St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in West Street, Dunstable, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, with special masses due to be held on March 15 and 16.
The circular church, with a slender spire on its roof, seats 850 people and was opened by the Bishop of Northampton, the Very Reverend Leo Parker, in March 1964.
He braved a snowstorm to enter the church and our picture shows the scene inside the building on that opening day.
It was a huge achievement by local Roman Catholics to build the church. Forty years earlier they had to travel to attend mass in Luton, before they eventually met in a house in Regent Street.
They put up their own place of worship in Dunstable in 1936, and that building (still standing, in front of the present church) is used today as a meeting hall.
The land in West Street has an interesting history. The church stands on the site of a house which was built there for the Rev Solomon Piggott, Rector at Dunstable’s Priory Church between 1824 and 1845.
He had previously lived in a rectory on the site of what is now the old people’s home, Tudor Lodge (formerly Westways), a few yards further down the road.
His successor, the Rev Frederick Hose, found the new rectory too small for his large family, and moved to another house, still standing, on the corner of Icknield Street.
> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society.