Illegal roof chapel in colourful history

Sitting pretty: Father Chris in the Bishop's Chair.
Sitting pretty: Father Chris in the Bishop's Chair.
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EVEN when Catholicism was still illegal in England, the site of St Marie’s was already a place of worship.

The Duke of Norfolk owned a home there and risked imprisonment by installing an illegal chapel in the roof.

The first church was built after legalisation in 1814. Yet within 30 years it was already too small for the number of parishioners and the priest, Father Charles Pratt, ordered a bigger church be constructed.

It was based on the 14th century church at Heckington, in Lincolnshire; cost some £10,000; and was officially opened in 1850.

By then Father Pratt had died, aged just 38.

He was initially buried at St Bede’s in Rotherham but a stonemason working on the church insisted he had heard Father Pratt say he wanted to be interred in the church. As such he dug the coffin up and reburied the priest in a tomb near the altar, where his body still lies.

The church later became a victim of World War Two when a bomb blew out stained glass windows in the Blessed Sacrament chapel.

On May 30, 1980, the new diocese of Hallam was created and St Marie became its cathedral church.