Our History

Stapehill Abbey

(now closed)

The 1928 church

The current church (1976)


Our present church was built in 1976 during the large housing development that occurred in the three areas that make up our parish: West Moors, Ferndown, and Verwood.  You can read a secular account of the area's history on the West Moors village website here.


A significant part of our historical and spiritual heritage is Bl. William Pyke, one of the English Martyrs of the Reformation, who lived in West Moors.  You can read about him here.  His martyrdom in 1591 was part of the 16th Century persecution that greatly reduced the Catholic population in this area.  As with most of England, a public Catholic presence was only gradually able to reemerge, thanks to the steadfastness of a few. 


For the next four centuries Catholics in the area were served by two different religious houses based at Stapehill, about 3 miles from West Moors (and within what is now St Anthony's parish).  First, in about 1610, the Jesuits established a college at Stapehill, where they remained until the Jesuits were (temporarily) disbanded by the Pope in the early 1800s.  Stapehill then passed to a community of Cisterian nuns who founded an abbey there in 1802. (You can read more about Stapehill here and see a map showing the shrine here).  This pattern of Catholics being served by religious houses (rather than a parish church) was common throughout England during the penal years but, as elsewhere, a regular church was eventually built for the express purpose of serving the local congregation.  "From about 1922 Mass in West Moors was said at Lisheen, the home of the Burke family. The house was next door to the present St Anthony’s and the land for a church was purchased some years later as the congregation grew and a temporary church was erected in 1928. In 1970 Father Philip French began the campaign to build the present complex. More land was acquired, presbytery and hall were built first and the church was opened on 8 December 1976."(Taking Stock)  Mass was celebrated in the church hall before the church itself was built and the hall still has the large altar crucifix on the wall.  You can see an illustration of what the church looked like from 1976 to 1996 here.  


"The present Church replaces the old wooden building  which had become far too small, erected in 1928. When it was demolished the area was landscaped. The modern church was built in 1975-76, solemnly blessed by Bishop Restieaux on Our Lady's Feast day in December 1977 and consecrated on 8th December 1980.  The relics enclosed in the High Altar are those of St Maria Goretti" (Sally Woodhead, Illustrated Guide to the Catholic Churches in the Diocese of Plymouth (1992), p.287). You can read about St Maria Goretti here.  Her relics are now in the stone altar that was installed in 1996.  


In 1991 the Cisterian sisters at Stapehill moved to a new abbey at Whitland in Wales.  The old abbey at Staplehill has not been in use for some time and the land is currently being built on by a housing development.  You can see photos of it here.  


Parish Priests who have served us:

      Fr Anthony Achunonu 2020-current

      Fr Dylan James 2016-2020 

      Fr Patrick Chrystal 2001-2016

      Fr John O'Byrne 1990-2000

      Fr Philip French 1970-1989

The following priests appear in our parish registers.  The date indicates the year when their name first appears in a register:

      Fr Philip J. Pedrick 1959

      Fr Daniel O'Regan 1952

      Fr Robert Andras 1947

      Fr William Conway 1945

      Fr William Moylan 1937

      Fr Emmanuel McGinley 1934

      Fr Patrick J. Tobin 1929

      Fr Michale Burns 1926

      Fr John Moody 1925

      Fr Charles Scanlon 1924

      Fr Patrick Morton 1919

      Fr Edward Damen 1916

      Fr H.A.Collins 1912

      Fr Edward O'Dea 1905

      Fr Thomas Pudney 1894

      Fr James Hayes 1882

      Fr Denis Byrne 1861

      Fr P.J.Capron 1857



If you able to provide us with more historical information please contact the parish priest



Taking Stock's architectural review of our church says:

"The altar faces southwest but for the purposes of this section all compass points assume an east-facing altar. St Anthony of Padua church is built of red brick. Nave and sanctuary under one gabled roof with concrete tiles, and flat-roofed north aisle and western narthex or porch. Large rectangular window openings with tripartite window frames, wide-narrow-wide, with staggered transoms. Circular west window with paired mullions and transoms forming a cross.

"The interior immediately shows the standard Lanner construction of laminated timber ‘boomerang’ trusses, leaving an uninterrupted space open to the apex of the roof. The internal walls are finished in fair-faced yellow brick. Although the side windows run from floor to eaves, the interior is not awash with daylight as the huge volume of the roof and the set back of the north aisle windows are such that the daylight does not penetrate. The narrow bands of the windows are glazed in coloured glass. The sanctuary was refitted in the 1990s, the altar, ambo and tabernacle resting on large blocks of rough hewn stone. Other furnishings are of the time of the church and are not of particularly artistic importance. There is a carved wood statue of Christ with arms outstretched on the east wall above the altar."


"West Moors village, previously known as La More in the 14th century, Mours in the 15th century and Le Moure in the 16th century has a wealth of history associated with it, said to be traced back to the Doomsday Book. In the Doomsday survey it lay in the 'Hundred of Caledone' which merged into Bradbury." http://www.moorsvalelodge.co.uk/location.htm


The local Anglican parish website has more history on the area.  See the 'parish history' section of their website here