following is the text of a letter recently received by Friends from
Michael Gannon, which details more memories of the early days of the
revival of the Catholic Community here in Cricklade:
My son Dr Mark Gannon
enlightened me about the article written by Father Barton on the revival
of Celebration of Mass in a Catholic Church in Cricklade. One small error
we noticed was the spelling of Mrs Bond, it should be Mrs Bonn.
Please find my memories
below with some of the events in the revival of the Catholic Church,
The story commences with
Leo Bernard William Bonn who came to this country in 1870, leaving his
native Franconia as he disliked the Prussian treatment of his native land
following Prince Bismarck's victory over Bavaria and Austria in 1866.
Leo Bonn resided at
Newbold Revel this was the ancestral home of the distinguished Roman
Catholic de Revel family, a Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order
of Malta. By the time of his death Leo Bonn had ensured the care of the
stained glass windows knowing that it was to be purchased by the Roman
Catholic Carmelite Order. Leo Bonn had a son Walter Bonn who married a
Lena Theodora Davidson (circa 1924).
Lena Theodora Davidson was
from an old aristocratic family that had Catholicism links to all the
Sovereigns of this country from King Charles II back to William the
The focus of this story, is that Lena Bonn was instrumental in
resurrecting the first Mass in Cricklade for some 400 years, it took her
several years of persevering, persuading and cajoling.
The marriage of Walter
Bonn and Lena Davidson bore two sons Michael born January 1927 and
Christopher born September 1929.
My father Matthew Gannon
commenced working for Major Bonn as a Stud Groom at Street Ashton House,
Nr Rugby, Warwickshire in the autumn of 1929.
In those Warwickshire
years Mrs Bonn in her journey to Mass carried the 3 Gannon's, Mass was
celebrated in a private house chapel owned by the Fieldings (Lord
Denbigh)(once recusant) on his estate on the edge of Monks Kirby. There
was also a Convent in the village with a boarding school, which Michael
Gannon attended as a day pupil 1930-1932.
(The Catholics in Monks Kirby now have their own church Sf Joseph's,
opened in the late 1980's.)
In December 1932 Major
Walter Bonn moved his family to Common Hill House, Cricklade, Wiltshire,
which previously was known as Chelworth House. (Now a private club) The
Major requested that all his staff could join him if they so desired. When
the Gannon's arrived at their new home around teatime on 5 December 1932,
Fr. Staunton (priest at Cirencester, Glos) was awaiting in the stable yard
and seeing Michael Gannon's string of Holy medals dangling from his neck
gave a smile and a warm welcome.
Walter Bonn was educated
at Eton, later he joined the Welsh Guards to serve in World War I with
distinction and was awarded medals for gallantry. This educational process
was repeated with his two sons, Michael and Christopher.
His wife Lena Bonn, was an
energetic, imaginative, concientous, headstrong woman and a very, very,
devout Catholic. In the early 1930's Mrs Bonn carried the Gannons to Mass
in Cirencester every Sunday in company with her own family when they were
home from school and Michael Gannon can remember that she spoke many times
to his parents of how desperately we needed a Catholic Church in Cricklade
and how hard she was trying.
Determined to create a
place of Catholic worship in Cricklade and well aware of the time gap of
some 400 years, Mrs Lena Bonn became the main negotiator to secure some
initial accommodation for a place of worship that would suit the Roman
Catholic demands, eventually succeeding with a Mr & Mrs Goodson who
owned the Grocery shop in the High Street Cricklade. (Opposite the then
This resulted in Lena Bonn
eventually suggesting to Fr Mac Sweeney that Mass could possibly be
celebrated in a room above the shop, overlooking the High Street in
Goodson's grocery store Cricklade. Father Mac' obviously agreed and Bishop
Lee must have also agreed.
The first Mass was
celebrated in this room with about 15 Catholics present. It was in early
summer and Michael Gannon is not completely sure but believes it could
have been early summer 1937, perhaps 1938. Michael Gannon was an altar boy
at this first Mass and for the first time had the Latin responses to make
on his own. (he had previously been an altar boy since 1933 under Fr Staunton in
Cirencester, with many other older altar boys such as Mr Gasman, Pat
Stevens, Anthony Keeley and Freddie Copenhall) .Michael was fortunate
in this situation that Mrs Bonn gave him tuition and pronounciation
assistance with his Latin.
Michael can remember at
the first Mass, The 4 Lynams from Purton Stoke, Mrs Armstrong, Mrs Bonn
and her two sons, the 3 Gannons, some people from Latton, there was also
the Ridge family.
Just before the war (Sept
1939) Michael Gannon remembers the celebration of Mass moving from the
room above Goodson's shop into the building at the back of Goodson's shop,
not far from the Gas Works.(one could smell it) The building was
approached through Gas Lane. It had previously been a school and a local
cinema, one of the projectionists had been a George Kilminster a Cricklade
man who lived in Abingdon Court Road, well into his 90's.
In 1940 Matthew Gannon
left Major Bonn's employ because of the wartime squeeze on hunting and the
fact that the horses had reduced on the Major's estate leaving Matthew
with gardening to make up his weekly hours. Matthew was granted the
licence of the 'Foresters Arms' at the Leigh, this was a Stroud Brewery
tied house about 1 mile further west from Common Hill, House. Living
opposite to the pub were the Curtis family and Audrey the daughter of Mr
and Mrs Curtis married Johnny Dunne one of the many Irishmen who came to
this country to work on building the Airfields and Audrey converted to
Johnny Dunne had a very
good tenor voice, Michael often heard him singing in The Foresters.
When Michael Gannon
attended the Elementary school at the bottom of the town (by the bridge
over the Thames) 1933-1937, he remembers often seeing the Rev Bell with
his mop of grey hair in his long black cassock, going hither and thither
into St Mary's, which was later to become the Catholic Church.
One more aspect of the
Bonn family's devotion to the Roman Catholicism is that Lena Bonn's son
Michael was awarded the Knighthood of Grand Master of the Sovereign
Military Order of Malta.
In 1943 the Bonn family
moved from Common Hill House to Marsden Manor on the Cirencester
Cheltenham road. After the war the whole Bonn family moved 'lock stock and
barrel' to Jersey.
Each Sunday that Michael
Gannon served as an Altar boy 1937-1942, he was asked by Father Mac to
count the number in the congregation. Obviously Father kept records of the
Catholics attending Cricklade Mass and presented the numbers to the
Bishop. These records are probably still available somewhere in Fairford
Michael Gannon joined the
Navy in February 1942. We also have many memories of Father Mac Sweeney
but this note is to give some credit to Mrs Lena Bonn which appears to
have been slightly missed on the article by Fr Barton.
Just a few thoughts about
the airfields, my father's pub backed out on the Blake Hill dispersal unit
which was full of gliders, there was only a very small hedge and a ditch
between the building and the field. My father had enough beer supplied by
the brewery for 2 days a week and for 2 hours for each of those days in
the 40's, and everyone in the area seemed to know when we were supplied,
especially the troops tented behind the pub. They used to bang on the back
bar window and my father used to fill up their bottles, jam jars and every
other imaginable receptacle that they could manage to procure.
When I came home on leave
May 1944 just before the invasion there were troops living in tents
between the gliders waiting for the 'invasion on' time. There was a
similar forces not far away at Down Ampney, Fairford and Southrop
The first time that they landed the bi-planes on Blake
Hill was in 1934, Louis Robins the son of Major Bonn's cook accompanied me
mounted on our bikes to view the planes, how exciting it seemed at that
time. The bi-planes just needed a grass strip in those days, regardless of
the fact that it was a bumpy field.
for the meandering, but there are so many memories of Fairford and Father
Mac, the camps, the Polish camp in Fairford Park, etc etc.