On 8th September 1853, the foundation stone of our Church was laid on a site halfway up what became known as Church Hill in Crook. The Parish Priest, Father Richard Ward, generously contributed to the cost of this site. Unfortunately he became ill, so his friend and colleague, Father Seaton Rooke engaged Edward W. Pugin, an architect of national repute, to design the new Church. Amazingly some 13 months later the Church of Our Lady Immaculate & St. Cuthbert was completed together with the presbytery and original school and on 25th October 1854 the Church was opened.
Architecturally speaking, the church was and is considered to be of exceptional quality and beauty. It is built of local stone in the “Second Style of Gothic Architecture”. The original Altar was of Caen stone, but this was replaced in 1863 by the current Altar which was designed by John Francis Bentley. A lateral chapel was built at the east end of each of the side aisles. On the north side, the original Blessed Sacrament Chapel was constructed and on the south side a chapel was built in which an altar dedicated to St.Cuthbert was later placed, thanks to the generosity of Father Pippet. There are many beautiful stained glass windows around the church, which were gradually installed over many years and several are dedicated to the memory of former priests and benefactors.
Father Seaton Rooke was appointed as parish priest when Father Richard Ward became too ill. He remained as parish priest until 1860 when he left to join the Dominicans. Father Thomas Wilkinson moved from Wolsingham to take over as parish priest of Crook. He became a much loved pastor as he was very energetic and zealous in the care of his parishioners. He was instrumental in bringing the Sisters of Charity of St. Paul to Crook to work in the school and they arrived in August 1862 and remained until 1910. Father Wilkinson remained as parish priest until 1869 when he was ordered to rest due to failing health. Father Augustine Pippet was appointed to act as curate. In January 1870 Father Pippet was appointed as Parish Priest when Canon (as he became) Wilkinson went into semi retirement. During his time in Crook, Father Pippet built the Convent and St. Joseph’s Lodge and further enlarged the school. By 1895 Father Pippet was responsible for a large, devout and well-administered parish of some 1500 parishioners. Compare this to approximately 150 parishioners who attend today. By 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, through his tireless work and that of his parishioners, the final part of the Tower was built together with the installation of a full peal of bells and a handsome clock. The Tower, bells and clock were completed as a result of the great efforts from fund raising events and donations from the Church parishioners together with additional financial support from the people of the town. The clock has two faces, one looking west over the town, and one looking south. Father Pippet died in 1925.
There have been many priests appointed since then, but the one remembered by most of our older parishioners is Father Lowrie who was appointed as the Priest in Charge of the parish in 1949. He oversaw extensive renovation of the church, which was in need of urgent repair. New and better lighting was installed and the organ was renovated. A new heating system was also installed and the original Blessed Sacrament chapel, now dedicated to Our Lady, was redecorated and restored to its former beauty. Father Lowrie guided the parish through many changing times, ably assisted by several curates. He remained as parish priest for 36 years until 1984 when he had to retire due to failing health. Since then we have several priests including Father Brian Murphy, Father Michael Whalen, Father Tony Owens and Father Eddie Gibbons up to June 2009, who all worked tirelessly for our parish.
On 1st September 2009, Father Gordon Ryan was appointed as our latest parish priest and is in charge of the Churches of Our Lady Immaculate & St. Cuthbert, Crook, St. Thomas of Canterbury, Wolsingham and also of St. Joseph, Tow Law.