Parish History

For Betty Adam’s excellent history of our Parish go to the bottom of this page 

The post-reformation history of Catholicism in Torbay was initially focussed on the Cary Family and Torre Abbey.   This was the nearest Mass centre for the few Paignton Catholics. Statue of St Peter ChanelIn 1880 the Marist Fathers were expelled from France and were invited to establish a community in the Plymouth Diocese by Bishop Vaughan.  The mission in Paignton was established in 1882 when a former Baptist Chapel at Colley End was converted and became the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart.  After 1901, the work of the Marist Fathers was supported by a community of Marist Sisters, who took charge of the small primary school and established a secondary school for private pupils.

The land for the present church was purchased in 1924.  Prior to our ownership, four thatched cottages used to stand here, the gardens of which would have run back to approximately where the school is now.   The school land had been a market garden.  The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1930. The building, with its distinctive 90 feet high tower, was completed in 1931 and on 26th July 1931, the church was blessed and opened by Bishop Barrett.  The development of the site was completed when the new Sacred Heart School opened in 1935, to replace the school at Colley End which had become overcrowded and out-dated.   In 1938 when the presbytery was added.  The church was consecrated in 1959 and re-opened and re-consecrated in 1992.  In 2006, the 75th Anniversary of the church building was celebrated and a Commemorative Booklet was produced to mark the occasion and is on sale in the repository.

In the church, the Stations of the Cross were hand carved and started their journey to Paignton on muleback from the mountains of Tyrol, and were classed as a work of art!

In 1962 an additional church, St. Peter Chanel, was opened in Hodson Close to serve the Foxhole Estate.  It closed in 1988.  Plans to build a further church at Goodrington failed to materialise.

In 1970 the Marist Fathers decided to close their monastery and move all students to London.  The monastery was sold to the Council.  The statue of Our Lady that topped the building remains to this day as a reminder of the influence of the Marist Fathers in Paignton.  In 1982, the Marist Convent School closed and the community of nuns was reduced to those who continued to teach at Sacred Heart School.  The association between the Marist Fathers and the parish finally came to an end in 1984 when the number of Marists had declined so much that they were unable to supply priests to serve the parish.  The Marist Sisters left in 1990.

Since 1984, the parish has been served by priests of the Diocese of Plymouth.  The sanctuary was re-ordered in 1991.

A History and Personal Reminiscences of the Catholic Church in Paignton by Betty Adams – click on the links below to read or download the relevant sections

Part 1 (The Reformation to 1900)

Part 2 (1900-1939)

Part 3 (1939-1984)

Part 4 (1984-present)