It all started in the early 1950’s when Dr. Glynn the owner of Bleakwood offered a room in the house as a Mass centre for parishioners of St. Michael’s Chatham who were living in Walderslade. The first Mass was attended by some twenty people including the nuns from St. Joseph’s Convent.
Over the years, the numbers increased until in the mid 1950’s when Dr. Glynn returned to Ireland, the house together with its grounds of several acres was bought by Fr. McKenna of St. Michael’s for £6000. The mass room was then extended to cater for the increased numbers and the rest of the house provided a social centre for the parish and accommodation at various time to several past parishioners. In 1965, Bleakwood house, together with sufficient land to build twelve houses, was sold to a firm of developers for £16,500 with the proviso that Bleakwood House should be leased to St. Michael’s free of charge until 1970. The St. Thomas More School and our new church now stand on the remainder of the grounds
On completion of the twelve houses, one of which, No. 5, has become the Presbytery, the developers decided not to continue with the site and offered to sell Bleakwood House back to St. Michael’s parish. After many negotiations a price of £7,500 was agreed upon. Meanwhile, however, the parish of St. Simon Stock, Walderslade had begun its existence as a separate entity on the 12th January 1967 and the sale was completed by St. Simons in February 1967. Apart from the addition of a new altar, a new organ and cassocks for the servers which were small but very significant improvements the main focus of attention was for the building of a new school which was long overdue in a rapidly expanding community.
Early in 1970 plans were prepared for a new Church and the life of Bleakwood House was nearing the end. The house has now been sold for £12,000 and is due to be demolished to make way for more houses. For those who lived in Walderslade all their lives and especially Dr. Glynn who once owned this characteristic old house, it will be a sad day when this familiar outline is removed from Walderslade Road. And for those of us who will witness the opening of our new church next Sunday, Bleakwood House will be fondly remembered as the centre for many years of the Catholic activities in Walderslade.
Account written by Paul Chapman Chairman to the Parish Council in the 1970s.