The nearest Mass centre for the few Roman Catholics (probably Irish immigrants) living in the Stevenage area prior to 1911 was at Hitchin where the service was held in St. Michael’s school, a school established in 1903 and run by Fathers of the Society of St. Edmund of Pontigny (S.S.E). As the Stevenage Roman Catholic community grew so did the need for a Mass centre in Stevenage and on the eve of the Nativity in December 1911 a mission chapel, called St Martin’s, was opened in premises in Albert Street.
The chapel was obviously quite small as a contemporary report notes that Fr. John Athill S.S.E., the priest-in-charge of the mission, spoke at the opening of the chapel and compared the ‘humble shed’ in Stevenage with the stable in which Christ was born in Bethlehem.
In July 1912 a Catholic Motor Mission, which toured the country in a motor van converted into a mobile chapel, came to Stevenage. During the week of the mission the van was parked near the High Street White Lion Hotel and in addition to visiting the chapel the townsfolk were invited to meetings in the Town Hall in Orchard Road. But in general there was growing tolerance, understanding and co-operation between the various Christian factions as shown by the fact that the previous Christmas a joint carol service, including Roman Catholics, had been held on Bowling Green.
Although the ‘shed’ in Albert Street was a step forward it was far from ideal and in 1913 the community bought a narrow strip of land between Basil’s Road and Grove Road on which to build a church. Dr. Adrian Fortescue laid the foundation stone for the new church on Wednesday 1st October 1913 in the presence of representatives of all the other Stevenage churches. The building was constructed of red brick using complex brick patterns, particularly around the windows, to disguise the simple plan of the building. Basically the building comprised a box shape room, the nave, to which was attached a narrow aisle on either side, and three smaller box shape rooms at the Grove Road end. Of the three end rooms the central room was the baptistery and the rooms on either side were porches.
The new church, named The Transfiguration of Our Lord, was officially opened at a service held in the church on Sunday 25th January 1914. The Diocesan Bishop was present at the opening service and Fr. Howard preached the sermon.