The Next Mass is at 09:00 on Thursday 25th July 2024

History Of The Parish

The Parish of St John Fisher, Merton
The Catholic church of St. John Fisher, Merton situated in a pleasant suburban of south-west London, Cannon Hill Lane, SW20. The church and its parish are modern, but the name Cannon Hill takes us back four and a half centuries. It was the canons of the great Augustinian Priory of Our Lady at Merton who owned this 'Canondownhyll'. Whether John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester who was one of the first Reformation martyrs, ever visited Merton we do not know. Certainly he would have known much about its priory where St. Thomas a Becket had been educated and Henry V1 crowned. The London house of the Bishops of Rochester, next door to that of the Archbishops of Canterbury, was at Lambeth, only some eight miles away.

Early History

The modern parish of St. John Fisher extends over part of what was the canons' manor of Merton, and part of the old manor of Morden, which was also owned by the Church in this case, by the Benedictines of West minster Abbey. The priory and the abbey were both dissolved in 1539, four years after Fisher was executed. With these great religious houses gone, and the shadow of the capital and the Court ever-present, the people of Merton and Morden seem to have quickly conformed at the Reformation. Few if any Catholics lived in either place) both were small villages surrounded by open country) from then until very recent times.A farm occupied the present site of St. John Fisher's church, the parish hall and the presbytery. It had probably existed since the seventeenth century at least, and can still be seen on the map of 1865. Behind it was the expanse of Merton Common.In the 1830's the railway came to Wimbledon and Raynes Park, but the peaceful countryside round Cannon Hill was left undisturbed for almost a century more. After the first World War, London's growth extended further and further to the south-west. Eventually in 1926 the tube railway ran to Morden, and in 1930 the Southern line came to South Merton. Builders covered almost the whole of what is now St. John Fisher parish with houses and flats to meet the demand from commuters. New residents, many of them young couples, came to Merton and Morden and formed a fresh community. Among them was a sprinkling of Catholics.

The Jesuits of Wimbledon

The Jesuits had come to Wimbledon in the 1870's and the district of Cannon Hill was part of their parish of the Sacred Heart, Edge Hill, Wimbledon. Catholics schools, Wimbledon College, the Ursuline convent at Wimbeldon, the Sacred Heart Primary school, in Burlington Road and St. Mary's, Russel Road, had been established. These facilities encouraged Catholic families to live in the area, including the new housing estates in Merton and Morden. Father M.T. Ingram, SJ built the hall which is now St. John Fisher Parish Hall. This was a Sunday Mass Centre and also focal point for social activities. Father Derbyshire SJ was appointed priest- in-charge and the hall was blessed on 29th October 1938. Father Derbyshire continued to live in the Jesuit House in Wimbledon and came to say Mass each Sunday and Holy Day. Father Arnold Jordan SJ took over from Father Derbyshire in 1940, he lived in the two rooms in the hall. Sunday Mass attendance was about 230. A flying bomb exploded immediately behind the hall on 18th June 1944 and practically destroyed the hall, when the war finished a temporary corrugated-iron asbestos roofed church was built and opened in 1948 in the same year a small house for the priest was built in the site now occupied by the church car park. The Jesuits handed over the district of St. John Fisher to the diocese of Southwark.
St. John Fisher was created a parish in July 1949, Mass attendance was 382. Father James O'Donnell was appointed the first parish priest. He had been a professor at the Diocesan Seminary in Wonersh and was ordained priest in 1933. During his time he built the present church, new presbytery, and two Catholic schools, in 1965 Canon O'Donnell was appointed a Canon, he remained in the parish as parish priest for 32years until his death in 1981.
Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. These sisters who lived at 182 Kingston Road moved into 35 Mostyn Road in 1965, and they still continue to serve the community.

Dates in the History of St John Fisher Church, Merton

  • 1938 October 30th -   (Feast of Christ the king). First Mass in St. John Fisher Hall.
  • 1944 June 18th -   Hall seriously damaged by flying-bomb.
  • 1948 June -   Temporary church opened.
  • 1948 September -   First presbytery completed.
  • 1949 July -   St. John Fisher was created as a parish.
  • 1956 -   Fishermans Herald newsletter established.
  • 1960 September 14th -   St. Catherines School opened.
  • 1962 August 15th -   (Feast of the Assumption). First Mass of new permanent church.
  • 1962 September 12th -   Formal opening of new church by Bishop Cowderoy.
  • 1966 May 1st -   St. John Fisher School opened.
  • 1969 December 18th -   First meeting of Parish Advisory Council.
  • 1974 -   New presbytery built and car park laid out.
  • 1983 -   The Church was re-ordered.
  • 1984 -   Consecration of the church, by Bishop Tripp.
  • 2011 -   St. Catherines School was closed, due to the change in the system of Education in the Borough.
  • The Clergy of St. John Fisher, Merton


  • 1938-1940 - Rev. Lester Derbyshire, S.J. (1894-1976)
  • 1940-1949 - Rev. Arnold Jordan S.J. (1900-1965)

  • Parish Priests

  • 1949-1981 - Rev. Canon James Dermot O'Donnell
  • 1981-2016 - Rev. Canon Colm Acton
  • 2016-2018 - Rev. David Gummett

  • Parish Administrator

  • 2016 - Rev. Uche
  • 2018-Present - Rev. Matthias Kizito


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