Our Histories - Corpus Christi, Tring

Our parish can trace its origins back to the 1890s when a remarkable priest celebrated mass for the first time in Tring in 1896. His name was Father Henry James Hardy. He was related to the famous Captain Hardy who was present at the death of Nelson. He was originally an Anglican priest and after becoming a Catholic was ordained by Cardinal Manning. He became Parish Priest of Harrow on the Hill where he built a new church. He used to travel by train from Harrow to Watford to say mass for the priest there who was ill. This may have helped him set his sights on West Hertfordshire. For about ten years he celebrated mass in the Victoria Hall in Akeman Street until the church was built in 1912. He bought the land in Akeman Street in 1910 and a few years ago we celebrated our centenary. He built a presbytery next to the church and was already seventy-five years of age when he moved permanently to Tring in 1915. Before then he had started parishes in Rickmansworth, Boxmoor and Berkhamsted.  He deservedly came to be known as the Apostle of West Hertfordshire.

Father Hardy was already worn out by his years of service elsewhere but he gave all his attention to his new parishioners. It is said that, concerned by the poor wages paid by local mills to girls in their employ, he bought sewing machines for the girls, learned how to use them from an instruction book he bought, and taught the girls how to cut out and make their own clothes. It was through acts of kindness like this that had such an effect on the people of Tring and the surrounding villages that he was able to unite them into a community. He died in 1918.

Father Hardy was succeeded in turn as parish priest by Fathers Francis Wynch (1919–1920), Bernard Hyde (1920–1921), Percy Clune (1921–1923), William Neville (1923–1939), Norman Fergusson (1939–1949), Ralph Gardner (1949–1959), Arthur Mintern (1959-1965), Calum MacLean(1965-1982), Monsignor Denis McGuinness (1982-1993),  Father Anthony Potter (1993-2003), Canon Desmond Sheehan (2003-2004), Canon Vincent Berry (2006-2017) and Fr David Burke (2017 – present).

The small church built by Father Hardy became too small to meet the growing congregation. Father MacLean and Mgr McGuinness both considered plans but it was under the leadership of Father Potter that work on our new church began in 1998. Bishop James O’Brien laid the foundation stone. The church was consecrated by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor in 2001. The costs for a small village parish were considerable but parishioners responded magnificently to the challenge and the debt was cleared in the summer of 2006.

We are proud of our parish. We have a beautiful church where we experience a prayerful atmosphere and presence. We welcome people not just from Tring and the surrounding villages but from many places in this country and overseas. Community is central to our parish life as we gather together to celebrate mass just as Father Hardy gathered together a community one hundred years ago. As we draw strength from the Blessed Eucharist, we take to heart the words of our Saviour the night before he died: “Father, may we be one, as we are one.”

Read about the history of the parish of Sacred Heart, Berkhamsted.