Bideford owes it's church to the zeal of the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Ralph, Provost Brindle, of Barnstaple. In 1882 he hired two rooms in the public buildings in Bridgeland Street at £12 a year and fitted them up appropriately for Mass and on the Feast of the Assumption the first Mass was held.
In October 1886, Sunday trains from Barnstaple to Bideford were stopped. This proved a blessing in disguise. A wealthy parishioner offered to provide accommodation in Bideford for the Barnstaple priest from Saturday to Monday. Provost Brindle generously agreed to sacrifice the services of his assistant in Barnstaple and Father Burns became the first 'resident' priest in Bideford.
The Bideford mission evidently thrived. On the 17th November 1888 Father Burns was appointed Priest-in-Charge, and his place in Barnstaple was taken by another assistant priest. By 26th August 1890 he was able to present ten candidates for Confirmation to the Bishop on his Episcopal Visitation to Bideford.
The feeling was growing that the two-room 'chapel' was inadequate for the congregation, especially in the summer. It was learned that Woodland Cottage, at Three Corner Close in Potter's Lane (now North Road) was available for sale with immediate possession and was purchased for £360.
The Bishop of Plymouth visited the site on 15th June and approved of it as a Presbytery. A contract was signed on 24th June, and Father Burns moved in on 28th July 1891. Now the way was open for a church to be built. Levelling the ground west of the new Presbytery began on 18th July 1892. Bishop Graham laid the foundation-stone on 4th August and the Church was solemnly opened on 15th December of the same year.
The opening of the new church was a grand affair. Sixteen priests assisted the Bishop at the solemn Pontifical High Mass. On 10th March 1893 the Stations of the Cross, that had been erected in the 'chapel' at Bridgeland Street, were hung in the new church.
It is good that we are able to leave the Church open each day for private prayer. There is a need now, more than ever, for an oasis where people can be still and quiet, listening and praying to God. This is appreciated by members of other local churches, and we are delighted to further the ecumenical spirit in this way.
The Catholic Church has been, for many years now, working together with the other churches in Bideford to promote Christian Unity. All churches are endeavouring to pray and work together, respecting and understanding better each other's traditions, and looking forward to that day when we shall be completely united as members of the Christian family.
The Church is the people of God. In the past hundred years the people of God in Bideford have grown in faith and charity. They have grown in a love for God and for each other through the Mass and the Sacraments. There have been so many wonderful people in the Parish, and we give thanks to God for their faith and example.
Within the Church
The carved wood Crucifix hanging above the Alter is the work of the late Miss Blyton-Smith, who was the Artist of the Calvary in Brompton Oratory. The Statue of the Madonna and Child in the Lady Chapel is carved wood and painted by one of the monks of Farnborough Abbey. It is the gift of Bishop Restieaux.
The organ, which was designed and made by the Wyvern Church Organ Co. Ltd in Bideford in 1982, and was presented by Canon Adrian Chapple in memory of his family who lived in the district at the turn of the century.
The Baptistry was added to the Church in 1907 by Canon Middleton in memory of his friend, the Reverend William Bromley. Canon Middleton copied the design of the baptistry turret from a Byzantine source - the Crusader Church of St Anne's in Jerusalem. Surprisingly, it has circles of glass set in concrete which must be one of the earliest examples of this form of art.
The font was given by a visitor in 1895 and is made of Caen Stone.
The Baptistry is enclosed by a pair of wrought iron gates, the work of a local artist, R. J. Lloyd. They depict the Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters.
The turret over the baptistry is crowned with a cupola which houses the Bell. This was given by the Parishioners, and was made in the Foundry of Messrs J. Warner & Sons of London. The Bell was 'Baptised' on 24th October 1893 by the Right Reverend C. Graham, Bishop of Plymouth, and has 'Ave Maria 1893' inscribed on it. It originally hung in the turret that then crowned the west wall.
The pulpit is the work of Mr A. B. Wall of Cheltenham and has the figures of Saints Peter, George, Philomena and Rosalia of Sicily.
In 1895 the first of the stained glass windows was given in memory of Edward and Mary Ball, benefactors of the Church, and depicts the Annunciation and Ascension. The other window in the sanctuary was given in memory of families connected with Bideford. One of the most beautiful is in the Lady Chapel, and depicts the Nativity.
In 1895 the Stations of the Cross were erected, but these were changed for the present Stations by Father Scanlon around 1938.
The gold Chalice was given by the Courtney Family.
The set of 6 brass candlesticks are inscribed: "Given to Warren Middleton by Newman Bysshe on 1st February 1899 on the occasion of his entry into the family of Christ."
These candlesticks are now used for funerals.