Dockhead has claims to be the oldest mission in the Archdiocese of Southward, having been established in 1773 in a chapel which was destroyed in the Gordon riots of 1780.

The original church that replaced the Dockhead Mission chapel in 1837-8, by Sampson Kempthorne, built in the Early English Gothic style and with a galleried interior.

A later church was destroyed in wartime bombing and replaced by the present church by H S Goodhart-Rendel. In the words of the list entry, this is ‘an impressive building and a fine example of Goodhart-Rendel’s work, showing his use of polychrome  brickwork, inspired by High Victorian churches and his powerful use of concrete to achieve a manipulation of sculptural form and spatial and exciting arrangement’. 

Dockhead in the Blitz

Just before 11 p.m., on 2nd March 1945, only 2 months before VE Day and the end of World War II in Europe, a V2 rocket struck the pavement near the Most Holy Trinity Church, destroying the priests’ house and killing three priests inside.

Father Stephen Spillane, Father Finbar McCarthy, and Father Michael O’Riordan were killed instantly.  The fate of Father Edmund Arbuthnot and Bridget Slavin, the housekeeper, were at first unknown. In fact, they had both survived the blast, and an heroic effort to rescue them from the wreckage began.  The ‘Little Fellah’ who volunteered to crawl through the rubble was Ted Heming, a milkman and keen dominoes player, who was working with the Heavy Rescue Squad. For his bravery, Ted was awarded the George Cross, and he and Father Arbuthnot became lifelong friends.

In the morning, the people of Bermondsey awoke and learned the terrible news.  They had endured so much. They’d helped each other through many hard times. But this was different.

The community was shocked, disconsolate.  A thriving parish had been reduced to a pile of rubble.  Three priests were dead and another critically injured.For the first time in the history of the parish, there was no Mass that Sunday.  But the following weekend, Archbishop Amigo joined the parishioners for Mass among the ruins.  He consoled them in their loss and urged them to do what they knew they had to do: rebuild!