Parish History-A Slow Awakening

In the town itself, however, there was no sign of Catholicism until the 20th century, though there must have been one or two Catholics around in the late 19th Century at least, one of whom was probably Mr J.A.Devany. In due course, he became the main stimulus for the presence of Priests to say Mass, and subsequently for the establishment of a Mission which became the Parish of our Lady of Pity. Fr Goldie SJ came over from Oxburgh Hall probably at his invitation in February 1907 to celebrate the first Mass in Swaffham since the Reformation; and then continued to come each month for two years until he was posted to Preston. In those days there was of course no Church or Chapel: Mass was celebrated ‘in an upper room’ in Mr Devany’s house.

The “Missionary Gazette” of the Motor Mission Society (later the Catholic Missionary Society or CMS, though in 2003 it became CASE) whose prime mover was Fr Herbert Vaughan, nephew of the Cardinal, records these facts. And it continues:

"These pioneer efforts were not in vain, for they cleared away much prejudice and prepared the people for the coming of the Motor Chapel in 1911."


It was in the summer of that year that the Motor Mission came to Swaffham for a week at the invitation of Fr Field a member of the Society who seems to have been living in Swaffham at the time.

"They had the Assembly Rooms for a whole week and it was observed that the week night lectures they gave excited a good deal of eager and tolerant interest"

reported the Eastern Daily Press, the Norwich newspaper.