St. Robert's Church, as we know it today, was opened by Bishop McCormack on 17th December 1955 and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary throughout 2005 with a special programme of events.
However, the Parish of St Robert of Newminster was founded in 1930, when a new church was built in an open field south of Fenham Hall Drive (which is now the Church Hall). Fenham was experiencing a period of change as the area was developed for family housing by the Fenham Hall Estate. New roads were being laid-out, but the Church Hall was initially only accessible by foot, across open ground that became muddy during wet weather. Cinder tracks were later laid from Hadrian Road and Cedar Road, permitting an easier access to the church. Services continued to be held at the Church Hall until the new St Robert’s Church was built in 1955.
The site of the present church was un-landscaped garden, although Calvary was there from an early date and the area edged with tall poplars. Planning regulations in the 1950s made it necessary to join the new church to the existing building. The main entrance was on Bolbec Road and on either side of the inner doors were the holy water stoups, the positions of which are still marked. The High Altar was situated on two steps in the current position of the stage and the Lady Altar was on the right, beside the present emergency exit. Mass was said in Latin, of course, and the priest had his back to the people, who were separated from him by the wooden communion rail.
There were three aisles and the kneelers were not fixed, moving about freely and noisily. More noise came from the gas mantles which popped and spluttered in serious competition with the preacher. At the back of the church stood the harmonium and a small male voice choir. The first parish priest, Fr. George O’Neill, an energetic man with a pioneering spirit, tended to the spiritual needs of the growing parish, built the hall and even planned the new church. He is commemorated by a plaque at the side of our current High Altar.
The pulpit used to be on the left hand side and the baptistery at the back, at one time enclosed with wrought iron railings with the statue of St. Robert standing behind the font.
For the consecration of the church, in 1962, the church was redecorated: alterations to the altar, involving the re-raising of the mensa on marble slabs were done, consecration crosses were inserted in the walls and new strip lighting was put up into the sanctuary and sacristy. Finally, on 18 June 1963, Bishop Cunningham consecrated the church.
In 1980, the new organ was specially installed by Harrison and Harrison for the parish jubilee. Recent alterations include the Narthex, where St. Robert's statue now stands, and the meeting room, built as an extension to the church and presbytery. The red carpet tiles, of course, are a very new addition, giving the church a warmer, friendlier atmosphere.
St. Robert's Church has seen many alterations throughout the years since it was built in 1955, however it is its parishioners who make it such a thriving and lively parish! It has certainly been the scene of many memorable and happy events....
St. Robert’s Church is home to a lively and thriving parish community with parishioners from all ages and nationalities. Indeed, in the spirit of a truly Universal Church, we find ourselves being enriched by the presence and culture of several South American, Asian, and African families, which bring into our midst new ways of living our faith.
We share a deep faith in a loving God. We believe that each member of our parish family is uniquely gifted by God and capable of outstanding contributions to the well-being of our community. We also believe that we experience Christ's loving presence by actively participating in this community.
Our Parish strives to be a caring, warm, outgoing and welcoming community of faith, nourished by the Eucharist, prayer and the Word of God.
As such, we are dedicated to:
- live out the message of the gospel, ensuring that our faith is firmly rooted in Christ,
- celebrate a joyful liturgy, where everybody is a participant, not just an “attendant”,
- welcome everyone into our Parish,
- recognise and value God’s gifts in all of us,
- develop a sense of unity and belonging in our community,
- be aware and care for all those in need,support family life,
- cherish all our children and young people,
- establish good relationships with local churches and schools and the wider Community in Fenham.
Above all, the mission of Saint Robert’s Parish is to help its people live out their faith, helping us all meet the challenge of being a Catholic Christian in the world today