Parish History
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History of the Parish

The present parish of Southwick with Portslade has had a complicated history. Its post Reformation history is to be found in the arrival of a religious order, the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, who established their convent in the old manor house adjacent to both the ruins of the ancient Manor house and the Pre-reformation Church of St Nicolas.

There had been unsuccessful attempts to restore the Catholic presence in 1885 when a house was leased near Trafalgar Rd and Fr Martin from Shoreham celebrated the first Mass. However, this attempt failed fairly soon and the chapel was dismantled.

Bishop Bourne asked the Poor Servants to open a house in Portslade with the intention that their chaplain would also care for the local Catholics. The Sisters moved into their new convent in 1904 and their first chaplain was Fr Dumesnil, a French priest.

By 1906, the Chaplain, Fr Whelan, began to celebrate a second Sunday Mass at a laundry in Norway St, owned by a Catholic French woman. His successor, Fr James Kerwin, opened a temporary chapel in a room in 82 St Leonards Rd. After four weeks a larger room was rented next to the Clarence Inn in North St. Here the congregation grew and by 1910 it was established enough for a parish Mission to be held.

Denis and Catherine Broderick

Denis and Catherine were from Irish descent who managed a flourishing family business. At the age of 50, having made their fortune they moved to Hove and dedicated their lives to building churches (they built 9). Soon after her husband’s death Catherine told Fr Kerwin that it had been her late husband’s desire to build a church in Portslade. At the age of 81 she was eager to see this completed and so the site of the Church adjacent to the present St Mary’s School was purchased.

Fr Benedict Williamson was chosen as the architect. The foundation stone was laid on 12th October 1911 and the Church opened on 28th July 1912. Fr Kerwin became the first priest and remained so until his death at the age of 70 in July 1941. However it was to be his successor Fr Thomas Hayes who became the first parish priest in 1943.


Prior to the reformation St Michael’s Church, close to the village green, was the parish Church of Southwick. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the few Catholics who lived in Southwick had to go to Shoreham for Mass. However, the re-founding of the Church at Portslade led eventually to the re-establishment of the Mass in Southwick.

It was Fr Thomas Hayes who started a Mass Centre here in the house of Mrs Chatterton who was then living at a house on Southwick Green called St George’s. Later the Co-op Hall was used and then “Blackdown,” a house in Church Lane was acquired and the lounge extended to serve as a Chapel where it became possible to reserve the Blessed Sacrament. A wooden tabernacle was obtained but it was unlined and the ladies of parish obtained some parachute material to line it and also to fashion a tabernacle veil.  Records show that 22 people attended the first Mass in the new chapel on Christmas Day 1945, but numbers began to grow rapidly. Continuity with this Chapel is found in the picture of Perpetual Succour (see the Pictures page) which was transferred to the present Church and is now housed in the Lady Chapel.

In 1950 Fr Henry Lewis became Parish Priest of Portslade and purchased the land on the north side of The Old Shoreham Road. At much the same time Mr William Barwick Hooper left a large sum for the building of a church in Southwick.

With both land and finance plans developed quickly and on 10th July 1954 the foundation stone was laid and blessed by Rt Rev Cyril Cowderoy Bishop of Southwark dedicating the church to the honour and patronage of St Theresa of the Child Jesus. This was because the Bishop of Southwark had promised Cardinal Griffen during his illness to dedicate a Church to the Little Flower if he recovered.

On 13th July 1955 the church was officially opened by Archbishop Cowderoy, with a Pontifical High Mass in the Presence of Cardinal Bernard Griffin the Archbishop of Westminster. The choir came from St Georges Cathedral, Southwark and the Church was packed to overflowing, with a public address system allowing those outside to hear the proceedings.

In 1960 Bishop Cowderoy approved the Statue of the Little Flower for the outside of the Church and the alcove on the Epistle side was made into a Baptistry (now the chapel of St Theresa) with wrought iron gates made from the ornate metal screen that once spanned the sanctuary of Our Lady Star of the Sea and St. Denis at Portslade.

For a number of years the Church was served by priests from Portslade who would come to say Mass on Sunday.

In September 1964 Fr Bernard Jose was appointed first priest in charge of Southwick and the following year a house for the priest was purchased at 91 Old Shoreham Rd. In September 1966 Fr Jerome O’Sullivan was appointed parish priest and St Theresa’s became a full canonical parish in December 1967.

12th July 1980 Bishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor consecrated the building and celebrated its silver jubilee.

In 1987 due to falling numbers of clergy, Bishop Cormac rejoined St Theresa’s parish with the original parish in Portslade. Originally the parish priest lived in Portslade, but as problems with the both the Church and the presbytery came to light the priest moved once again to the house in Southwick on the Old Shoreham Rd. Because of severe structural problems with the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea this Church was demolished in 1992 and when the sisters closed the convent in 1994 St Theresa’s became the only Church in the parish, although the former parish hall in Portslade was converted into a Mass Centre to serve the people of that area. That same year a new priest’s house was build adjacent to the Church.

In 2005 Bishop Kieron Conry celebrated Mass to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Parish. To mark this event the parish raised money for a Parish in the Cameroons as a practical way of allowing another Church dedicated to St Theresa to flourish.

(Compiled by Rev B. Lowden from Catholic Portslade, Past and Present Glories by Rev Henry M Lewis 1954 and the historical research of Mr George Porter)

Parish Priests


Fr Kerwin

1908-1941 (Priest in charge)

Fr Thomas Hayes


Fr Henry Lewis


Fr Leonard Munns


Fr Edward Holloway


Fr Thomas Ruane


Fr Ralph Message

1984-1990 (from 1987 also of Southwick)


Canon Bernard Jose


Fr Jerome O’Sullivan


Fr Joseph Ware


Fr Cyril Cravos


Southwick with Portslade

Fr Kieron Gardiner


Fr John Inglis


Fr Brian Lowden


Fr Alistair Simmons



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