1828 - 1865

The Growth of the Catholic Community in Wolverhampton (part 1)

Wolverhampton Catholics before 1828

Towards the end of the seventeenth century Wolverhampton had gained the unofficial title of "Little Rome" [Roma Parva] on account of the great number of Catholics residing there. At the accession of James II the Jesuits had a very large house in the town, and contained within this building was a spacious chapel "which was numerously attended" ["Historical Sketches of Missions" in the Official Directory of the Province of Birmingham p.24 1981] and an extensive school which catered for 50 children. The existence of a relatively large Catholic community in Wolverhampton can, to a certain extent, be attributed to the residence of a number of adherent gentry families of influence and responsibility in, or near, the town. The Giffards and the Levesons of Wolverhampton, and the Whitgreaves of Moseley provided finance, accommodation for religious services and, on several occasions, sons who became ordained into the priesthood.

The importance of Wolverhampton as a local centre of Catholicism was underlined in the late 1720s when, with the encouragement of Squire Giffard of Chillington, the Midland District clergy completely rebuilt Giffard House so that it was able to accommodate two priests. A chapel, capable of seating over 100 persons, was incorporated into the design of this building which became the first town chapel to be built by ' subscription and by the secular clergy. [Marie Rowlands "St Peter & Paul’s Church, Wolverhampton 1692 – 1975" [Wolverhampton 1975].