HistoryThe official parish history is The Story of St John the Baptist, Purley by Joan Kennedy. Copies are available for purchase from the parish church’s porch. The extract below concerns the foundation of the parish church.

In the ‘Bishop’s Appointment Book’ for 1938 there is the following entry:

Saturday October 8th, 1938. Lunched at the John Fisher School. Laid foundation stone St. John Baptist church at 3.30 (rain). Tea with clergy. architect. etc. at Foxley Hall Hotel.

An account of the event in the local paper said that the foundation stone ! was laid in “pouring rain”. The Archbishop in his sermon said it was “high time that a church was built in Purley”. The church was to be built in the Gothic style at a cost of £6,000, and it was expected to be completed by April 1939. The account also listed the clergy who were present, in addition to the Archbishop and his assistant from the Cathedral. Father J. Farrell. They were: Father M. Brassill (priest-in-charge), Canon McCarthy (Camberwell), Father Pritchard and Father Little (South Croydon). Father Byme and Father Duprez (John Fisher School), Father Tyndall and Father Walker (Coulsdon), Father Smith (South Norwood). Father Mostyn (Thornton Heath) and Father Cotter (Walworth).

On 20th April, 1939, Father Brassill wrote to Archbishop Amigo: “The building of the new church at Purley is nearly completed. Whit Monday, May 29th suggests itself as a suitable day” (for the opening) “or another at your convenience.”

The Archbishop, however, decided on 10th June as the date for the formal opening, although the church was actually used for Mass for the first time on Whit Sunday, according to the entry in the Archbishop’s Engagement Diary.

The Archbishop also records: “(I) assisted in cope (no throne) and preached at solemn High Mass (Father Cotter) on opening of new church at 11.” This note seems to suggest that Father Cotter was the chief celebrant of the Mass but a fuller account of the proceedings, given in The Croydon Advertiser for 16th June, does not mention this. According to this account Canon Byrne, Rector of the John Fisher School Purley, and Canon. C. McCarthy were in direct attendance on the Bishop, Father B. Smoker was Deacon and Father Michael Brassill, priest in charge of the district, was sub-deacon, while Father Schultz was Master of Ceremonies.