The History of Saint Jude’s Parish
In 1931, when Father Murphy came to Yardley Wood, his parish stretched to what is now the Parish of St Jude’s. At that time, a fifteenth-century farm, tenanted by Mr and Mrs Dyer and known as Daisy Farm, stood on the site of what is now called ‘Old St Jude’s’. When it was demolished in 1936 and Birmingham Corporation started to develop the Daisy Farm estate, Fr Murphy began negotiations to purchase the home paddock. Glenavon Road was made in 1939, but the war put an end to further building for almost ten years and it was not until 1947 that the sale of the paddock was completed. In 1950, a ‘temporary building’, St Jude’s church, was erected by a builder from Sutton Coldfield for £2000, in accordance with building regulations and within the limits allowed at that time. It was formally opened on St Jude’s Day, 28th October 1950, the first mass being celebrated by Fr Murphy.
A simple building of brick, concrete and asbestos roofing, the tiny church was no monument to architecture, yet we remember that Our Lord was born in a stable, and St Jude’s, frequently wet and damp when not in use on winter days, could become warm and living when used for Saturday evening confessions, Sunday Masses and Benediction on Sunday evenings. To Fr Murphy, who was very fond of St Jude’s and its people, it was his ‘Hut’ or his ‘Cathedral’.
This first building was a chapel of ease with mass on Sundays and Holy Days. In 1960, St Jude’s School had been opened on the site of Kingswood Farm, also demolished. Druid’s Farm, which was very old indeed and had a frontage on Druid’s Lane, backed onto the south wall of St Jude’s garden, which had the elder tree that it was customary to plant beside English farm houses for hundreds of years.
The curates who assisted Fr Murphy at St Jude’s up to 1966 were Fr O’Meara, who moved on to become a Parish Priest in the Black Country; Fr Geoffrey Naylor, who had a rather tragic life, died young, and is buried in the cemetery of Prinknash Abbey; Fr Patrick Reagan; Fr O’Connor, who was made big by nature and had a big personality; Fr Millard, who left to become chaplain to a boys’ college; and Fr, later Canon, O’Reilly, who was working for the Schools Commission at this time and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate the purchase of a further portion of land adjacent to the church. In addition, there were supply priests, Fr Quinn and Fr Simpson from the Sacred Heart Fathers at Droitwich.
The congregation continued to worship in the 1950 building after Father Cassidy was appointed first Parish Priest in September 1966. When we learned that St Jude’s was to become a separate parish, we were rather stunned. Many parishioners had loyally supported Yardley Wood until they had a magnificent church and we now had to start all over again for ourselves. Fr Murphy gave us a financial start, which was swallowed by the improvements effected by Fr Cassidy to comply with Vatican II requirements. Eventually, in 1981, we moved into the present beautiful church, approached by an avenue of chestnut trees which led to Kingswood Farm.
During the early 1990s, when Fr Cassidy began to be impaired by Parkinson’s Disease, Fr Rufus Halley, a Columban Father, was attached to St Jude’s to help out. He went back to the Philippines, where he was assassinated in August 2001. He was followed by Fr Mark Lagorio, who took over the running of the parish in 1993 before Fr Cassidy died in 1995. Fr Mark remained with us until late 1999. Fr Anthony Talbot was Parish Priest from 1999 until Fr Frank Rowe was appointed in September 2004. When Fr Frank retired at the end of 2009 due to ill health, the Archbishop asked Fr Christopher Fitzpatrick to take us under his wing and the new parish of St Dunstan’s and St Jude’s was established from the beginning of 2010.
[This history of St Jude’s has been compiled from notes assembled for the opening of the new church in 1981 by Catherine Curtiss, Phyllis Arnold and Gilbert Crowe, and supplemented by Pat Black.]