Christ The King Alfreton
Before the Reformation, Catholics worshipped in the present Parish Church, St Martin of Tours, on Church Street.
After Henry VIII’s purge of the church, Catholic worship declined rapidly & it is reported that when Fr Nicholas Garlick & Fr Robert Ludlam passed through the town on their way to the gallows at Derby, the few remaining Catholics saw this as the end & Catholicism disappeared. In fact Alfreton became decidedly anti Catholic and within 10 years considered any priest to be a popish traitor.
Then around the mid 1800’s 2 Catholic families appeared in the area. They were staunch & walked to & from Butterley, Ripley, (where there was a very small Mass centre), in order to attend Mass. Secretly, a priest would occasionally come to their houses and say Mass for them but he had to disguise himself. Gradually they became bolder & the priest would then say Mass in the Kings Head.
In about 1880, this small congregation bought a plot of land on Park Street at a cost of £40 & built the tiny church of St Mary’s which opened in 1883. It held a maximum of 90 people. The position 50 years later was that the Catholic population was greatly reduced & there was no resident priest – it was usually a priest from Ripley or Mansfield & very occasionally Clay Cross who came to say Mass. People in the area didn’t help either, Park Street was the poorest part of town & the miners’ families turned out to jeer the papists when they went to Mass. So, when Father Heald was made parish priest in 1922, the church was in poor repair, locked up all week with hardly anybody going to it. He had to rent a room in a house on Park Street, where his only furniture was a table, 3 chairs & a bunk to sleep on. When Father Heald became Parish Priest he brought Clay Cross into St Mary’s Parish.
Within a month Father Heald had raised the necessary money and, with help, he repaired and redecorated the church. There was Mass & Benediction daily and the church became known as “the little white shrine to Our Lady”
In August 1923 he began an appeal to raise £3000 to build a new church on Nottingham Road. Having raised the money, Christ The King church opened in 1927. This was the 1st Catholic church in England named Christ The King but the church was erected to the memory of Pope Pius X & is still dedicated to him. The church on Park Street still stands & has had many uses over the years – mainly to do with cars & garage repairs.
Over the years the church has been altered inside & out. Father Blackwell had the church extended & a new presbytery built (the previous presbytery stood where the corner of the car park is joining North Street & Nottingham Road. The statue outside the church door is the original statue which used to stand on top of the porch. The last alteration to the church was added in 1981/2 when the Parish Social Centre opened.
St Patrick & St Brigid Clay Cross
Prior to 1862, Mass was only available in Clay Cross at the Mass Centre, which was a room above a butcher’s shop on the corner of High Street & Park Street. Due to the influx of Irish labourers, who had come to help with the construction of the railway tunnel for Clay Cross Company at this time, a more substantial place of worship was needed. Consequently land was acquired, on what is now Thanet Street, where a basic building was erected, which was served by clergy from Ilkeston, Chesterfield & Mansfield. St Patrick & St Brigid was consecrated by the Bishop of Nottingham on June 1st 1862.
In 1881 Father Daniel Meenagh was appointed Parish Priest & in 1882 he extended & refurbished the church, which consisted of a chapel, nave & Lady Chapel, he also restored an attached cottage to serve as a presbytery. In addition to the Chapel at Clay Cross there was also a chapel of Ease at Heath, but nothing remains of that building.
Father Meenagh quickly established himself & the Roman Catholic Church as integral to the life of Clay Cross. The Catholic population continued to grow & in 1883 the
local newspaper reported that 150 adults & children had received Holy Communion at the 8.30am Mass & in the evening of the same day approximately 100 people were confirmed.
Sadly on October 21st 1915 Father Meenagh took his own life. He was found by his housekeeper, Margaret Divine the following day. This tragedy put the parish in turmoil & in the following months the townspeople provided a stained glass window & a font in his memory, both of which can still be seen in the church. From 1915, until the amalgamation with St Mary’s Church, Alfreton in 1922, Mass was only available spasmodically, served by priest from other local parishes.
Father O’Dowd then purchased Thanet House, next to the church in Clay Cross & started the alteration & refurbishment of the church, which was completed by Father Joseph Henry.