Christ the King Catholic Church

Christ the king Catholic Church

A short history of Christ the King parish

Introduction:  This booklet has been produced to mark eighty years since the foundation of our parish and fifty years since the current church building opened. We marked the occasion with Mass celebrated on the First Sunday of Advent, 2nd December 2012 by a former parish priest Bishop David McGough (his photographs are recorded here). We were delighted to have people with us at Mass who were involved in 1962. One such person is John McCarthy who provided photographs and material for the booklet; John served at the Christmas Midnight Mass in 1962. We are very grateful to John and to Kathleen McCarty who has shared her memories with us. Kathleen has been our sacristan for many years and remembers with affection all our priests back to our founder Fr Byrne. Other people fully committed and involved fifty years ago include Stephen Burke, a server for half a century, Margaret Burke involved in the youth club, Dennis Millin, Church warden and his wife Mary, Ruth Wilkinson who ran the piety stall (for 58 years) as did her mother before her. We pay tribute to Margaret Stroud who led the choir in 1962, the first masses were said in her parent’s house and Frank Chandler who ran the scouts and cubs and his late wife was a member of the choir.

Where it all began

Had you stood in 1925 on the ridge looking south where our parish church is now cited your eyes would be drawn to a stream running through the fields of corn of Warren farm, rented from the Perry Hall estate. This scene would soon change; for as early as 1913 an enquiry had identified an acute housing shortage. With Government backing the city embarked on a building programme in the mid-twenties. The city gained control of the largely rural impoverished Perry Barr District Council and applied under the Birmingham Housing Compulsory Order of 1928 to acquire 450 acres of land occupied by Warren Farm, Half Way farm (Hawthorn Road), Pool farm (near top of Cranbourne Road) and Kettlehouse farm. Prior to the building project there had been a few cottages at Warren Lane (now Warren Farm Road) and Cross Lane (now Crossway Lane). Major changes were underway.

Why Christ the King Church? On 11 December 1925, seven years before Fr Byrne set foot in the brand-new estate of Kingstanding Pope Pius XI had written an encyclical to Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops and Bishops affirming the kingly dignity of Christ. In this encyclical contained a promise that: ‘When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony’. It was written to counter the rebellion of individuals and states against the authority of Christ. Its thrust is as relevant and prophetic today as then: the need for all peoples and nations to accept the Lordship and authority of Christ the King. Being such a new feast of the Church, Archbishop Williams would have considered Christ the King a most appropriate name. It was to be the first parish in Birmingham to have this title; another parish founded the same year in Coventry bore the same name.

The early mission:

When Fr Byrne was sent here by the Archbishop he had no accommodation secured and in a Franciscan spirit knocked on the door of a catholic family who had most probably been recommended to him, they were the McHughs and resided at 634 College Road; here he announced his appointment as pastor for Kingstanding. Mr McHugh was a committed SVP member at the Maryvale parish. Fr Byrne requested lodgings for the night and ended up staying a few weeks offering daily Mass there. Later on he was able to buy a dwelling that had been ear-marked as a corner shop, currently an Indian take-away next to what is now St John’s centre. For a time Sunday Mass was celebrated in the College Arms public house assembly room owned by the McDonalds family and later Cranbourne Road School before a wooden hut occupying a site that had been set aside for a public house; the Archdiocese on application was granted the land, a local brewery losing out.

Kathleen McCarty one of our most long standing parishioners has kindly shared her memories of Christ the King: Fr Byrne was a young man of 32 when he came to Kingstanding as the first parish priest. I remember that it was said of him that if he was given anything, money or goods by someone he met at the bottom of the hill on Warren Farm Road by the time he had walked up the hill he would have given it away to someone else who was in need. He used to visit the parishioners and then call on neighbours too. He was in Kingstanding when the air raids were on, he used to walk around the parish during the night to visit people, he came to our house the night of the raid on Coventry (14/15 November 1940), we could see the glow of the fires in the sky. In 1941, he moved from the parish to go to serve as a chaplain in the army. While he was in the parish he established the Church of Christ the King.

Fr Wall was followed by Fr Clancy who set about building a church. This was completed by Christmas 1962. Kathleen takes up the story:

When Father Clancy came he undertook the task of building a new Church, the foundation stone of which was laid in April 1962. The church was completed and the first service was Midnight Mass at Christmas 1962. During the building of the new church Mass was celebrated in the Old Church which had been moved and re-erected at the back of the new church site, entrance to which was from Danesbury Crescent. However one Sunday after the evening service in the summer of 1962 the church caught fire and was nearly totally destroyed. Sunday Mass was then held in the school Hall and weekday Mass held in the presbytery. In time the wooden building was repaired and decorated then group meetings and youth club and socials were held there until the hall was vandalized. The Church Hall building was removed and the site was used as a Nursery when the portable classrooms were put-up. When Father David Oakley, came he arranged the decoration and refurbishment of the church ready for the ceremony of the consecration of the Church on 28th April 1994.


There have been eleven parish priests since the parish started. Our longest serving parish priest was Fr John Clancy. In 1958 Archbishop Grimshaw asked him to take on the parish with a view to organizing the building of a church. Fr Clancy had proved his building talent by overseeing the construction of a church in Worcester. He was 43 when he started with us and set about planning the church construction. He is remembered with great fondness. A former school caretaker’s wife Mrs Boyle recalls Fr Clancy shoveling snow from the church steps to ensure the brides dress who not get wet!

Fr Michael Byrne: 1932-1941- our first pastor.

Fr Canning: 1941-1949-completed the payment for the new school

Fr Wall: 1949-1957

Fr John Clancy: 1958-1986

Fr David McGough: 1986-1990

Fr Noel Breslin: 1990-1992

Fr David Oakley: 1992-1994

Fr David Blower: 1994-1997

Fr George Bennett: 1997-2003

Fr Michael White: 2003-2011

Fr Eamonn Corduff: 2011-   


Memories from the church archive

Father Byrne – first priest

Year book 1932 – 33

College Arms ‘assembly room’ 1930’s.

procession in front of school air raid shelter

May procession 1949

Cubs 1950

Christmas social 1955

Father 1956-1962

Final wedding in 1958.

Last wedding in old church. 1958

Completed church 1961

News paper article ca 1961

May procession 1961

Church 1963

picture 2

picture 1

Christ the King Catholic church today

The New Heights church today

The New Heights centre

Memories of Maurice Sellars

Back to the sandpit I used to go there to collect clay for the girls who lived next door, they used to wet it and put it on there legs to look like stockings which were hard to come by in those times. they would then go dancing at Christ The King Friday night dance I can remember this was not a good place to go when the teddy boys were present, there many fights.



  1. […] An archive of photographs from Christ the King has now been published. It includes photos from it’s early days in College Arms  ’assembly room’  to the modern church in the 1960′s. Read more… […]

  2. Was’nt Crist the Kings nicknamed “The Crib”?

  3. Yes, you are quite correct. After I had done my stint in the Army I was there almost every week in the early 50’s at the dances that were held there. We used to spend the evening ogling the girls and maybe even get the chance to take one home and get a date. If anyone out there remembers my name, please get in touch…I would love to hear from you.
    Larry Addison.

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