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Parish History


St Augustine's is a large active parish with an average Sunday Mass attendance of  around 800 regular attendees. It is a very mixed community, across every age range with five Sunday Masses which reflect our diversity. There are also many residential and nursing homes in the town, and we are delighted to have many elderly parishioners, some of whom are still very active in the parish. There is also a large number of young families.  St Augustine's parish covers an area greater than the town of Tunbridge Wells reaching from the outskirts of Pembury to Ashurst with  Kent/Sussex border as its southern boundary and including the villages of Fordcombe, Penshurst, Speldhurst, Rusthall, Langton Green as well as the Kent part of Groombridge.

St Augustine's began in 1838 when Jesuits arrived to found a small mission. The first St Augustine's Church was built on the corner of Hanover Rd and Grosvenor Rd, where Tesco's now stands and although there were only 50 Catholics within walking or riding distance -a church big enough for 250 people was built. Jesuit priests nurtured the small community until 1866, when  it was handed over  to Thomas Grant, the first Bishop of Southwark.

Our first diocesan priest at St Augustine's was Fr (later Canon) Joseph Searle. 

His work was continued by a succession of priests until eventually in 1959 Fr Bill Howell came to St Augustine's as assistant priest, but soon took over care of the parish when the parish priest

Fr Stevenson fell ill, and then died.  In the intervening years a mass centre had been opened in Southborough, to eventually become the separate parish of St Dunstan's but mass centres  in Ramslye, Penshurst, Sherwood and Rusthall came and went.  The major change in

Fr Bill's time was the closure of the old church in 1967 and the new Church built on its current site in the 1970s. Fr Bill served the parish with tremendous dedication for 36 years, 28 years as parish priest, building a thriving parish community which went from strength to strength. Following several years of failing health He died in 2008 at St George's Retreat Burgess Hill. He is fondly remembered by all those who knew him.

He was succeeded as Parish Priest by Canon Michael Evans, (subsequently Bishop of East Anglia Diocese - Bishop Michael died in July 2011) and in 2003 by Canon Peter Stodart.

 

cover of the new parish history book

A new parish history - 175 Years of St. Augustine's Parish by John Cunningham which shows in greater detail the beginnings of our parish from a large Jesuit Mission in 1838, to the present day  is now available . Laminated cover, 142 pages, 90 illustrations (32 in colour). Price £4.95.