Before the 1940s Catholics living in Harrold
and the neighbouring villages of Carlton and Odell had very limited
means of atttending Sunday Mass, or, indeed,any service. They either
caught a bus to Bedford or found some means of getting to Olney
and, in this respect, they were often helped by Mr Tom Robinson
who was part-owner of The Harrold Motor Company. However, on the
second Sunday in the month Mass was celebrated in Harrold, at the
home of the Gubbins family.
During the Second World War Harrold Hall
was used to house Italian prisoners of war, many of whom worked
on local farms. The prisoners of war had their own Chaplain and
local Catholics were able to celebrate Mass with them.
About 1946, due mainly to the efforts
and persistence of the Gubbins family, aided by Mr and Mrs Cockings,
it was felt that local Catholics needed a base in Harrold. Father
Walters, the resident priest in Olney at this time, negotiated the
purchase of a hut (probably from Podington Aerodrome). This was
duly erected on land purchased from Edgar Clayson. The site was
adjacent to the present Playing Field in Carlton Road, and is now
the home of John and Jean Saul. For over twenty years this hut served
as the local Masss centre under the auspices of the Olney priest.
Ever on the lookout for a more permanent
building for a church, Harrold Catholics were eventually offered
the opportunity to purchase the Old School on The Green. This again
was owned by Edgar Clayson, and he agreed to take back the land
in Carlton Road in part exchange for the Victorian school building
in the centre of the village. Thus, by the early 1960s, work began
on transforming the building into a church. This was not an easy
task as it had been requisitioned by the War Office and had been
used as a storage depot for industrial tyres. Nevertheless, work
was completed and the church was duly dedicated as The Church of
St Francis Xavier.
As with all old buildings there were a
few problems and it was eventually necessary to add a damp course
and to install electric heating. In more recent years the church was refurbished under the guidance of the priest, Father
Ryan. The original hut stands in Odell, although in a state of disrepair.
It served, until the late 1980s, as the headquarters of Odell Scouts
in Horsefair Lane.