Fonds PA03 - St Benet's Minster Parish, Beccles

Fr Guy to Bishop Riddell: St Benet's Church plan Fr Fulton to Bishop Riddell: Exposition; Pius X concession Benedictine President General: Signed and Sealed agreement relating to Bungay site Fr Guy to Duke of Norfolk: Is agreement acceptable? / Duke of Norfolk to Bishop Riddell: Satisfac... Installation of Stations of the Cross - Convent of BVM of Pity, Beccles Permission to retain Blessed sacrament on site - Convent of BVM of Pity, Beccles Bishop Cary-Elwes proposing Hamilton Bunbury for the Sacred Constantinian Order Bishop Cary-Elwes to HRH Prince Alfonzo de Bourbon: Hamilton Bunbury for the Sacred Constantinian... Clause 2 (Copy) from Will of JE Banham

Identity area

Reference code



St Benet's Minster Parish, Beccles


  • December 1882 to December 2013 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

4 folders

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

1851: born
pre 1889: Prior at Downside
1889-1894: first PP at Beccles
1900-1906: First Abbot of Downside Abbey
1930: died

Archival history

EDU3 file6; XNP1; XEA1
Acc 2019-01-12/1

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

RCDEA Archives
Diocese of Northampton (Bp Parker Papers)

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area


In 1886 Abbot Moore, the Provincial of the South, obtained permission from the Bishop of Northampton to found a church in Beccles adjacent to the existing Catholic parish in Bungay, which was founded by the Benedictine monks of St. Gregory the Great of Downside Abbey in Somerset. Dom Edmund Ford became the first parish priest of Beccles in 1888 and conceived the idea of finding a site to build a new church and a Catholic school in the town. In 1889 the current parish hall was the first building constructed.
The original idea of St. Benet's as a priory with a small community of monks has not happened, but as it was founded by and is still in the hands of a monastic community it has the title of St. Benet's Minster.
Christian tradition is to construct on the “Liturgical” architectural layout pointing the high altar to the East, the Holy Land birthplace of Jesus Christ - also known as Orientation or the Adorientum. However, due to the shape and size of the site St. Benet's high altar points approximately South.
The building is constructed in Ancaster stone with Bath stone dressings, the interior is also in Bath stone. It is in the “Norman” style of architecture by local Architect, Francis Easto Banham (1862 - 1924) who lived in Grange Road and is buried in the churchyard. The nave is modelled on the Priory church at Blyth in Nottinghamshire and features of several other buildings have been incorporated.
The contractor of the first phase, including completion of the nave and aisles, up to 1901 was Frederick Charles Allen of Beccles. Transepts, Sanctuary, Tower and Sacristy were completed for the consecration in 1908 by builder H A King.
The decorations of the nave, tower and sanctuary were designed and painted by the architect.
The tower is 25 metres (84ft) tall, 8 metre (25ft) square, with a stair turret leading to the flagpole. The nave is 25 metres (84ft) long and 12 metres (40ft) wide including the side aisles, and the overall length is 41 metres (134ft). The total weight of the edifice was calculated at 735,000 tons.
Liturgical reforms of the second Vatican Council at the time of Pope John XXIII coinciding with suspected defects in the structure of the original high altar resulted in rearrangement of the sanctuary, which were carried out by parish priest Dom Francis Little (1965 to 1975), the altar being brought forward to a position almost under the tower and a new tabernacle constructed, based on the old testament principle of the ark of the covenant. This process was completed during the incumbency of Fr. Simon Blakesley (1995 to 2003) when the present new altar and surrounding steps were installed. The original altar slab and relics were incorporated into the new altar and the six giant candle stands which stood on top of the original altar now stand each side of the new.
From a board on the wall next to the North door:

Parish Priests of St Benet's since its Formation

1888 Dom Edmund Ford
1894 Dom Meinrad Fulton
1905 Dom Osmund Knight
1906 Dom Aidan Howlett
1907 Dom Benedict Kuypers
1911 Dom Bernard Harrington
1913 Dom Vincent Corney
1923 Dom Peter Worswick
1924 Dom Martin Campbell
1938 Dom William Tate
1940 Abbot Wulstan Knowles
1944 Dom William Stedall
1945 Dom Rupert Hall 
1948 Dom Rudesind Brookes
1953 Dom Benet Innes
1959 Dom Aidan Trafford
1963 Dom James Arrowsmith-Lorkin
1965 Dom Francis Little
1975 Abbot Aelred Watkin
1989 Interregnum
1990 Dom Michael Clothier
1993 Mgr Paul Hypher
1994 Fr Adrian Gates
1995 Fr Simon Blakesley
2003 Dom Antony Sutch

All the above priests were monks of Downside abbey, except Mgr. Hyper, Fr. Gates and Fr. Blakesley who were priests of the diocese of East Anglia because the diocese staffed and organised the parish during this period.

Superiors of the Downside community of St Gregory the Great since the formation of St Benet’s parish:

1885 Prior Edmund Ford
1888 Prior Clement Fowler
1894 Abbot Edmund Ford
1906 Abbot Cuthbert Butler
1922 Abbot Leander Ramsey
1929 Abbot John Chapman
1933 Abbot Bruno Hicks
1938 Abbot Sigebert Trafford
1946 Abbot Christopher Butler
1966 Abbot Wilfred Passmore
1974 Abbot John Roberts
1990 Abbot Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard
1998 Abbot Richard Yeo
2006 Abbot Aidan Bellenger

Since its foundation in 1606 there have been 62 superiors of the community of St. Gregory the Great. Only those in the time of St. Benet's church are listed above.

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used



Level of detail


Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English


Sources (accessed 14-8-2021)
Note text: Extracted from “Guide to St Benet’s R C Minster Beccles Suffolk”, parish publication, dated ~2008

Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places