A SHORT HISTORY OF CATHOLICISM IN THE WOOTTON BASSETT AREA.
Around 1200 Alan Bassett took up residence at Fasterne, (now Vasterne Manor). He held the Advowson (the right to appoint clergy) from Monkton Farleigh Abbey.
The building of Saint Bartholomew’s was started late in the 13th. century.
There was a Priory (more properly an Alms House) founded by the Knights of St. John in Wood Street. Control of the Priory later passed to the monks of Bradenstoke Priory.
There was land belonging to Stanley Abbey (near Calne) at Midgehall, near Hook.
After Henry VIII came to the throne, early in the XVI Century, the Engelfield family were now at Vasterne, which still held the advowson but clergy were not appointed.
During the Penal Times, after the Reformation, there were several Catholic Families in the area. At Green Park , not far from Vasterne, the Moore family employed a catholic priest as secretary, and tutor to their children. It seems likely that he will have ministered to adjacent families.
Much of the land surrounding Wootton Bassett belonged to the Oxford Colleges, so may well have had catholic tenants.
We know that people travelled considerable distances to hear Mass. The opening of the Catholic Church in Fairford in 1845 may have provided such an opportunity. Also there were catholic priests and nuns working in Malmesbury and Devizes, Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales..
In 1873 a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes was opened by the Codrington Family in Wroughton. That chapel held 60 people.
The Collingbourne family, related to the Drury Family, and the Mapson Family both of Wootton Bassett, was at Great Wood Farm, near Grittenham. Their family history tells us that there were often priests there. Indeed, the children of the family offered the use of a priests’ hole to a recent Parish Priest who was rather reluctant to leave one evening!
Three families who had kept the faith throughout penal times, are known to have been in Wootton Bassett in the early part of the XX century, probably worshipping either at Holy Rood in Swindon , or in Malmesbury.
The outbreak of the second World War brought an influx of catholic servicemen, as well as evacuee children and those caring for them. A Mass Centre was established in 1942, and continued until 1945, served from Holy Rood. A hut on the cricket ground, a room at the ‘Cross Keys’ and eventually, an outbuilding on the manor estate, close to our present Church, were all used at various times.
A Catholic Church was built, at the rear of the present site, starting in 1952, and served the Parish until 1992. During this time two cottages on the original estate were occupied by the Sisters of Marie Reparatrice, a group of nuns working in the parish. The old steward’s house was the presbytery.
The present Church, with all its facilities, was built early in the ‘nineties, and dedicated in 1993.