WHO WAS ST THOMAS MORE?

St Thomas. More (1478 - 1535) was an English lawyer, statesman and humanist scholar and author. He was secretary and advisor to Henry VIII, then speaker of the House of Commons and, eventually, Lord Chancellor. He enjoyed a close friendship with Erasmus of Rotterdam, another leading humanist at the time, and his book "Utopia" (a term he coined) was influential as well as controversial.

He is chiefly remembered for his principled refusal to accept King Henry VIII's claim to be the supreme head of the Church of England, a decision which ended St Thomas More's political career and led to his execution as a traitor. Whilst on the scaffold he declared that;

"I DIE THE KING'S GOOD SERVANT BUT GOD'S FIRST".

These words are inscribed on the window above the entrance to the church.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN KNEBWORTH

At the beginning of the 20th century, the nearest church for Roman Catholics in Knebworth was the one built between 1912 and 1914 in what is now Old Stevenage. Catholics from Knebworth, including elderly ladies on tricycles, used to travel there on Sundays before the Great North Road became too dangerous for this mode of transport.

As the number of Catholics increased, the diocese agreed to establish a parish in Knebworth itself. A house in London Road, now the Presbytery, was bought in 1928 and an upper room was converted into a chapel, dedicated to St Dunstan. There was no resident priest and, at first, Mass attendance was between 10 and 30. This number rose slowly but continuously over the following years.

A temporary church (now used as the parish hall) was built near the house with a seating capacity of one hundred and was opened in January 1935. This was the first church in England to be dedicated to St Thomas More as the dedication took place on the day of his canonisation on the 16th May 1935.

The present church was built in place of the orchard and was consecrated in 1962.

The Parish Priest:

1936 - 1950 = Fr Reginald Phillips    

1951 - 1983 = Canon George Davey

1983 - 1987 = Canon Harold Winstone

1987 - 2002  = Fr Philip Law

2002 - 2005 = Fr Michael Lambert of Hitchin Deanery (with Fr Tim Edgar, administrator)

2005 - 2007 = Fr Seamus Fullam

2007-present = Canon Daniel Cronin