilities at the old church, but could see no way of raising the money. As recorded in our book, by Trevor Tupper and Joe Holmes, he once threw copper coins at the congregation to stimulate more generous giving. His plan for the church attracted attention in the Chichester Observer, with its plans for a sound proof area for mothers and babies. But he plainly had good business acumen. He sold unneeded assets - like the social club, found a new site, an architect and almost at once laid out a strategy to build churches across the huge parish. But where was the money coming from? A government act in 1956 to permit so-called small lotteries provided a way forward. And Fr Tak, briefed by Phil Duke, led the way. He wrote a groundbreaking letter to the parishioners in August 1957, Chichester, Sussex. 28th August, 1957 "My Dear Parishioners, The time has now arrived for me to give you, in this first "News Letter" a report of the financial progress and prospects in our parish since I was appointed your Parish Priest in December 1955, On arriving at Chichester I was faced with the task of finding a suitable site to accommodate a new church, presbytery and school, to cater for the Catholic population of both local people and visitors and secondly to find the sum of £800 per annum, being our contribution to the Diocesan Schools Fund. In just over 12 months our new site has been acquired and with your help I have been able to commence the building of our new church and presbytery which should be completed by Christmas." He goes on to say that the new church will cost about £52,000 and he can muster only £22,000 in sales and loans agreed. the shortfall was £32,000 - a daunting sum in those days. And then he calls for action: "Many of you will feel this financial liability is too great a burden for this Parish, but if we are to accept that the burden is our contribution to the Honour and Glory of God, I am sure that with your continued prayers and support we shall meet our financial responsibilities. It is however, imperative we consider further means of raising money, and since the Government approved the Small Lotteries Act of 1956 I have noted the success other parishes have enjoyed by running "Football Pools". Parishes throughout the Diocesan are showing gains of from £20 to £100 per week where this scheme has been started. I have decided we shall run our own "Football Pool and Father M. Sexton will be taking over the responsibility of organising and running the Pools. You will realise Father Sexton will need the co-operation of as many "Promotors" as possible to help him in getting the Pool established as quickly as possible. For this reason I should be grateful if you will inform Father Sexton if you are willing to assist him in the capacity of "Promoter". Within the next 14 days I shall be calling a meeting of all parishioners who show willingness to help. The initial success of the Football Pool will depend on the support of this meeting, and I sincerely hope that at least one member of each family will attend. Surely you would like to help me in building this Church for the greater glory of God in Chichester - a Church you can be proud of. I would like to end this "News Letter", the first of many I hope, by thanking you most sincerely for the help and encouragement you have given me since I arrived here in 1955- With Every Good Wish and a Blessing.

Fr Terence comments: "There were meetings at the Assembly Rooms, chaired by Fr Tak and Mr Phil Jukes, but I can vouch that Gerry and Lotte Jannece, Gerry Pierce, Ted Bailey and Dick Kirkham were very involved. It was run from the old presbytery at first until the new church and house were built in 1958."

These were inspiring meetings which Trevor Tupper and Joe Holmes well remember. the starting date is fixed at 1957, later than stated in our book, yet progress was swift - and in January 1960 Fr Tak wrote to the man who devised the footballpool scheme, Phil Dukes, setting ambitious targets, but knowing that the money was rolling in."

St Richard's Presbytery, Market Avenue Chichester
Chichester, llth March, I960

My dear Phil,

By last September the Pool had contributed to the Development Fund about £25,000. This represented about half the cost of St Richard's Church and Presbytery, site included. Since then the Pool has contributed £6,755. At Wittering, plans are complete and approved for the installation of a heating system and the building of a porch. We await the- arrival of the bricks (last promised for early March) to make a start. The estimate for this work Is £1,741 2 Id (n.b. St Peter's church was built before the war, but Fr Tak ensured that they benefited from their contibutions to the football pool.) At Selsey we are in process of acquiring an extra piece of land with which to provide the car park without which we are refused permission to build, this will cost about £1,000. The site-plan, including this car-park, has been submitted for the approval of the Planning Committee of the Rural District Council, The architect, Mr R.C. Hosford ARIBA, AA Dipl, has his preliminary building plans on paper. The church, to hold 240, will cost about£15,000. It includes a meeting room, interviewing room and sacristy under the same roof. At St Richard’s Chichester, plans are being drawn up for the installation of a heating system which will cost about £2,300, for a ceiling that will cost about £1,500, for lighting which will cost about £500. We shall need another £1,000 for decoration, and a further £500 for flooring. As regards schools, with the cost of the Blessed Philip Howard School at Barnham specially in mind, we are to contribute to the Bishop's school fund about £2,500 a year. When the Minister will replace the three old classrooms in St Paul's Road with three new ones in Cawley Road, our contribution to the cost will be about £6,500. At Bosham, we must replace the present wooden church by a small permanent church. This should cost about £9,000. At Southbourne we must acquire a site (yet to be found) and build a church on it. This area looks Ilke developing. We bad better anticipate a cost of at least £14,000. There is a programme that will absorb £53,000. If you add the building of a house for a resident priest at Wittering., you can make it £57,000. This, I trust, gives you the information you want. With every good wish, Ever sincerely yours in Our Lord,

The church was opened, as we record, in March 1958, but Fr Tak was moved to tackle another challenge. Fr Fox took over. He could confidently offer to carry through Fr Tak's building scheme throughout the parish, and he further motivated the fund raising team (see Trevor Tupper's account on the website "Inside story") during his tenure before becoming Bishop of Menevia."

The old church was demolished, and Fr Terence confirms that "the bell ‘Gabriel’, now at St Richard's, came from the Old church – it can be seen in the little turret in the photograph on the new History. The loss of the other bell is a story I still remember." (but remains untold!).

We will ensure that copies of the documents are included in parish records held at Cawley road., and welcome further leads to help understand more fully the remarkable story of the parish's recovery in those twenty four years 1957-81.