A Brief History of Building the Catholic Faith in Tamworth

In the years after the reformation, Catholics were forced to meet in secret as it was illegal for them to practise their faith.

In the Tamworth area, it was the Comberford family who helped to keep the faith alive. They lived two miles from Tamworth in Comberford Hall and Catholics used the chapel there. They still suffered persecution and, in January 1573, Thomas Comberford was arrested along with two very active priests. The last member of the Comberford family died in 1671. After this, the few Catholics around met at each other’s homes. Mass was said at the house of Mr Crowley, a weaver, and afterwards, by 1767, in the house of Mr Birch, a basket maker who lived in Coton near the bend in the river where the willows grew. Numbers grew from only 8 to around 46 at this time and Mass was celebrated 9 or 10 times a year.

After Mr Birch died, he left a plot of land for a chapel to be built on. The Birch family had a small chapel built 24ft x 12ft in the garden of a house, part of which was also used by the Catholics. This chapel was situated in an area behind The Fox Inn at Coton, near to Hopwas. The first Mass was said at this chapel on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15th, 1815. The chapel was used as a place of worship until St John's was opened in 1830. It remained standing until the 1970's.

The Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in 1829. This law meant that it was now legal for Catholics to practise their faith.

In April 1829, the foundation stone was laid for the building of St John the Baptist Church. The church was opened the following year on 24th June 1830, on the Feast of St John the Baptist. It was the first Catholic church to be opened in England after the 1829 Act.

St John the Baptist Parish continued to grow and the building underwent various extensions over the years. In 1981 the Sacred Heart church and centre was opened to further serve the people of Tamworth.

Today, the work continues to spread the Gospel through both prayer and action. Outreach to the community is supported by various projects at both St John's and The Sacred Heart. A new charity, The Heart of Tamworth (HOT), has -been established to drive these projects forward, as we strive to reach out to those in need.

Within the Parish, a Mass or a Eucharistic Service, is celebrated each day. At Easter 2015 there were approximately 1,400 attending Mass and each year new members are welcomed into the Church.