NEWS FROM THE FORMER CHILWORTH FRIARY
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CHILWORTH FRIARY IS NO MORE
The Minister Provincial, Fr Michael Copps, in his monthly letter dated 9 March 2011 related to the Brothers of the Province the quiet ending of Franciscan life at what had been since 1890 the heart of our Province as its Novitiate House until recent years.
"The last weekend in February was an historic one for the Province in that our living at Chilworth ended. I went down for the weekend. On the Sunday morning we had Sunday Mass in the oratory as Chilworth had closed as a parish on 2nd January ... the occasion for the people to say goodbye to the friars was described as 'a walk through the cloister'. In the event there was more talking than walking, and the talking included many people saying how well the three friars had dealt with the difficult year since the closing of the friary was announced. A large number of people came with a good number of children who always manage to lighten things. At 5 p.m. I celebrated Benediction and for this Patrick had written a sort of Eucharistic Prayer which included thanks for the generosity of the founder Arthur Wells, for all the friars who have lived there and for the parishioners who have contributed so much to the life there. It was a fitting event. However a good few people had not said their goodbyes and turned up for Mass on the Monday morning with Abbot Paulinus present. After breakfast it was all hands to the pumps to get the luggage into cars and vans. John Forest just disappeared to Craigmillar when nobody was looking and Peter went to Canterbury in the afternoon. The Abbot's mum and dad are staying in the guest wing on monastery watch while the monks come in dribs and drabs and some work is done. Patrick left on the Tuesday after showing them the ropes. Thank you to Peter, John forest and Patrick for closing our involvement at Chilworth with dignity and sensitivity. We wish you well in your new fraternities."
Thus ended 120 years of Franciscan life in this location. May God bless those who come to take our place.
THE PARISH OF THE HOLY GHOST AT AN END
On Sunday, 2nd January 2011, the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, the Right Rev. Kieran Thomas Conry, at a Mass concelebrated with Fr Michael Copps, Franciscan Minister Provincial, declared the Parish of the Holy Ghost, located at the Friary, Chilworth, at an end.
The parish had existed since 1945 when it was entrusted to the friars who had been there since 1890 as their novitiate house. Now in view of the departure of the friars and the conversion of the friary into a Benedictine Abbey the parish was no more.
To mark the occasion the parishioners produced a booklet of Memories of Chilworth Parish 1945-2010 which also included the Mass Centre at Gomshall Our Lady of the Angels. The book is filled with hundreds of memories of the friary and parish down the years written by individuals from near and far, young and old. Some are just a few words, some several pages long.
The back of the cover reproduces a view of the magnificent trees in the Friary grounds with the sun streaming through them with underneath the words
GOD GIVE YOU PEACE
CHILWORTH CHURCH AND FRIARY TO BECOME A BENEDICTINE ABBEY
The following communiqué was issued on 23rd December 2010 jointly by The Right Rev. Paulinus Greenwood, O.S.B., Abbot of St Augustine's Abbey, Ramsgate, Kent, and The Rev. Michael Copps, O.F.M. Minister Provincial of the Order of Friars Minor in Great Britain:
After 10 months of careful deliberation, the Benedictine monks of St Augustine’s Abbey in Ramsgate have voted to purchase the Franciscan Friary at Chilworth, Surrey, as their new home.
On 15th October last year, the Community of eleven monks announced their decision to vacate the monastery on the Kent coast which has been their home for 149 years, and to relocate to smaller premises. Only 4 months after taking that decision, their brief initial search for a new property came to an end when the Order of Friars Minor made public their own similar decision to leave their Victorian Friary on the outskirts of Guildford, and suggested that the building might be suitable for the Benedictines of Ramsgate.
For almost 120 years Chilworth Friary, a Grade 2 listed building designed by Frederick Walters and constructed in 1892, has served as the Franciscans’ Novitiate house, a place of studies for the training of new entrants to the Order. As a purpose-built religious dwelling with its own church and cloister, it seems an ideal location for a monastic Community.
Fr Michael Copps OFM, Minister Provincial of the Friars Minor, commented: “One of the most difficult things I have had to do as Provincial was to come to the decision that we could no longer sustain our house at Chilworth. Most of the Friars in the Province started their religious life there, and have fond memories of a monastic building that managed to be homely, with a beautiful church set in woods on the top of a hill. I had been thinking with horror that it might become a hotel or health spa, until I was shown the information on the Internet that the Ramsgate Benedictines had decided that they had to leave Ramsgate and look for a smaller monastery. Reading their ‘wish list’ for the place they were looking for, I saw that Chilworth ticked nearly all the boxes. We see it as providential that it is going to continue as a building housing men dedicated to seeking God’s will in living the monastic life. St Francis found shelter in a Benedictine Monastery at the beginning of his calling. Though the Friars are sad, it is good to be helping the Ramsgate Benedictines continue their life in a new home.”
Dom Paulinus Greenwood OSB, Abbot of Ramsgate, concurred: “We have been extremely fortunate in finding a suitable new home within such a relatively short period of time, and will always be grateful to the Franciscans for alerting us to the availability of their Friary. Since making the difficult decision to move from Ramsgate just over a year ago, we have been encouraged and supported by the goodwill, prayers and benefactions of many people, and we do not forget them. We feel that this is God’s will for our Community at this time, and hope to forge ahead in the coming months to re-establish our monastic life and witness in this beautiful, tranquil setting.”
BEGINNING OUR FAREWELL TO CHILWORTH
On 6th October 2010 a few representative friars gathered together with a number of representative parishioners and tertiaries in the church at Chilworth to begin the farewell process which will lead up to the departure of the friars at the beginning of next year. After the Angelus at midday, there followed from the Office of the Passion composed by Saint Francis the Acclamations, the Psalm at Sext, a Reading from the Legend of the Three Companions, a renewal of vows, and the Blessing of Saint Francis imparted by the Minister Provincial. The opening hymn was Will You Come and Follow Me, and the closing hymn was He Who Would Valiant Be. All those present then repaired to the refectory for a spendid buffet meal and conversation.
We hope to be able report good news about the future of Chilworth Friary in due course, as well as recalling the history of this historic novitiate house of the Province.
FROM OUR PROVINCIAL ARCHIVES
Our Provincial Archivist, Fr Ninian Arbuckle, contributed the following notes on the history of Chilworth Friary to our Provincial Bulletin of February 2011.
CHILWORTH FRIARY: 1890 From the Archives
Ten acres of land at the top of Tangley Hill, reached by what was called Sample Oak Lane, leading from Chilworth Station, which in 1890, was part of the South East and Chatham Railway.
Two outstanding benefactors made the foundation possible: Mrs Mary Ann Alliott defrayed the cost of the Friary; and her nephew, the Rev Arthur Wells, LLD, covered the cost of the Church.
The position appealed to Fr David Fleming who had paid visits to the home of a friend, Fr St George Mivart, who lived at Hurstcote, half way up Sample Oak Lane on the left. Since 15th August 1887, Fr David had been Custos of the Custody of England prior to the restoration of the Province on 12th February 1891 when he would be Provincial.
When the first Friars arrived, Dr Mivart placed at their disposal a cottage at the entrance to his drive, and there Mass was said until the Church was completed. The first Friars were Fr Bonaventure Brierton and Brother William Price.
Foundation Stone of the Church
The Bishop of Southwark, Bishop John Butt, laid and blessed the foundation stone of the church on 6th October 1890. .
The Architect of the Church was Frederick Walters of 37 Old Queen Street, Westminster. Walters was Architect of Buckfast Abbey and Wonersh Seminary.
18th June 1892: Opening of Church and Friary
The Church was consecrated and dedicated to the Holy Ghost on 18th June 1892. In the following week, on 23rd June, Solemn High Mass was sung by the founder, Monsignor Wells, coram the Bishop of Southwark. The preacher was Bishop James Laird Patterson, Bishop of Emmaus, and Auxiliary in Westminster. At the expense of Monsignor Wells, a huge Marquee was erected in the grounds and there lunch was served to all present at the ceremony. The Friary was then thrown open to inspection and tea was served in the Refectory by the lady visitors. The day closed with a Procession of the Blessed Sacrament around the Church and cloisters.
Later in the year in December 1892 the St Francis and St Michael Altars were consecrated by Bishop Weathers, and there was another earlier link with Franciscanism, for Bishop Weathers had been a boy in the Franciscan School at Baddesley, Warwickshire, under Bishop Hendren and Fr Paschal O’Farrell.
In 1915 Mr Courage of Derryswood, Wonersh, donated the organ to the Church, stating that he wished it to be placed on the Rood loft. The Architect, Mr Walters, writing to the Guardian, Fr Raymond, on 21st October 1915, says:
"Personally, I have no doubt as to the position on the Rood being the best, and also being the proper one. It was he (Mr Courage) who proposed the position as being the proper one and Mr Courage said this is what he expected The organ has always been placed in the Rood loft in old Churches and in Cathedrals and Monasteries, and formed quite a feature, of which many examples are still be seen."
In 1916 the organ was installed with a Recital by Fr Malachy McGovern, OFM, a recognised versatile musician in the Province.
Another Benefactor of many gifts was Mrs Ada Annie Watney of Mervel Hill, Hambledon, Godalming, donor of the Altars to Blessed John Forest and the Sacred Heart, the Crucifix at the entrance to the Friary Drive and many furnishings to the Church.
"In a Monastery Garden"
In the world of music, Chilworth is closely linked with 'In a Monastery Garden'
In September 1909, Henry Larway from Plymouth entered Chilworth, receiving the name Edgar. In 1910 a visit to the Noviciate was made by Edgar’s brother, Joseph Larway, then a well-known music publisher with offices in Hanover Square and Walls Street, London. He brought with him to Chilworth a composer, conductor and musical editor, Albert Ketelbey, a non-Catholic. During a tour of the woods, Ketelbey turned to Larway and said, "I’ve got an idea. If I put it on paper, will you publish it?" The idea or inspiration was ‘In a Monastery Garden’.
The original manuscript of Ketelbey’s score is in the Provincial Archives. At the bottom of the first sheet is a note in Joseph Larway’s handwriting: Copyright MCMXV for all countries by J H Larway.
Permissions for Chilworth
On 20th December 1888, the Secretary of the Bishop of Southwark replied to F David Fleming, saying that he would bring to the notice of his Chapter, the question of the erection of a Franciscan Noviciate in the Diocese.
A letter from the Bishop (Bishop John Butt) dated 5th February 1889, stated that the Chapter gave consent.
Assured of these preliminaries, permission was sought from the Holy See to found a Religious House at Chilworth. The permission of the Holy See was granted ‘Ex Audientia’, 27th October 1889.
From the beginning the Friary looked after the parochial needs of a wide area covering for many years Cranleigh, Bramley, Shamley Green, Wonersh, Abinger, Gomshall, Holbury St Mary, Peaslake, and near the Dorking boundary. In 1933 Cranleigh was cut off and made a parish, and after World War 2, Bramley also became a parish, which included Wonersh.
Nevertheless, Chilworth did not become a formal parish until 15th December 1943.
The organ was built by Lewis & Co, Brixton.
The Lady Altar and St Antony’s Altar, and the Reredos of the High Altar, were the gift of Miss Hilda Paine of Lancaster Road, Forest Gate.
The St Francis Altar was the gift of Mrs Cottrell-Dormer.
The Window of five lights over the High Altar was possible through a legacy for the purpose from Emily and Marian Nesbitt. The two outside Lights depicting John Jones and John Wall, Franciscan Martyrs, were the first memorials erected in the Province in their honour. The stained glass work of the whole window is the work of the Whitefriars Glass company, Wealdstone, Middlesex, a company continued on the site of a Carmelite Monastery when in 1680 a glass factory was founded.
The ten first novices were admitted to Chilworth on July 30th 1892. The last member of the Province to have done his novitiate at Chilworth is Kieran Fitzsimons 29th August 1997-30th August 1998.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS ERECTED IN THE FRIARY GROUNDS
On 18th September 2010 a new set of Stations of the Cross was erected in the Friary grounds and dedicated for liturgical use. They are the work of the sculptor Nigel Ratcliffe-Springall, who was privately commissioned in 2007 by Gerald Culliford and completed the project in 2010, dedicating it to the memory of Gabrielle Culliford who died in 2010 and to the parishioners at the Church of Our Lady of the Angels, Gomshall. Each Station was progressed from design approval, development in Crete, then transfer and placement in the grounds of the Friary at Chilworth. During 2011, when the Friary becomes an enclosed Benedictine Abbey, it is planned to move them to the grounds of Ladywell Convent of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood in Godalming.
Two of the Stations are reproduced below by way of example with some of the sculptor's comments.
Station VI: Veronica Wipes Christ's Face
"I realised that her very anonymity was the key to who she is ... she is simply an ordinary person who performs an innocent action of spontaneous compassion in response to another's suffering. She cannot save Jesus from the Cross so she simply does what she can do. In her anonymity she is the most human of saints -- with total disregard to her own reputation she unselfconsciously removes her headdress in public and intimately wipes the blood and filth from Christ's face. I show her as young because I wanted her deed to have a young person's innocent and uncomplicated response. For me it is in her action that she beholds Christ's true image ... it is only where the cloth does not cover do we glimpse the crown of thorns."
Station VII: Christ Falls for the Second Time
"We would perhaps like to think that we would behave with the spontaneous charity of Veronica, but there are no doubt more times when we behave like the crowd in this scene. If the deed of Veronica represents the moment seized, this second fall represents the moment missed. Christ has fallen, yet no-one seems to have noticed: at that second they are all distracted by their own concerns. Just what is going on with the group in the foreground? No doubt it seemed important then, but 2000 years on these things have ceased to matter: yet Christ's sacrifice remains. So often we worry about and focus on things that, in the end, have no importance, yet miss the vital events taking place right under our noses.
"On the other hand perhaps this is not just a lively chat -- perhaps that young man in the foreground is in serious trouble and the unconcern he has for Christ's plight is understanable given his own predicament. And so, on another level, the symbolism of my interpretation is that Christ's sacrifice is for mankind, with all our failings -- he falls for the sake of these people's troubles. And the hourglass? On one level is it another source of distraction -- the vanity of mankind's possessions. On another, it alludes to how these events will be changed bty the passing of time, and to the transience and passing of the soldier's world; indeed I have arranged the entire composition in the shape of an hourglass, Christ at the centre."
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