Cross Penzance Catholic Church  'The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady' part of 'The Holy Family' Parish  >  "History section index" | sitemap



After the first unsuccessful attempt in 1837 by Father William Ivers to open a mission in Penzance, it was not long before the second and more successful start was made in 1840 by Father William Young.

Father William Young was a charismatic figure: an Irishman of great talents and a driving determination to establish a Catholic Mission to Cornwall. He was born in 1796 in Dublin, one of eight surviving children of a Dublin merchant; most of the family became priests or nuns. The best known was his brother Henry, who became the pioneer in Dublin of the Temperance Movement - 20 years before Father Theobald Mathew started his crusade.

William entered Maynooth in 1817 and was ordained priest in 1822. Working hard in the Dublin diocese, among other things he replaced the small 1662 parish church of Baldoyle, and built a new church at Kinsaley, dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari. But he was a restless soul, and gave up his parish in 1838 to become a Cistercian monk at Mount Melleray. Fortunately for Cornwall, he did not remain long in Mount Melleray, but moved on to his great vision of the "Mission to Cornwall".

In October 1839 he arrived at Lanherne, the ancient Catholic stronghold in Cornwall, now the home of English Carmelite Nuns who had been expelled from Antwerp under Napoleon. Using the convent as a base, he started his work in Cornwall, preaching in public in the small towns and villages nearby - it is said he converted 150 people in the short nine months he was there.

It was then he heard that Father Ivers had given up at Penzance, so he hurried there to try to pick up the pieces. His success you see in the next section.

It was typical of the man that, as soon as he had got the church in Penzance started, his restless mind began to look further. He settled his mission in the good hands (as he thought) of the Oblate Fathers, handing over the whole property on 8th June 1843. He took himself further up the county to another town needing the presence of a priest - to Bodmin; but he had the joy of returning to Penzance for the great opening of his completed church on 26th October 1843.

In Bodmin, again he immediately started building this time a much smaller church which he dedicated to Our Lady and opened on 24th September 1846. But again he moved on to Walsall and the later gave missions in Liverpool, Spitalfields, Gravesend and Hanwell. In 1853 he came back to Bodmin for a short time, but could not settle. He stayed for a time with his old friends, the Oblate Fathers, at Sickling Hall in Yorkshire. But it was at Hanwell that he died on 1st December 1859

created 29th October 2004 - last  revised 13th March, 2011 v1.02 -