Canon Longstaff Has Passed Away

The first Catholic Church in Rothamsted Avenue
The first Catholic Church

Beautiful Church, a Lasting Memorial

The very Rev Canon Bernard Longstaff, Rector of Harpenden’s Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes for thirty years, and its first Parish priest, died early yesterday morning while on holiday at Torquay.  He was 69.

Canon Longstaff whose health had not been good for some years, and more especially since his illness of two years ago, had an attack on Tuesday, and was taken to the convalescent home run by the Sisters of St John of God at Torquay.

Coming to Harpenden in 1919 as a young and energetic priest, Canon Longstaff  was to make his life work the building of a permanent church at Harpenden, its Parish Hall, and the foundation of the Catholic parishes of Redbourn and Wheathampstead.  The beautiful church which now looks down on Church Green from Rothamsted Avenue will be for Harpenden a lasting memorial of all that he has done here.

In those early days, so soon after the First World War, in which Canon, then Father, Longstaff, served as an Army Chaplain, he was a priest with only a temporary church and a parish which extended over a hundred square miles.

School and Church

His first action was to buy a Presbytery in Kirkwick Avenue, backing on to the present church.  The following year, he brought a community of Dominican nuns to Harpenden, to open a school for local Catholic children, and St Dominic’s Convent School was started.

Next the Canon was responsible for securing the land and building the church, which was erected at a cost of £20,000 and in seven years was free of debt.  It was opened by Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, in 1929.  Seven years later, Cardinal Bourne’s successor Cardinal Hinsley came to Harpenden to consecrate the completed church.

In the same year, Redbourn, which with Wheathampstead had been in the Canon’s parish, became a separate parish, and two years later, the Church of St Thomas More, at Wheathampstead was opened.

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