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Belmont Abbey, Herefordshire

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Belmont Abbey, Herefordshire

Belmont Abbey
Abbey Church of St Michael and All Angels, Hereford
View from the Abbey gardens
Belmont Abbey
Location in Herefordshire
OS grid reference SO4821038149
Location Hereford, Herefordshire
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Roman Catholic
Former name(s) Pro-Cathedral of Newport and Menevia
Founded 1859 (1859)
Founder(s) Francis Wegg-Prosser
Dedication St Michael
Consecrated 4 September 1860
Status Benedictine monastery
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade II*
Designated 22 October 1986
Architect(s) Edward Welby Pugin
Style Gothic Revival
Groundbreaking 1857
Completed 1875
Construction cost £45,000
Deanery Hereford
Archdiocese Cardiff
Province Cardiff
Archbishop Most Rev. George Stack
Abbot Rt. Rev. Paul Stonham OSB
Priest(s) Very Rev. Nicholas Wetz OSB

Belmont Abbey, in Herefordshire, England is a Catholic Benedictine monastery that forms part of the English Benedictine Congregation. It stands on a small hill overlooking the city of Hereford to the east, with views across to the Black Mountains, Wales to the west. The 19th century Abbey also serves as a parish church.


The interior of the Abbey Church

Francis Wegg-Prosser, of nearby Belmont House, who had been received into the Catholic Church, can be called its founder. He decided to build a church on his Hereford estate in 1854. He later invited the Benedictines to reside there so that there would be a permanent Catholic presence in the area.[1] In 1859, the Benedictines arrived and it became a priory. It was the Common Novitiate and House of Studies for the English Benedictine Congregation. It was also a pro-cathedral for the Diocese of Newport and Menevia.[2] The Benedictine Thomas Joseph Brown was its first bishop, who is buried in the church. Belmont was unique in England for having a monastic cathedral chapter. This was the case in mediaeval England where monks were the canons of the cathedral, such as in Canterbury, Winchester and Durham.[3]

A move to transfer the training of monks to the individual monasteries of the English Benedictine Congregation led to Belmont being allowed to take its own novices in 1901, and become an independent house in 1917. In 1920 Belmont was raised to the rank of an Abbey by the papal bull Praeclara Gesta. In 1895, the Diocese of Newport and Menevia split and the abbey remained was the pro-cathedral for the Diocese of Newport. On 7 February 1916, the Diocese of Newport became the Archdiocese of Cardiff and it was decided to make St. David's Church in Cardiff the cathedral. On 12 March 1920, St. David's church officially became the cathedral for the archdiocese and the abbey ceased to be a pro-cathedral.[4]

The Abbey Church

Stained Glass of Ss Raphael, Michael, Gabriel and angels

The Abbey Church is a grade II* Listed building. Its construction began in 1857 and it was consecrated on 4 September 1860.[3] It was built to the designs of Edward Welby Pugin, son of the great Augustus Welby Pugin. Built in the decorated, early English style, it demonstrated the resurgent optimism of the restored Catholic faith.[5]

The exterior is in local pink sandstone, simple and unadorned, reminiscent of many classical monastic facades of the fourteenth century. The interior is faced with warm Bath stone. The church is dominated by four elegant, steeply pointed, arches which support the central tower. Originally this was the crossing, but now the altar stands here at the centre of the Church. The whole church was expensive for its time costing £45,000.[5]

The church is noted for the quality of its sculpture and stained glass. There are windows depicting angels with harps, cymbals and pipes. There is an angel reredos in the east end of the church and a Victorian glass window showing the archangels Michael (the abbey's patron, sword and shield in hand, trampling the dragon), Raphael and Gabriel and the nine choirs of angels as an angelic orchestra sounding of praises of God.[6]

Under a wooden roof stands the monastic choir, where the community gathers five times a day for the Divine Office and Mass. Side altars are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph, and a memorial altar commemorating the former pupils of the school who lost their lives in the Second World War. The North Transept was formerly a chantry chapel dedicated to the Welsh Saints.[5]

St Benedict's chapel, completed in 1875, is shows the monastic founder in the central reredos.[5]

Monastic life

The monastic community follows the Rule of St Benedict under the guidance of an Abbot, centred on the Divine Office and Mass prayed daily in the Abbey Church.[7]

Following the post-Reformation English tradition, the monks have been involved in educational and pastoral work. In 1926, Belmont Abbey School was founded. This continued to expand in the post war years. Two preparatory schools were also founded, Alderwasley and Llanarth, Monmouthshire. These in turn were closed, and the school at Belmont was itself closed in 1993. Associations for former pupils still exist.[8]

Today the monks undertake numerous works including the pastoral care of the Catholics in Herefordshire, west Cumbria and South Wales. In addition the community maintains a small foundation at Pachacamac near Lima, Peru, the Monastery of the Incarnation.[7]

The monks also run the retreat, guesthouse and conference centre, Hedley Lodge. A programme of educational visits is offered to schools throughout the West Midlands and Wales.[7]

The community currently numbers 39 monks in England and Peru. In 2001, its former abbot, Mark Jabalé, was appointed Bishop of Menevia. His successor as Abbot is Paul Stonham. Current Prior is Dom Nicholas Wetz.

In 2006 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded Belmont Abbey a grant for their project 'Discovering Belmont Abbey', to make the Abbey Church more accessible to a wide range of people, to enlarge its educational activities and restore the fabric of the church. Work commenced in August 2008.[9]

Sexual abuse scandal

Father John Kinsey was sentenced to five years imprisonment at Worcester Crown Court in 2005 by Judge Andrew Geddes for a series of serious offences relating to assaults on schoolboys attending Belmont Abbey School in the mid 1980s.[10][11]

Kinsey attacked three schoolboys while a monk at Belmont Abbey during a two-year period, grooming and attacking victims during bell ringing lessons, carrying out altar service duties and while playing the church organ. The frequency of his attacks increased to a weekly basis before Kinsey was sent away from the Abbey for a short period to train as a priest.

Due to falling pupil numbers Belmont Abbey closed the school in 1993.[12]

List of Abbots (until 1920 - Priors)

  • 1859–1862: Norbert Sweeny
  • 1862–1873: Bede Vaughan
  • 1873–1901: Wilfrid Raynal
  • 1901–1905: Ildephonsus Cummins
  • 1905–1914: Clement Fowler
  • 1915–1934: Aelred Kindersley
  • 1934–1940: Romuald Leonard
  • 1940–1948: Aidan Williams
  • 1948–1953: Anselm Lightbound
  • 1953–1955: Alphege Gleeson
  • 1955–1966: Maurice Martin
  • 1966–1970: Robert Richardson
  • 1970–1986: Jerome Hodkinson
  • 1986–1993: Alan Rees
  • 1993–2000: Mark Jabalé
  • 2000–present: Paul Stonham[13]


See also


  1. ^ The Late Mr F. R. Wegg-Prosser Funeral at Belmont from The Tablet retrieved 5 April 2014
  2. ^ History from retrieved 5 April 2014
  3. ^ a b Belmont Abbey Church from Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales retrieved 5 April 2014
  4. ^ History from Cardiff Cathedral retrieved 5 April 2014
  5. ^ a b c d List entry from English Heritage retrieved 5 April 2014
  6. ^ Angels from BelmontCMS retrieved 5 April 2014
  7. ^ a b c Visit Herefordshire retrieved 5 April 2014
  8. ^ Belmont Association retrieved 5 April 2014
  9. ^ Abbot blesses new visitor facility at Belmont Abbey Church from Hereford Times retrieved 5 April 2014
  10. ^ Five years for attacks on boys
  11. ^ Priest almost drove victim to suicide
  12. ^ The closure of the school
  13. ^ Community from retrieved 5 April 2014


  • The History of Belmont Abbey by Basil Whelan, Bloomsbury Publishing Company 1959.

External links

  • Belmont Abbey
  • Belmont on the website of the English Benedictine Congregation
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