St. Thomas More Church, George Lane, Marlboroughlink

The Roman Catholic Church of St. Thomas More, part of the Diocese of Clifton, is in George Lane, Marlborough which runs to the south and parallel with the High Street.

The early history of Catholicism in the Marlborough area reflects the turbulent Reformation period just like many west country towns and it was recorded that there were two Papists in the parish in 1584 but there seems to be no other reference until c.1794. At that time The Hermitage in Hyde Lane was occupied by the Hyde family, who had Benedictine Chaplains and used the house as a local centre for mass until c.1794. In 1937, during the renaissance the Catholic Church experienced during the 1930s and 1940s, the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales (Fransalians) opened a chapel in Elcot Lane with Father Anthonioz as the first resident priest. That ceased to be used in 1947 and a Nissen hut was then erected on the site of the old George Inn at the east end of George Lane. Father Anthonioz died in 1954 and was succeeded by Father Besant who was responsible for the building of the new church of St. Thomas More, on the same site, which was opened in 1959 but was not consecrated until 1985.

The building is largely of red brick construction, although the west end is a combination of glass and concrete, and it has an elongated roof structure and entranceway into a narthex: a narthex is an architectural element typical of early Christian and Byzantine basilicas and churches, consisting of the entrance or lobby area located at the west end of the nave, opposite the church's main altar, and was traditionally a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper.

Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), venerated by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a councillor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 16 May 1532 who opposed the Protestant Reformation, in particular the theology of Martin Luther and William Tyndale. He also wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an ideal and imaginary island nation.

More opposed the King's separation from the Catholic Church and he refused to acknowledge the King as Supreme Head of the Church of England. He also refused to acknowledge Henry's annulment from Catherine of Aragon and all this led to him being tried for treason for not taking the Oath of Supremacy, for which he was convicted and beheaded.

Pope Pius XI canonised More in 1935 as a martyr of the period when the Church of England separated from Rome. Pope John Paul II in 2000 then declared him the "heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians". Since 1980, the Church of England has remembered More liturgically as a Reformation martyr.

Interestingly, he was also honoured by the Soviet Union, due to the Communistic attitude regarding property that was portrayed in Utopia.

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MADT would like to thank Eric Gilbert who supplied images for this page.