A SHORT HISTORY OF ST ELIZABETHS
Miss Hopwood, a convert to the Catholic Faith, was living in Park Road at the outbreak of the war in 1939, when evacuees came to Toddington and the surrounding area. She realised that there would be Catholics amongst them who would need somewhere to worship. She sought permission from the Bishop to establish a Mass Centre in her own home - then called “Withingtons”, and later renamed “Glengarrif”. The Spanish Vincentians who were based in Dunstable agreed to come out each Sunday in order to celebrate Mass.
The impressive entrance hall of the house was furnished as a chapel, and it was always beautifully decorated with flowers. The landing above was used for the organ, which was played by Miss Hopwood.
In the 1950s Miss Hopwood decided to have the stables renovated and converted to a chapel, dedicated to St Elizabeth of Hungary. The alterations were carried out by James McGowan, whose sons James and Paul served faithfully every Sunday. During this period the Irish Vincentians took over from the Spanish Vincentians in Dunstable, and they continued to celebrate Mass in the new chapel.
Miss Hopwood died in August 1959, bequeathing her house and the chapel to the Diocese of Northampton. Her place as caretaker was taken by Miss McDonald, who in turn looked after the church until her death in 1967.
Among the priests who have served the community in Toddington are Fr. Buckley, who set about the fund raising to replace the chairs with the benches still in use today. Sometime later Fr. Raftery gave the privilege of having the Blessed Sacrament on the altar in the church.
Parishioners have been very generous over the years providing many of the church’s Mass furnishings. The set of three lectionaries was blessed by Fr. Curtin in 1992 and the crystal cruets are in memory of Fr. Harry Smyth who died in 1993. The Stations of the Cross, the organ, the lectern falls and the baptismal font were all donated by parishioners or their families
In 1996 and 2000 substantial repairs and renovations were completed on the fabric of the church. In the autumn of 1996 work began to reclaim the garden, and this has been continued over the last few years, to provide a colourful and restful setting for the annual Open Air Mass and a useful facility for everyone to share during the fine weather.
We give thanks to all those who have served the community in whatever way and those who have gone before us in the sign of Faith.