The site of the Catholic Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in Oundle was dedicated to the “ever blessed name of Jesus” in July 1879 as a second Anglican Church in Oundle. It was dedicated and consecrated by the Bishop of Peterborough. It was later known as “Jesus Church”. The site was donated by Jesse David Watts Russell of Biggin Hall, Oundle, Lords of the Manor, who also paid for the building of the Church and gave an endowment of £2,000 to maintain a clergyman. Sadly, Jesse David Watts Russell did not live to see the completion of his gift. It is believed that on the very day that the “crowning cross” was being placed on the summit of the tower, on 6th March 1879, he died suddenly, only a few months before the Church was completed.
Jesse David Watts Russell came from a wealthy farming family. His motivation for building the church was, in some way, to do with his belief that the ordinary working people of Oundle needed a church where worship was not separated out by wealth or background. He was sorry to see so many of the less wealthy of the Parish not being able to enter the main Parish Church of St Peter, Oundle because of the allocation of the pews to the wealthy and privileged. From the 17th century to mid 19th century, churchgoers of most denominations were seated according to social rank. The highest ranking pews were close to the pulpit, the lowest furthest from the pulpit. Some pews were owned privately. His desire was that the poor should have a church in which all the chairs were perfectly free and open to all comers.
The original inscription on a brass plate, previously located under the West window held this inscription “To the glory of God and in memory of many that have gone before, this Church, dedicated to the ever blessed name of Jesus, is hereby set apart for the use of inhabitants of Oundle. All seats are free. All are invited to worship. All are welcome.” The reference to “many that have gone before” is believed to refer to the founders two deceased sons. The dedication plate was rediscovered in recent years and can now be seen above the holding cell upstairs in the Oundle Museum.
Prior to the building of the “Jesus Church”, the site was one of significance known as Chapel End. A Pre-Reformation chapel dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury occupied this important site with its position at the apex of three roads into and out of Oundle. The church is built on an island site where West Street, Mill Road, Stoke Doyle Road and Benefield Road converge, which was a convenient location for worshippers on the west side of the town. By the time of the building of “Jesus Church”, the site was occupied by a house built within the remains of the chapel.
It was used at an Anglican church until around 1960 after which, it stood unused for a few years. Around 1971, it was sold to the Catholic Diocese of Northamptonshire for £1 and was the first church sold by the Anglicans to the Catholic Church. The name was changed to “Most Holy Name of Jesus” and it continues to serve the vibrant and growing Catholic community of Oundle and the surrounding villages.
Prior to the acquisition of “Jesus Church” in 1971, Roman Catholic worship was held at various sites, some of these are listed below:
1807 to 1880: The house of Mr. Charles Waller Jinks and his brother Thomas. Mass was said occasionally during this period by priests from Peterborough.
1947 onwards: The first Mass after World War 1 was held at Mr and Mrs John Eaton’s Cottage which was where the Co-operative Store now stands.
Subsequently, for a few months, Benedictine monks celebrated Mass every Sunday in a room on the first floor of the Town Hall.
From 1956, Roman Catholic worship was at St Wilfreds Church, Oundle. Visiting priests included Father Mackenzie who travelled to say Mass on his Harley Davidson motorbike and Father David Woodard who died whilst returning to the Sacristy after Mass.