Manor Park parish celebrates centenary

On Sunday 21 January 2024 at 11am, the centenary of the foundation of St Stephen’s in Manor Park was celebrated with a Mass led by Bishop Alan Williams sm.  Parish priest Fr John Victor Drabeesan welcomed Bishop Alan, Sir Stephen Timms MP, representatives of the clergy from nearby churches and religious leaders from other denominations within the local community. The Sisters of the Immaculate  Heart, Nicola Brosnan, the headteacher from St Winefride’s Catholic Primary School, and her school operations manager Davin Savin, were also present.

During the Mass children from the parish offered baskets of gifts which were given to the local elderly housebound and needy.

Sir Stephen Timms MP and Fr John Victor Drabeesan Parish PriestThe Mass was followed by a short address by Sir Stephen Timms in which he thanked the community for its support especially in relation to the London Citizens TELCO organisation. TELCO co ordinates campaigns to improve the lives of local people, leading various initiatives and of particular importance is its successful work in establishing the London Living Wage.

Around 500 people from the local community attended the service. A buffet was served incorporating foods from the many diverse communities represented in the parish. A special cake was created for the occasion by parishioner Anthony Fernando and cut by the Bishop Alan with suitable pomp. The venue was decorated to fit with the celebration.


St Stephen's Bishop cuts cake

Fr John is the successor of many priests at the parish, including Fr John Carmel Heenan (later Cardinal Heenan) and Fr Denis Hall, that East London legend whose ‘second religion’ (West Ham United Football Club) was known to generations, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Fr Sean Connolly, Fr John’s immediate predecessor, has been involved in London Citizens for over 20 years, and engages Catholic parishes and schools in community organising through The Centre for Theology and Community.

Bishop, Sir Stephen Timms, Fr John with parishioners

Bishop Alan, Sir Stephen Timms and Fr John with parishioners

Fr John had a message for parishioners: “It is a great privilege to be your parish priest celebrating the centenary of the St Stephen’s community with you. I am sure that the last 100 years have seen many changes both in the way in which we as Catholics worship and the diversity of our community. The parish is set in the heart of the East End of London and has faced many challenges over the years, and with the support of our strong faith and community we have risen to meet them. May God support us to grow our community in faith and strength through the ensuing years. God bless you all.”

A History of the Parish of Manor Park (1923-2023)

St Nicholas’ and St Stephen’s

A timeline….

1868: St Nicholas Industrial School, Gladding Road, opened and served by a resident chaplain.

1870 (July):  St Nicholas Church opened.

1896:  SS Peter & Paul, Ilford, took over responsibility for celebrating a parish Mass at St Nicholas.

1908: Opening of St Winefride’s School.

1918 (27 August): Canonical erection of the Manor Park parish which now formed part of the Diocese of Brentwood (established 1917). A parish priest was appointed and Ilford relinquished responsibility for Manor Park.

St Stephen's original church1923 (27 December): Opening of the original St Stephen’s Church, known as Little Ilford to distinguish it from St Nicholas, Manor Park.

1934: Building of the Presbytery in Little Ilford Lane, to which the clergy from Gladding Road duly moved.

1959 (15 October)Opening of the present St Stephen’s Church.

1978 (1 June):  Consecration of St Stephen’s Church.

2013: Closure of St Nicholas Church as a place of Catholic worship (subsequently used by Coptic Orthodox Church).

2024: St Stephen’s celebrates its centenary with a Mass led by Rt Rev. Alan Williams sm, Bishop of Brentwood.

Church building now

Parish Priests:

1918-1928       Augustine Davidson (1st Parish Priest 1918)

1928-1937       John Sloane

1937-1947       John Carmel Heenan

1947-1949       Francis Heenan

1949-1950      Daniel Harnett

1951-1970       Vincent Hurley

1970-1976       John Duckett

1976-1984       Conrad Smith

1984-1991       Patrick Bennett

1991-1997       John Kennedy

1997-2006      Denis Hall

2006-2008     Martin Fletcher

2008-2021      Sean Connolly

2021-                John Victor Drabeesan (Trivandrum)


1918-1919        Thomas Smith

1919-1920        Victor Albert Kesteloot (Bruges)

1920-1922        Arthur McMahon (Kilmore)

1922-1926        James Joseph O’Reilly (Kilmore)

1926-1927        Timothy Keany (Kilmore)

1927-1928        Myles O’Reilly

1928-1931        Charles McGovern (Kilmore)

1931-1933        Peter Gargan (Kilmore)

1933-1939        John Hibbert

1939-1940       James T. O’Reilly (Kilmore)

1940                  Patrick Donohoe

1941-1944       William Evers

1944-1946       Eric Goldingay

1946-1947       Bernard Manning

1947-1948       Daniel Shanahan

1949-1951        Philip Finnegan S.S.C.

1951                   Bernard Cunningham (Lancaster)

1951-1952        Francis Wilson

1952-1953        William Sheridan S.S.C.

1954-1955        J. Bossu (Lille)

1954-1958        John Harden

1958-1960       Gordon Godfrey

1960-1961       Vincent Darragh (Armagh)

1961-1964        Donal Sweeney (Armagh)

1962                  John McCartan (Armagh)

1964-1966       Brendan Sheppard

1966                  Terence Higgins

1967-1971         Patrick Taylor

1971                    Peter Glancy M.H.M.

1971-1980        John Clifford

1980-1985        Colm Gallagher (Raphoe)

1985-1987        John Armitage

1987-1988        John Tuohy

1988-1993       James Linburgh

1993-1994       Paul Bhanji

1994-1995       Christopher Enemuo (Enugu)

1998-1999       Eamonn Power

2004-2006     George Cheeramkuzhy (Palai: Syro-Malabar Chaplain from 2005)

2007-2008      Anthony Onohua (Orlu: In Residence)

2012                   Clement Nyarko (Kumasi: Pro tem)

2023                  Jerold Savio Terrence (Trivandrum)



1979-1982        Ronald O’Toole