Divine Word Missionaries
London NW2 4HN
Fax 0044 (020) 8452 9756, Tel: +44 (020) 8452 8430
Two well known missionary congregations had their training and formation centres in North London; St. Joseph’s College in Mill Hill was the headquarters of the Mill Hill Missionaries and St. Edward’s College in nearby Totteridge was the centre of training for the White Fathers.
When the number number of new entrants into these two congregations decreases drastically, the Superiors of both Societies decided to combine their facilities in order to train their students together. Both St Joseph’s and St Edward’s provided lecture halls that required students commuting for classes between both facilities in the course of a working day.
Shortly after the merge, the proposal was made that other full time missionary congregations represented in England should join the now so called Missionary Institute. The Holy Fathers, the SMA Fathers, the Comboni Missionaries agreed to the proposal. Fr. John Fincutter, the SVD Provincial, moved his residents into St Edward’s College. An adjacent building to St Edward’s College, St Paul’s House, was rented to the SVD as residence for their students attending the Missionary Institute.
Shortly after Fr Kevin O’Tool became the Provincial in England in 1971, he was notified by the White Fathers that St Edward’s College was to put up for sale and a new student residence built. Discussion as with Mr. Peel, the architect of the White Fathers, began in earnest. The first proposal was that the SVD would build a new but separate residence for their students contiguous to the new building of the White Fathers on Totteridge Lane. This was later discarded. The White Fathers still had to sell their old property before they could begin to build anew.
The Divine Word Missionaries had money ready from the sale our properties in Hadzor. Mr. Peel, therefore, advised Fr. O’Toole to look somewhere not too far away for some property that would serve as a formation centre for their SVD students. He even suggested looking in the Cricklewood area of North London. Fr. Martin McPake, at that time living with the SVD students in Totteridge, and Fr. O’Toole began their search with a visit to Cameron Estate Agents in Willesden Green. Having explained the type of property they were interested in, they were directed to Teignmouth Road. Both 8 and 10 Teignmouth Road were owned by a couple who whished to sell off and retire to Aberystwyth. Individual rooms of both houses were let as bed-sits to foreign students studying in London. With a large garden at the back this property seemed to be ideal for our SVD purposes. It was in a quiet neighbourhood; it was close to both buses and underground trains and it was within easy travelling distance to the Missionary Institute. Another property was suggested, a small hotel on the other side of Cricklewood Bradway on the corner of two busy streets.
Our decision to purchase the Teignmouth Road property was not too difficult to make. Permission of the Brent Council had to be sought in order to change the use of the property to a student residence. Brent Council gave us the requisite permission to accommodate 16 students. But when we asked the council for permission to convert two garages at the end of the garden into residential quarters, we were flately refused. Interior work on stairwells and updated, heating system had to be accomplished before the students could take up occupancy.
Ready in time for the new school year in September 1975 ten students and three priests took up residence. The first Rector was Fr. Peter McHugh. When he took up his position as Secretary of Education in Rome in 1977, he was replaced as Rector by Fr. Walter Boyle, who had been missioned in Indonesia. The Missionary Institute no longer exists.
Teignmouth Road is no longer a residence for for students in training for the Priesthood. Confreres have come and gone and yet Teignmouth Road still continues to play an important role in the life Divine Word Missionaries at home and those who come to London from abroad.
Fr. Kevin O’Toole SVD