1845 - The Byrne family of Irish Row open their home for Mass.


1867 - A Station is opened at Whitwood, served from Pontefract, and first mentioned in 1870 Directory of the Diocese of Beverley.


1870 - At the Rising Sun Innn, Whitwood, a Committee is formed to draw up plans for a School Chapel at Normanton Common; it was proably completed during that year.


1871 - A Chapel of Ease opens in Whitwood, but with no resident priest services are led by the Jesuits from Pontefract (and later Wakefield) - although the priests concerned may have been members of the German Province.


1885  - As the last Jesuit priest leaves, he reports that the Whitwood Mission covered 55 square miles, and that from 177 households, with a population of about 800, the (two) Sunday masses had an average attendance of 250.  The school housed 350 children.


1885 - Our first Parish Priest - Father Frederick Herfkens - takes up residence.

Our Parish History

St John the Baptist

Catholic Church

In The Beginning

The First Fifty Years

As you can see from above, the Catholic Community in the Normmanton area has a long history, but was not recognised as a parish until comparatively late.  After some years in the care of the Jesuits, however, the parish was established in its own right, and welcomed its first parish priest, in July 1885.


1885 - The parish is established and welcomes its first Parish Priest - Father Frederick Herfkens (a native of Friesland in Northern Holland).


1888 - A new school chapel is built at Newland Lane end, followed shortly afterwards by a presbytery and a club.


1904 May - The foundation stone of the new church is laid.


1905 July - The church opens.


1911 - Fr Herfkens dies aged 67, and is succeeded by Father Joseph Imkamp - a compatriot and friend of Father Herfkens.  He guided the parish through the many trials of the First World War, and the long and damaging strikes (in the mining and other industries) of 1921 and 1926.  


1936 - Father Imkamp dies aged 62, and is succeeded by Father Terence O'Connell, a native of County Laois, south-west of Dublin.  Apart from his devoted priestly ministry he is remembered especially for his active interest in local public life and for his success at clearing the parish's large debt.

The Second 50 Years

1957 - After 21 years as parish priest Father O'Connell dies aged 60 and is succeeded by Father Patrick O'Grady, a native of County Tipperary (which borders County Laois).  Father O'Grady completes the work of establishing the Catholic secondary school at North Featherstone, St Wilfrid's, begun by his predecessor, and guides the parish through the turmoil of the Second Vatican Council.  


1971 - The Bishop appoints Father O'Grady honorary Canon of the Diocesan Chapter and Dean of Pontefract Deanery and .


1982 May - Canon O'Grady celebrates 45 years in the priesthood.  He lays the foundation stone of the eponymous parish hall, to be completed some two years later.  After 25 years as parish priest he dies in July.  He is remembered especially as a zealous pator who cared for the sick and the dying and as one who was always generous to the poor and the distressed.


1982 September - Canon O'grady is succeeded by Fr Patrick O'Keefe


1997 - Fr Paul Reid becomes the parishes sixth parish priest and during his tenure oversees the demolition and rebuilding of the Presbytery and major reconstruction and renovation of the church.


2004 - Canon Peter Maguire succeeds Fr Paul as parish priest.


The parish celebrated its centenary in July 2005.  One of the highlights of the week-long series of events was a procession through the streets of Normanton.  Along the way we were joined by our fellow Christians from the Anglican, Methodist and Baptist communities.


The Bishop of Leeds, the Right Reverend Arthur Roche, led Canon Maguire and his fellow priests in the concelebration of the Mass on Sunday 24 June 2005 - the feast day of our patron saint.


On Sunday 3 July - the closest day to the anniversary itself - the morning Mass was followed by a procession around the town.  As we wound our way past the Methodist, Anglican and Baptist churches we were greeted - and joined - by our fellow Christians before making our way back to the church hall for our social event.

Recent History

2012 October - The parish begins to celebrate the Pope's Year of Faith, with celebrations and activities planned throughout the year.


2013 June - The parish celebrates Canon Maguire's Golden Jubilee with a large celebration in the parish.


2013 October - Fr Duane Reilly becomes the eighth parish priest after succeeding Canon Peter Maguire.