Parish History

The Roman Catholic Parish of

Our Lady the Immaculate Conception,

Devizes, Wiltshire

The Roman Catholic Parish of

Our Lady the Immaculate Conception,

Devizes, Wiltshire

Parish History

sanctuary new joseph3 Parish Website

Parish Priests

Parish Priests

The first Parish Priest, Father Francis Larive, arrived in Devizes in October 1861. Mrs Ann Davis rented a warehouse on his behalf and it was there that he lived.

 

In May 1862, Wyndham Villas was purchased and Father Larive, together with Father Domenge, moved in to number 2.

Four years later, in 1866, Father Francis Decompoix arrived in Devizes and the following year Father Larive left for Malmesbury to set up a mission there, the original purpose of his journey to England.

 

Thus Father Decompoix became the second Parish Priest - a position he held for twenty years until 1886.

The next Parish Priest was Father Joseph Bouvard, another Frenchman. He was Parish Priest until 1907, when he left Devizes to go to Yeovil, where he died.  His funeral was held in Devizes. It is said that the person leading the cortege missed the left turn into New Park Street and, rather than turn round, continued to the Market Place looking for another left turn!

In 1892 Father Aloysius (Louis) Valluet, from Savigny in Savoy, France, joined the Parish.  He was a tall, thin, delicate, young man who was not expected to live for long.

However the Wiltshire air must have agreed with him, for he became Parish Priest in 1907 and remained so until a few months before his death in 1947, at the age of 77.

Around this time [1930], Father Louis was presented with his first car - previously he had travelled by push- or motor-bike.  It was a little two-seater, named by himself Margaret Mary, with a dickie for extra passengers. Alas, driving was not one of his greatest accomplishments - many stories are told of his exploits.  On one occasion he was driving from the district hospital along Commercial Road when he caught sight of the statue of Our Lady of Devizes, high up at the rear of St Mary's Church.  Off came his hat, he made a deep bow and proceeded to sing Salve Regina loudly and passionately, the left hand controlling the wheel, the car swerving from side to side of the road as the melody soared and dropped.  His passengers were terrified.

 Pat Kennedy, one of the passengers.

From 'Sursum Corda'.

On Father Louis's retirement in 1946, a curate of the parish, Father Alexander Daley, became Parish Priest.

 

He remained in Devizes until exchanging parishes with Father Thomas Nobes, in Tavistock, in 1956.

 

In 1995 Father Daley, then living in Bristol, returned to Devizes to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of his ordination with members of the Devizes parish and his two sisters.

Father Nobes was a great builder.  He was responsible for enlarging the presbytery and had great plans to enlarge the church, but they were never executed.

 

He also supervised the building of churches in Brickley Lane, Devizes and in Pewsey.

 

In 1964 he was succeeded by Father Kevin O'Neill.

Father O'Neill was Parish Priest from 1964 to 1973.

 

His father ran a stained glass window company in Liverpool which installed the stained glass windows in the nave of the parish church and a window in the sanctuary.

In 1973, Father Basil Harrison became the eighth Parish Priest. Father Harrison stayed for five years and was replaced by Father Terence McGrath.

 

A few years earlier, in 1962, Father Harrison had celebrated his Silver Jubilee with many of the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales in Malmesbury.  Many of the priests with him served at some time in Devizes.

Back l to r: Fr Gilbert Volery, Fr Alistair Doyle, Fr James Gamble, Fr Joseph Davis, Fr Vincent Kerns, Fr Patrick Waldron, Fr Dunstan Cross, Fr Desmond Daly, Fr Cyril Cutlack, Fr George O'Sullivan, Fr Joseph Meehan, unknown.

Front l to r: Fr Sean Fleury, Fr Francis Hamilton, Fr Arthur Williams, Fr Thomas Nobes, Fr Basil Harrison, Fr James Lahiff, Fr Thomas Morrin, Fr Peter Devlin, Fr Kevin O'Neill.

Father Terence McGrath became Parish Priest in 1978 and brought many changes to the parish.

 

He was responsible for:

  • the sale of Wyndham Villas,

  • altering the first floor of the presbytery to provide extra bedrooms,

  • remodelling the sanctuary of the parish church to provide a new permanent altar,

  • redesigning the interior of St Joseph's Church to place the sanctuary at the opposite end.

 

Father McGrath was Parish Priest until 1983.

During the next few years, 1983 to 1989, Devizes had some fairly rapid changes of Parish Priests.

 

The first of these and the tenth Parish Priest, was Father Sean Fleury who had served Devizes as a curate in the 1960s. He was Parish Priest from 1983 to 1985.

In 1989, Father Bernard Caszo arrived. During his fifteen year tenure the much, and long, talked about parish hall was finally built.

 

The narthex was designed by Michael Higham, one of the parishioners, and built by Gaiger Bros.

Father Martin Griffin, who had been ordained in Devizes, served as Parish Priest from 2004-2005.

In 2005, Father Philip Baptiste was appointed as Parish Priest.

 

It was during Father Philip's tenure - in 2007 - that Pope Benedict XVI issued the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which gave permission to all priests to celebrate Mass in the traditional (1962) form, without having to seek permission from the bishop.

Father Jean-Patrice Coulon was appointed as the seventeenth Parish Priest in 2009.

 

He continued the saying of Latin Masses begun by Fr Philip and established a regular Latin Mass on Friday evenings.

In 2013, Father Philip Baptiste returned as Parish Priest, making him the second to have served twice.

 

He moved to London in 2015 and Fr Jose Maliekal was appointed as the nineteenth Parish Priest.

Fr Jose moved to Yeovil in early 2017 and Fr Benny Jacob was appointed as the twentieth Parish Priest.

 

He was formally inducted as Parish Priest by the Dean of the Trowbridge Deanery, Fr Martin Queenan, on May 2nd.

Father Benny left in February 2018 and for a while the parish was under the care of Fr Martin Griffin, then Parish Priest of Malmesbury.

 

In June 2018 Fr Paul Gonsalves was appointed as the twenty-first Parish Priest.

 

He was formally inducted as Parish Priest by the Dean of the Trowbridge Deanery, Fr Martin Queenan, on October 24th.

Father Heubert Miranda was the eleventh Parish Priest, serving from 1985 to 1986.

Father Gerard Gill, the twelfth Parish Priest, served from 1986 to 1988. He had also served earlier as a curate in the parish.

 

Fr Fleury then returned from 1988 to 1989, making him to date the only priest who had served twice as Parish Priest.

Father Philip undertook training in the traditional rite and said his first Mass in Latin on Monday May 11th 2009.

 

It was also during Father Philip's tenure that the final decision to close the Church of St Francis de Sales was made.  The final Mass in the church was on the Feast of Christ the King, Sunday November 26th 2006.