St. Margaret Of Scotland

(1046-1093)

st margaret of scotlandSt. Margaret was the grandaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England through his son Edward the Aethling. She had been exiled to the eastern continent with the rest of her family when the Danes overran England. She was well educated, mostly in Hungary. She returned to England during the reign of her great-uncle, Edward the Confessor, but, as one of the last remaining members of the saxon Royal Family, she was forced to flee north to the Royal Scots Court at the time of the Norman Conquest.

Beautiful, intelligent and devout, Margaret brought some of the more detailed points of current European manners, ceremony and culture to the Scottish Court and thus highly improved its civilized reputation. She had a taste for the finer things in life and, in 1069, she won over the Scots King, Malcolm Canmore, and married him. Their union was exceptionally happy and fruitful for both themselves and the Scottish nation.

Margaret was one of the principal agents of the reform of the Church of Scotland which was, at the time, at a low point in its history. Church councils now promoted Easter communion and abstinence from servile work on a Sunday. Margaret founded churches, monasteries and pilgrimage hostels, including the revival of Iona, the building of the tiny chapel which still bears her name at Edinburgh Castle and establishment of the Royal Mausoleum of Dunfermline Abbey with monks from Canterbury. She was especially devoted to Scottish saints and instigated the Queen’s Ferry over the Forth so that pilgrims could more easily reach the Shrine of St. Andrew.

In her private life, Margaret was much given to prayer, reading and ecclesiastical needlework. She also gave alms lavishly and liberated a number of Anglo-Saxon captives. Her influence over her husband was considerable and she brought an English slant to Scottish politics for which has sometimes been criticized. King Malacolm’s initial rough character was certainly softened by the lady.

Margaret bore the King eight children, all with English names. Alexander and David followed their father to the throne, whilst her daughter, Matilda, brought the ancient Anglo-Saxon Royal bloodline into the veins of the Norman Invaders of England when she marrie and bore children to King Henry I. Margaret died aged forty-seven, not long after learning of the deaths of her husband and son in a campaign against William Rufus of England. She was buried in Dunfermline Abbey and miracles at her tomb brought her canonization by 1249. The base of her shrine can still be seen at the Abbey, but her body, along with that of her husband, was translated to the Escorial in Madrid during the Scottish Reformation. Her head, which had its own shrine, was acquired by the Jesuits of Douai Abbey.

History of St. Margaret’s Church, Doddinghurst

Doddinghurst Village is situated in a very rural part of Essex and during the war many people from the East End of London purchased plots of land and built shacks in Doddinghurst to escape from the blitz to the more peaceful countryside. Many people living in Doddinghurst at that time did not have cars and on Sundays the Catholics would have needed to walk to the nearest Mass Centre or to Brentwood Cathedral to attend Mass.

Doddinghurst House, a large old house in the Doddinghurst Road was owned by Colonel Kittoe, a Catholic. He arranged for a priest from Brentwood to come to say Mass in his house on a Sunday for his family and anyone in the Village who wished to attend. People were very grateful for this. Mary Manning and her husband Ernie, who passed away a few years ago, used to attend Mass in the house.

Colonel Kittoe owned a lot of land surrounding Doddinghurst House and when the Colonel died in the 1960’s he left the plot of land on which the Hall stood for the building of a Catholic Church. Planning permission was sought for the building of the Church and some of the adjacent land for residential use.  This was ‘green belt’ land and permission was eventually given for the building of Bakers Meadow and St. Margaret’s. Colonel Kittoe stipulated that the Church should be named after his wife, Margaret, which is how it came to be dedicated to St. Margaret of Scotland. The field next to St. Margaret’s is still owned by a relative of Colonel Kittoe, Mrs Budgen. Planning applications have been submitted several times for residential building on this land but have so far been rejected.

Canon Denis Petry was responsible for the building of many churches in the Diocese and masterminded the building of a Mass Centre on the plot left to us by Colonel Kittoe. Local people such as Ernie Manning and John Davis helped dig the foundations for the Hall dedicated to St. Margaret of Scotland and a pre-fabricated cedar building was purchased form Wernick’s of Billericay.  The building was dedicated as a Mass Centre in 1970.

Canon Petry ‘scrounged’ many of the building materials and in the early years there was no permanent sanctuary. The Hall was rectangular and on Sundays a portable altar was put against the right-hand wall and as people came in to Mass they picked up a wooden folding chair and square of remnant carpet as a kneeler. Vessels for Mass and the original crucifix came from churches in the Diocese and the Mass centre was served from Brentwood.

In the mid 1970’s Doddinghurst and St. Margaret’s became part of Ongar Parish and Fr. Brian Drea, then Finance Director of the Diocese, was appointed Parish Priest. From the start there was a great community spirit at St. Margaret’s and soon people wanted the Hall to be a real Church. Plans were made by the Hall Committee to build an extension as a permanent sanctuary and after a host of fund-raising activities this was achieved. Some key people at this time were Bill Mitchell, Brian Arnell, Malcolm Sharp, Terry Scully, Tony Woodford and Phil Little. The sanctuary was officially blessed by the Bishop in 1982. Parishioners donated the various items needed for a permanent sanctuary such as candlesticks,  bell, monstrance, benediction candelabras etc. often in memory of loved ones. This was organised by Ann Quigley. The tabernacle was donated and restored. Canon Petry, who died in 1990, commissioned the statue of St. Margaret of Scotland to be carved in Italy and donated it to us.

St. Margaret’s came into being through the dedication of a small band of parishioners and its development has been achieved through the hard work of many lay people, Catholic and non-Catholic. Fund raising has required a lot of social activities and  helped develop a very friendly and active community. The area has many young families and the development of the children’s liturgy has meant that parents are happy to bring their children to a Church where they will be welcomed.

Largely through the friendly attitude of Fr. Andrew over many years we now have a very happy and vibrant community.  Fr. Andrew sadly passed away on 14th August 2014.  For several months Fr. Martin Fletcher took the helm until a permanent replacement was found in Fr Graham Smith, who is currently Parish Priest.  He is supported by a host of lay people and by supporting him they feel involved and valued.