Before 1987, all Catholics living in Ashford and Wye and the smaller villages around Ashford belonged to St Teresa’s parish. In the 1950’s Mass was said for the people of South Ashford in a prefabricated building in Woolreeds Road. The housing estates around Brookfield were built about 1960 as part of the London overspill agreement between Ashford and the then London County Council.
A New Hall – 1960
About 1960 St Simon’s Hall, Brookfield Road, was built and opened as a Mass centre for South Ashford parishioners. The site had previously been a duck pond, then a refuse dump – which was to have repercussions later on. The new hall was still part of the wider parish with Fr (later Canon) Ambrose Woods as parish priest. Many activities were held at the main church, St Teresa’s in Maidstone Road, although as the parish grew in numbers larger events and celebrations were held in St Simon’s Hall, as the former St Teresa’s Church was too small to take the increasing congregations. Bob and Mary Hayward, who lived opposite St Simon’s Hall, were the caretakers and sacristans; Mary was the organist. They generally held the South Ashford community together for many years.
The new St Simon’s School – 1972
In 1972, the RC parish primary school, St Teresa’s School, which was then in Newtown, divided into two, with the new St Simon’s School being opened by Canon Mahoney in May 1972. From then on the community of South Ashford became more of a coherent unit, as the school, with its first headmaster, Jerome O’Donovan, drew the families together. Masses were still celebrated in St Simon’s Hall, served by the three priests who were based at St Teresa’s Church.
A New Parish – 1987
In the eighties it was decided to divide Ashford’s Catholics into two parishes: the people of South Ashford and villages to the south of the town formed a separate parish of St Simon of England (later St Simon Stock). The new parish came to birth on 21st January 1987, with Fr Richard Harvey as the first parish priest, living in nearby Grantley Close. Fr Richard sold part of the land behind the present church to the Borough Council, and he oversaw the building of a church and presbytery on the same site as the church hall, which started in 1990. As the church site was being prepared, there was an alarm about methane gas seeping out of the ground; the borough engineers required meters to be placed everywhere and, subsequently, gas-proof membranes to be laid in the foundations.
A New Church – 1991
In 1991 the new church opened and Fr Richard moved into the presbytery. In 1995 a new parish priest, Fr Paul Fennessy, was appointed. St Simon’s Church was consecrated 31st October 1996. In 2001 Fr Paul left Ashford and Fr John Boyle was appointed as parish priest. Fr John stayed until July 2010, when he left England to work in America. Fr Neil Vincent was appointed parish priest of St Simon Stock in September 2010.
History compiled by John and Mary Addisson