Benedictines to leave Ramsgate after 150 years

Saint Augustine's Abbey, Ramsgate

The Benedictines of St Augustine's Abbey, Ramsgate, are to move to the Franciscan Friary in Chilworth, Surrey, in the spring. The community of eleven monks decided in October 2009 to leave their Ramsgate monastery, which has been their home for 149 years, and to relocate to smaller premises. Early in 2010, the Order of Friars Minor made a similar decision: they were to leave their Victorian Friary at Chilworth on the outskirts of Guildford.

The Friars are understandably sad at leaving the Friary, which has served as their Novitiate House, training new entrants for the Order, for 120 years, but the Minister Provincial, Fr Michael Copps OFM, commented '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.'

Dom Paulinus Greenwood OSB, Abbot of Ramsgate, agreed: 'We have been extremely fortunate in finding a suitable new home within such a relatively short period of time ... 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.' The Friary has a beautuful church and a cloister and is set in woods at the top of a hill.

The Abbey at Ramsgate was founded following a request that Bishop Thomas Grant, the First Bishop of Southwark, made to the Abbot of the Benedictine Congregation of Subiaco in Italy to establish a mission in Ramsgate. Dom Wilfrid Alcock, arrived to take charge at the Ramsgate mission which was to be centred on the church built by the Gothic Revivalist architect Augustus Welby Pugin, which he had given to the Diocese of Southwark before his death in 1852.

The first monks arrived in Ramsgate from Subiaco in 1856 and established their monastery, designed by Edward Pugin, A.W. Pugin's son, by 1861. It was built to house forty monks. They successfully evangelized much of the coastal region of Kent, establishing and, for many years caring for, all but one of the existing Catholic parishes on the Isle of Thanet, whilst acting as chaplains to the area’s many convents. A school was opened in 1865, which grew to provide to a Catholic education for boys for well over 130 years, finally closing in 1995.

Chilworth is only two miles from St John's Seminary at Wonersh. Over the years, many students have walked to the Friary Church to visit the crib at Christmas. Happily this will still continue ...

... now to the Benedictine Abbey Church.