Fonds PA03 - St Benet's Minster Parish, Beccles

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St Benet's Minster Parish, Beccles


  • December 1882 to December 2013 (Creation)

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4 folders

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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)

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      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.

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      • 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