Our Lady of the Crays - the story so far
Early history of Cray Valley parish
The St Mary Cray mission had its origins in the early nineteenth century through the large numbers of Irish immigrants coming to London to work on the expanding railways in the South East - as well as people sought by the Joynson Paper Mill situated near the Cray River and next to the railway viaduct. To attend Mass, people walked every Sunday to St Mary’s Crayford - about seven miles away.
They then attended the Chislehurst Mission, St Mary’s, when it started in 1852. Mass has been celebrated in St Mary Cray since 1873 in the school, but it only in 1875 did it gain ts first resident priest.
The first church
The parish bought three cottages at the junction of the High Street and Blacksmiths Lane, and awarded a contract for £1,330 in January 1895 to build a church next to the school.
On 14th April 1941 the church was destroyed in bombing. Mass was then celebrated in St Philomena’s Convent hal, and then in a hall built with the help and generosity of many parishioners giving of their time and materials. Mass was said there for many years before a second St Joseph’s Church costing £40,000 was commissioned. The Mass of Dedication took place on 19th March 1959.
St Paul's Cray
There has been a parish community in the St Paul’s Cray district since the early 1950s. It decided in the mid-60s to raise funds to build a church to serve it, like its sister parish at St Mary Cray.
The parish acquired land on Chipperfield Road for this During the building of the church, Mass was said in the hall previously erected next to it. The Mass of Dedication was celebrated on 12th July 1985.
Between 2006 and 2008 The Archbishop, in consultation with his Bishops, priests and the laity, agreed to dissolve the parishes of St Mary Cray and Ss Peter & Paul and create a new one, Cray Valley Parish, to absorb the former two parishes. A new church was built on the site of the old St Joseph’s and was renamed Our Lady of the Crays, in honour of Our Lady, the unifying mother of Christ. The Crays continue to attract a migrant community, but today instead of a paper mill they are many industries and small businesses which bring people to the area.
The larger town of Orpington, which coincidentally started its parish under the banner of St Joseph’s and St Anne’s Orphanages before the original Holy Innocents church was built in 1909, can therefore be said to be subsidiary in its formation of our Catholic Community.