History

There is evidence that the Leicester based Dominicans were active in Loughborough for at least four years before the advent of a resident priest within the town.

In 1824 a Catholic priest, Fr Thomas McDonnell, came to Loughborough from Birmingham to meet Ambrose Phillips de Lisle who had expressed a wish to be received into the Church.

Further evidence from an early baptismal certificate shows that a Fr William Hopkins administered baptism in Loughborough in 1829 and a note added to this certificate states that “The first meeting place of this body of Christians was in a room over an ironmonger’s shop in Mill Street”, which is now known as Market Street.

In 1833 Fr Benjamin Hulme became interested in the spiritual needs of Loughborough and, hearing that an Irish mother had to take her child to Leicester to be baptised, he decided to start a mission in Loughborough.

Amid widespread anti-Catholic feelings in Loughborough Fr Hulme built the first church in 1834 which was 71 feet long and 26 feet in width. This church ran from left to right in what is now the present sanctuary with the altar in those days being against the left hand wall and the entrance via Hastings Street, through the present side door of the day chapel, on the right hand side of the sanctuary. When the project was first mooted both the Gothic and Renaissance building styles were considered with the eventual design being inspired by a Leicester concert hall known as the “Green Room”. It was constructed from brick but was covered in cement in imitation of stone. The total cost of the church, church house and site was £5,000 which was provided as a loan from Bishop Walsh.

Despite the feelings against the Church, the abilities of Fr Hulme as a preacher won him some sympathy among members of the established Church as they became the greater part of his congregation. Their support, however, quickly evaporated when the priest sided with the dissenters in opposition to the church rates. As the congregation dwindled Fr Hulme asked the Vicar Apostolic to replace him with a priest who would be more acceptable to the townsfolk. When Fr Hulme left Loughborough in 1839 to join another mission in Cheshire he was able to reflect on the 63 baptisms that are recorded in the registers as being performed during his five years in the town.
For the next two years the mission in Loughborough was in the care of Fr Norbert Woolfrey of Mount St Bernard’s Abbey. Then in 1841 Bishop Walsh handed over the mission to the care of the Fathers of the Institute of Charity (The Rosminians) who have served it to this day, Fr J Pagani being the first Rosminian parish priest.

The mission benefited enormously from the care provided by the Rosminians. The Church was being served by a Community and for some years it was to be the most important centre of the Institute of Charity in this country. Four cottages in Hastings Street were purchased and these served as a Novitiate from 1841 until the transfer to Ratcliffe in 1844.

By 1918 the church had become inadequate for the increased congregation and a building fund was opened. The church authorities insisted that work on the extended church could not start until half of the necessary money had been collected and it took five years to collect this amount. The completed church was opened on 26 August 1925.

The extended part of the church is positioned over the original cemetery, and consists of a nave, built at right angles to the old church, which then became the sanctuary and transepts. The former boundary of the old church can be seen by the position of the square columns on each side of the present nave. Throughout, the Renaissance characteristics of the old church have been preserved and a classical portico makes an imposing frontage on the Ashby Road to this day.

The High Altar (consecrated 22 April 1933) and the altar of Our Lady, Queen of Peace (consecrated 2 July 1941) are the work of Dinelli Figli of Pietrasanta and their marble and bronze-work is of a richness which is very unusual in a provincial church in this country. St Mary’s is now a grade two listed building.

The Parish is bordered to the south by Forest Road where it meets the Sacred Heart Parish, by the M1 to the west and by Derby Road and Belton Road to the north.