Early records of Catholicism in Tetbury are sketchy though a Catholic church stood on the spot now occupied by St Mary the Virgin, from very early on until the reformation. The original church fell into decay and was rebuilt in 1777 and the present building is the only Georgian church in the county.
Tetbury is the oldest site of Christian worship in Gloucestershire – people have worshiped here since a monastery was founded in 681 and a minster church was mentioned but is not recorded anywhere else. It is assumed there was a church at Tetbury in 1086 as a priest was recorded on the Manor.
Much later it is known that at the insistence of a Belgian resident, Baron de Brienen, Mass was celebrated in 1881 at the home of Mr Hugginson, a confectioner of the town and that from 1881 to 1883 Father Francis Larive came from Malmesbury to celebrate Mass there. The congregation then numbered twenty or thirty.
Thereafter records are silent until the First World War when, as with many other Cotswold communities, an influx of Belgian refugees greatly enlarged the Catholic presence of the town. Mass was then said at nearby Chavenage House.
The Tetbury community did not secure a permanent place of worship until later.
The present church’s history goes back some 75 years, when Father Alphonsus Grorord, the Parish Priest from Malmesbury purchased York House in Silver Street.
Catholics in the area gathered together to establish a community under the caring eye of the visiting priests from Malmesbury and Devizes. Father Gamble, Father Harrison and others would celebrate Mass in a back room of York House, which stands opposite today’s Parish Office and Presbytery in Silver Street.
With the outbreak of war large numbers of evacuees came to Tetbury and larger accommodation proved necessary; for a few months in Oak House, the home of a parishioner, then in the ball-room of the White Hart (now The Snooty Fox), whose landlord was a Catholic. Finally, in 1941 a former Baptist chapel was bought at auction. Father Harrison proudly led the way in buying what is now St Michael’s Catholic Church. A separate Parish for Tetbury was founded and in 1942 the former Baptist Chapel at the Green was opened as St Michaels Catholic Church..
The Church building was constructed in 1871/2, the hall added in about 1965 and the Sacristy extension added in about 1988.
The Fransalians continued to serve Tetbury until 1995 when worship has been continued by Priests from the Diocese of Clifton to the present day. Mgr W Mitchell lovingly served the parish for 8 years until his sudden death in August 2008.
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