Parish History

The following was taken from "Catholics in Dronfield: A Brief History for the Church of the Holy Spirit 40th Anniversary 1967 - 2007" by Ann Brown

The Gospel of Christ was possibly brought to the Dronfield area as a result of the missionary activities of the brother Chadd and Cedd, in Mercia in the 7th century. At the dawn of the second millennium there would probably have been a preaching cross and church on the hillside overlooking the Drone Valley. St John the Baptist church became the Catholic Church which grew from these early beginnings.

The parish was huge, stretching from the moors above Dore and Totley, round to Holmesfield, Little Barlow and across the valley to Unstone, Apperknowle and Coal Aston. The first named priest was Oscot in 1135a.d. When the Reformation struck, St John the Baptist church lost its Catholic status and residents were forced to worship in the parish church under sufferance of fines or imprisonment, something that many of the area’s great families were prepared to do for their faith.

Jumping forward to the 19th century, we find that Dronfield was part of the Diocese of Nottingham. Dronfield Catholics had to travel to either St Wilfrids in Sheffield or the Annunciation Church in Chesterfield until 1934 when Mass returned to the parish being held in an upper room of the White Swan Inn. This continued until 1949 when a disused Methodist chapel on Snape Hill was given to Dronfield Catholics by George Lunt of Woodseats.

With great encouragement from Canon Emil Puttman, the Dronfield parish came into being on separation from the mother church, Our Lady of Beauchief and St Thomas of Canterbury in the 1961. The first issue of the parish bulletin (priced at 1d !) indicated the necessity to build a hall, house and church. By the end of 1962, Mass attendance was 217 and planning permission had been obtained for development of the land on Stonelow Road. A separate house was bought on Holborn Avenue which enabled Fr Stephen Perry to have his own accommodation and give up temporary lodging with parishioners.

In 1964 plans were drawn up for a dual purpose church-hall at a cost of £25,000 to provide a place to celebrate the Liturgy and build a community. Father John McGovern became parish priest and the first Mass was celebrated on 27th January 1967 although the official opening was not until 24th September 1967 and was attended by many of the clergy associated with Dronfield in the past.

Apart from Mass, badminton, youth club, guides and brownies, dances and fund-raising events all became regular events and cleaning rotas were organised for both men and women with one of the first meetings being a demonstration on how to operate the floor polishing machine, purchased with the help of Embassy cigarette coupons, something that the parishioners had been encouraged to collect !

Father Michael Quigley took on the parish responsibilites in 1968 to foster the growth of the church with the end of Latin in the Liturgy, a growing population and the building of the new presbytery which was completed in 1975

In the early 1980’s the choir was formed under the leadership of Jack Lambert, Brian Shipman being the current organist and choirmaster. The Saturday Vigil mass had been introduced and Eucharistic ministers were being commissioned.. The death of Father Quigley in 1984 saw Father Maurice Bartley become parish priest and he undertook to re-order the Sanctuary, removing the altar rails and installing a lecturn and chair on either side, the lecturn being a memorial to Father Quigley. The Lady Chapel and a room for the Sacrament of Reconciliation were also created. Changes in the ministries within the parish were also undertaken.

In 1987 Father Bartley left and was replaced by Fr Terry Tolan. His time in the parish will always be associated with Ecumenical relations. In 1990 a Covenant was signed by 15 Churches Together in Dronfield in which they promised to pray and work together to reach a better understanding among themselves and serve the wider community.

In 1992 the present Holy Spirit church celebrated its silver jubilee with Mass celebrated by Bishop Moverley, a marquee on the lawn for a display of photographs and records and a fine spread provided by the ladies.

Father Tolan departed in 1996 and Father Michael O’Connor arrived. Bishop Rawsthorne replaced Bishop Moverley who passed away after a long illness. The Millenium celebrations included a refurbishment of presbytery and church and on Pentecost Sunday five First Communions were made with special music composed by the choirmaster and sung for the first time by the choir.

Father Martin Williams took over the reins in 2001. Progress has been seen on several fronts with support for the Women’s World Day of Prayer and an ecumenical assembly. The Feast of Flowers has grown each year and our parishioner’s skills have been shown off in the lecturn hangings and a set of applique pictures of the Stations of the Cross has been received from the Walsingham Association.

Many other projects have been undertaken including the creation of the kitchen, re-lining the ceiling and the acquisition of new chairs, access for the disabled and a re-decoration of the Sanctuary.

During 2014 Father Williams’ health declined and he retired on November 9th 2014. Father Terry Doherty was appointed parish priest after a number of weeks of supply to the parish in Father Martin’s ill health.

Sadly Father Terry passed away in 2016 and since that time the parish has been run from the Annunciation parish in Chesterfield under the guidance of Dean Father Adrian Tomlinson.