I was recently loaned a history of Sacred Heart Parish, whose church and school in Mere Road were both attended by Roman Catholics in the Charnwood Street area. From this I can add some more information to the memories that have already appeared on this website.*
The church was established as a Mission in 1883 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham, which bought a small house at 33 Mere Road for use as a presbytery to serve this ‘large and growing suburb’. In the following year the Bishop of Nottingham reported that, near to the house:
an excellent site has been secured and walled in, large enough to contain a large church with school and presbytery, conveniently. The school has been built, and serves at present as a chapel, seating about 150 persons… The chapel is well attended… The Catholic population of the Mission is between 300 and 400 (p7)
The school was actually used as a temporary church for six years until a corrugated iron chapel was built – popularly known as the ‘Tin Tabernacle’. This was used for 34 years, until it was replaced with a new purpose-built church in 1924 and removed to St Gregory’s church in Sileby to serve as a parish hall. The new sacred Heart church was designed to accommodate 350 people, with more space on benches along the side aisles. The high altar was a memorial to those who died in the First World War, and their names were also carved in stone in the church porch. It was officially opened on 27 March 1924 with a High Mass attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Leicester, Cllr. and Mrs J. Mantle Hubbard.
The book also notes that the role of the parish priest expanded in the later 19th century to embrace that of ‘mission provider, financial director, education supplier and welfare officer’ as well as spiritual advisor. Those at Sacred Heart tended to stay only for a short time until the arrival in 1904 of Canon Henry Lindeboom, a Dutchman, who served until 1938. As well as the school itself, Sacred Heart also provided clubs and other activities for children. In the post-World War II period these included Boy Scouts, Cubs, Girl Guides, Brownies, a youth club and a choir, sports days and day trips to Skegness.
In 2008 the 125th anniversary of Sacred Heart Parish was celebrated with a play, The Tin Tabernacle, devised and acted by its parishioners, and the publication of this book. The above extracts are just a part of the story, but they may also bring back some memories of Sacred Heart’s more recent past.
* Faith Built on Love: a history of Sacred Heart Parish, Leicester, 1883 – 2008 by Kate Myers (2008). For memories of Sacred Heart school, see https://cib2.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/sacred-heart-school/ and https://cib2.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/sacred-heart-and-sister-columba/