Marshalswick was a peaceful place with a farm where the Quadrant now stands and a duck pond where the Sainsbury’s Local petrol station is. Marshalswick Lane was too narrow for buses and trees met overhead like a tunnel.
In September 1939, just as the area was being developed with roads and houses, war was declared. The building work stopped as did the Sunday morning buses, making it very difficult for people to get to the nearest church two miles away.
Mrs Sabin, of Marshalswick Lane, persuaded the Vicar of Sandridge to hold services in her house. Each Sunday up to 20 people squashed into her drawing room and soon a committee formed to find a suitable building to serve as a church.
After much searching, a small wooden chicken hut was found. It cost £135 and local people erected it on some land in Kingshill Avenue lent to them by Nash Homes Ltd for the duration of the war. Some people were horrified at the idea of a chicken hut being used as a church but no chickens had ever used it.
The hut was converted into a church and ready for its first Holy Communion in 1943. It served as a church, hall and social centre for many years for old and young alike. It was loved by a great many people.
As the war ended, the present vicarage was built. With house-building starting again the hut had to be moved and was repositioned beside the new Vicarage. Parishioners set about the task of raising money to build a new church. A large ‘thermometer’ appeared at the back of the hut and slowly crept up to the target.
The foundation stone for the new St Mary’s Church was laid on St George’s Day 1955 by the patron, Earl Spencer. Within a year the church was built and was dedicated by the Bishop of Bedford on 10th November 1956.
St Mary’s was a daughter church of St Leonard’s, Sandridge. On 8th December 1972, it was consecrated as a parish church by Bishop Robert Runcie. However, the church had no bell- a legal requirement for a parish church; one was found in St Botolph’s Church, Shenley, which was being closed. It had originally hung at Shenley mental hospital where it was used to call the patients in from the fields. The bell was moved to St Mary’s where it now calls people to worship.