St Mary Magdalene
The 1950's
The story of St Mary Magdalene church starts again in 1954, when Father Wilfrid Johnson arrived as the Parish Priest at St Francis de Sales Church in Wolverton. Wolverton is a small town about 2 miles east of Stony Stratford. It had become a thriving railway town after the opening of the London to Birmingham railway in 1838.

Wolverton was chosen as a convenient midway point for a break in the journey. Its service sheds then expanded into full scale works and the town quickly grew. It was the influx of Irish families into Wolverton in the 19th century to work in the railway industry that brought about the building of St Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church in 1867.

The new building was intended to be a school, but was never used as such. It opened as a church on Trinity Sunday, June 16th 1867, exactly 300 years after the birth of St Francis de Sales (although his birth date was August 21st). Perhaps this is why he was chosen as the Patron of the church.

The interior of St Francis de Sales Church in 1965
The Priests in Wolverton had covered a large area. Wolverton was the largest parish in the Diocese in the 19th century covering the whole of Buckinghamshire north of Aylesbury, parts of Bedfordshire and most of south Northamptonshire.

In around 1900, the Franciscan Friars arrived in Buckingham and administered that area, including Winslow
and Brackley, where they opened Mass centres.

Later, Mrs George Beale of Potterspury Lodge sought diocesan permission for the erection of a Chapel, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, for the use of Roman Catholics in that area and this was served by the Wolverton priests.

In early 1948, as the Chapel was no longer big enough to serve the growing Catholic population, a new Mass Centre opened in Towcester, at which there was an average attendance of seventy, which relieved the pressure on Mrs Beale's small chapel. Some of the Catholic families around Stony Stratford would walk or cycle to St Francis de Sales church. Others would travel to Potterspury or Towcester.

Fr Johnson arrived in July 1954 and one of the first things that he did was to hire the Public Hall in Stony Stratford as a Mass Centre for Sunday morning Mass. The first Mass took place there on 1st October 1954. Father J Maunsell (Chaplain of Thornton College) was the celebrant and 76 people attended.

In his sermon, Fr Maunsell said that it was an historic occasion since it was unlikely that Mass had been said
in the town since penal times.

By this time, Mr and Mrs Beale had died, their house had been sold and the new owners did not use the
chapel, which was deconsecrated. However, four of the Beale's children - Mr Tom Beale, Mrs Elizabeth Hardwick, Mrs Rosie Rickaby and Sir William Beale - then donated £4,000 to build a church in Stony Stratford.

The next page will show how the church came to be built.