Priest held mass as Hartlepool’s darkest day unfolded

Ladies of the parish enjoying tea in the garden for Canon Burkes's Jubilee in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.
Ladies of the parish enjoying tea in the garden for Canon Burkes's Jubilee in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.
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A church which came through Hartlepool’s darkest day is at the centre of a restoration bid.

The Hartlepool Mail first revealed the plans to restore St Mary’s Church on the Headland to its former glory.

Parishioners gather with parish priest Fr Nick Jennings (4th right) at the entrance of St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

Parishioners gather with parish priest Fr Nick Jennings (4th right) at the entrance of St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

The historic church was part of the most tragic day in Hartlepool’s history when it came through the bombardment of the town.

Part of the restoration campaign involves a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for support - but as St Mary’s parish council member Bernadette Malcolmson explained: “We’ve been asked to provide a history of the church and generate some ideas as to the way we’d like to use the property for more than just a church in future such as community events, more open access.”

So we thought we’d take our own step down Memory Lane.

1834 A small Catholic chapel opened on corner of Prissick/Henry Street. It becomes the first official place of Catholic worship in Hartlepool since services had ceased in St Hilda’s in 1546.

We’ve been asked to provide a history of the church and generate some ideas as to the way we’d like to use the property for more than just a church in future such as community events, more open access

Bernadette Malcolmson

1851 St Mary’s officially opened after Canon Knight raised money to build the church. He arranged collections and money also came from some generous benefactors including local brewer John Lawrenson. Bishop William Hogarth and Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster Nicholas Wiseman preached at the opening mass which included three other Bishops and more than 50 priests. The bells rung during the first mass were the first to ring from a North of England Catholic church since Tudor times.

1901 The 50th anniversary celebrations are held. Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster Herbert Vaughan (founder of the Mill Hill missionaries) was special guest.

1914 The time was 8am. The Bombardment of Hartlepool began and Canon Burke celebrated mass. Altar boy Patrick Hanley remained with the Canon until the shelling was over.

1924 The Silver Jubilee for Canon Burke. The centre aisle was tiled to mark the occasion.

St Bega's pupils perform a song for the congregation during the 2011 Youth Sunday celebration in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

St Bega's pupils perform a song for the congregation during the 2011 Youth Sunday celebration in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

1946 St Mary’s Church steeple was removed after damage suffered in both world wars. The bell tower still requires restoration today.

1949 The Golden Jubilee for Canon Burke where he was made Freeman of the Ancient Borough.

1961 Father Francis Ellis was appointed parish priest. Maintenance and decorating work was carried out throughout the church which was well overdue.

1997 For the first time since opening, St Mary’s didn’t have a resident parish priest. Fatherr David Phillips looked after the church and two FCJ Sisters came to live in the parish house.

St Bega's pupils get ready at the back of church for the 2011 Youth Sunday celebration in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

St Bega's pupils get ready at the back of church for the 2011 Youth Sunday celebration in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

2001 The 150th Anniversary of opening of St Mary’s was marked with a mass celebrated by Bishop Ambrose Griffiths and homily given by Canon Robert Spence.

2001 A flower festival and photographic display formed part of the anniversary celebrations. Heerema also provided a new fence and gates for the front and side of the church.

2004-2008 Father Seamus McGivern was the last resident parish priest (to date).

2014 A requiem mass was offered for the victims of the 1914 Bombardment.

A social night was held at the Duke of Cleveland last night for people to come up with a range of ideas for potential future uses of the church.

HCPT Group 527 gather for mass in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

HCPT Group 527 gather for mass in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

The 2001 Flower Festival held in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

The 2001 Flower Festival held in St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

Members of the sewing group with a banner for St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

Members of the sewing group with a banner for St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

Easter decorations greeting people as they enter St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

Easter decorations greeting people as they enter St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

The high altar and windows at the front of St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.

The high altar and windows at the front of St Mary's Church of The Immaculate Conception, Headland, Hartlepool.