Page 16, 5th May 1939

5th May 1939
Page 16
Page 16, 5th May 1939 — Six Monks to Build Prinknash Abbey

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WHEN contemplating the designs for the new abbey at Prinknash, which have been prepared by Mr IL S. Goodhart-Reridel, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, it is interesting to recall that the community had its first home in a room over a fish shop at Ealing. This was a long time ago, nearer fifty than forty years, and before the Downside Benedictines had been placed in charge of the parish by Cardinal Vaughan. The community consisted of a group of oblates, most of them young men who were engaged in secular work during the day time, but who on their return home donned the Benedictine habit and said office together. The founder was a medical student, Aelred Carlyle.

The upper room gave place to a cottage after a time, and then in 1896 Br. Aelred and his companions-not those who had first joined him, for none of them found they had a vocation to the religious life, settled on the Isle of Dogs-a remote corner of East London, that is unknown to most people. It was during their stay here that Dr. Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, gave his sanction for the monastic profession of Br. Aelred.

The brotherhood consisted of three members. They were very poor, and for the first years of their existence they suffered Incredible privations. Feeling the need of greater seclusion they moved from London to the Gloucestershire village of Lower Guiting-a few miles from Cheltenham. But owing to violent opposition from certain Protestant organleatione they were forced to quit after a few months, and returned to London, where they lived with the Cowley Fathers.

Then followed a year in a cottage at Milton Abbas in Dorsetsitire. At a critical moment Lord Halifax came to their rescue and offered them a home at Painsthorpe Hall, Yorkshire. Soon after their arrival they received tile formal permission of Archbishop Temple for the blessing of their founder as Abbot.

In 1908 the monks obtained possession of the Isle of Caldey, which was to be their home for the next twenty-two years. They erected a Guest House, which soon became the popular rendezvous for Anglo-Catholic clergy and laymen. Anything less Protestant., so far as externals were concerned, could hardly be imagined. Both the Roman Missal and Benedictine Breviary were used-in Latin,

The Abbot pontificated on the .great festivals, and the spiritual life of the monks was nourished almost entirely on Catholic books.

But a small cloud had already begun to darken the horizon. The more the community continued to grow in numbers and notoriety, the more Imperative became the need for a definite status in the Church of England. Strange as it may sound, the Abbot, although ordained by a bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, was nothing more than what is known as a "priest In Colonial Orders," and none of the Anglican clerical directories would print his name in their pages. From the beginnings of the community the Abbot had always insisted on obtaining episcopal approval, unlike so many Anglo-Catholic clergymen who feel it more prudent to ignore their bishops. In 1912 he approached Dr. Davidson, then Archbishop of Canterbury, with reference to the ordination of certain members of the brotherhood. The Archbishop refused to consider this until an episcopal Visitor had been appointed, and suggested Dr. Gore, of Oxford. The result was that Dr. Gore informed the Abbot that he could not see his way to become Visitor unless drastic modifications were made, which included giving up the Boman Missal for the Communion Service of the Book of Common Prayer, together with the observance of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady, and much else besides. After a prolonged correspondence the Bishop informed the Abbot that he was convinced that the manner of life at Caldey could only be tolerated on what he described as "a strictly Papal basis of authority." And it was this statement from Dr. Gore which opened the eyes of the monks that their true home was in communion with Rome and not Canterbury.

On March 5, 1913, some twenty-two of them made their submission to the Holy See before the Bishop of Menevia-to-day Archbishop of Cardiff. Rome was more than generous to the new converts, and gave every possible dispensation so as to make it easy for the Abbot and some of his monks to be ordained Catholic priests. Little more than a year later, Dom Aelred Carlyle was blessed as Abbot, and once more took over the rule of his community.

Every convert has to pay for the gift of Faith in some way or another, and the Caldey Benedictines were no exception to the rule. The war broke out, and with it an almost total loss of financial assistance, for it must be remembered that one of the results of the conversion was the immediate cessation of Anglican benefactions, which for the past six years or so had poured in generously. The strain of this anxiety proved too much for Abbot Aelred, and in 1921 he resigned.

He was succeeded as prior by Dons Wilfrid Upson, the present Abbot of Prinknash. To his undaunted optimism and courage is due almost entirely the survival of the community. So heavily burdened with debts were the monks that in the end it became necessary for them to sell their island home to the Cistercians. In 1928 they migrated to Gloucestershire, where the fifteenth-century manor house of Prinknash, once owned by the Benedictine abbots of Gloucester, had been presented to them by the late Mr Dyer-Edwardes. Dom Wilfrid Upson was then succeeded as prior by Dom Benedict Steuart, who held the office until last year, when Dom Wilfrid was elected as first Abbot of Prinknash.

The community has long since outgrown the confined quarters of the old manor house. There is a walling list of men who wish to try their vocations. To enlarge the existing quarters would be Impossible owing to the peculiar nature of the site on the slope of a steep hill. So Abbot Upson very wisely decided to erect a new monastery about a quarter of a mile away. When this Is ready for occupation, the present monastery is to be used as a House of Retreats.

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