Abbey of Benedictine nuns, midway between Malvern and Worcester, England
Stanbrook Abbey, an abbey of Benedictine nuns, midway between Malvern and Worcester, England. The abbey and church are dedicated to Our Lady of Consolation, the title of the original foundation at Cambrai, Spanish Flanders, 1625, effected by the Benedictine Monks of the English Congregation, under whose immediate jurisdiction the community has always remained. Of the nine English ladies who began the foundation, Helen More (Dame Gertrude) was chief foundress because of the liberality of her father, Cresacre More, great-grandson of Sir Thomas More; wherefore the community has special claims on the patron-age of this blessed martyr. The other ladies were: Margaret Vavasour; Anne Morgan; Catherine Gas-coigne; Grace and Anne More, cousins of Helen; Frances Watson; and two lay sisters, Mary Hoskins and Jane Martin. Dame Frances Gawen, one of three nuns lent by the Benedictines of Brussels to train the postulants, governed as abbess until the infant community was in a position to choose one from its own body, Dame Catherine Gascoigne, abbess, 1629-1676. Dom Augustine Baker, to whom their spiritual formation was entrusted, wrote at the Cambrai Abbey, for their use, spiritual treatises which give him celebrity. In 1793 the French revolutionists, seizing their house and property, conveyed the nuns, twenty-two in number, to a prison in Compiegne. Here, consequent on hardship, four of them died, as also the Very Reverend Dom Augustine Walker, President of the Anglo-Benedictine Congregation, who had been arrested in their priests’ quarters. Subsequently they had as fellow-prisoners the Carmelites (since beatified), who were led thence to martyrdom in Paris, July, 1794. Though a similar death awaited the Benedictines this was averted by the downfall of Robespierre, their deliverance from jail being effected only on April 25, 1795. Clad in worn-out secular attire left in the Compiegne prison by the Carmelite martyrs, they reached England in utter destitution, but were charitably lodged in London for some days. Thence they proceeded to Lancashire, where the Very Reverend Dr. Brewer, President of the Anglo-Benedictine Congregation, made over to them the Ladies’ School belonging to the Woolton mission under his care.
In 1807 the community removed to Salford Hall, near Evesham, where b the joint kindness of its owner, Mrs. Stanford, and the life-heir, Robert Berkeley, Esq., of Spetchly, they lived free of rent, till able to purchase Stanbrook Hall, to which they removed in 1838. In 1871 an entirely new monastic structure was inaugurated by the consecration of the abbey-church, designed by Edward Welby Pugin. The starting of this project was mainly attributable to the zeal and energy of the then Vicarius monialium, Dom James Laurence Shepherds the well-known translator of Dom Gueranger’s “Anne Liturgique”. The rest of the abbey building, of which Messrs. Cuthbert and Peter-Paul Pugin were the architects, was gradually erected during the abbacy of Lady Gertrude L. d’Aurillac Dubois, d. 1897. The abbey, with its extensive grounds, is enclosed by the canonical wall completed by the present abbess. As formerly at Cambrai, so at Stanbrook, the solemn celebration of the Divine Office, strictness of enclosure, and monastic observance are leading features. Though essentially devoted to the contemplative life, the nuns receive for education within the cloister a small number of alumnae. They are girls of the upper classes of life, and are fitted for their future position in society by a strong traditionary training on monastic lines according to the spirit of St. Benedict’s Rule. Stanbrook Abbey has some reputation for its contributions to Catholic literature, as also to the popularization of Gregorian Chant. Lady Cecilia A. Heywood, who was blessed abbess in November, 1897, is the twentieth in succession from the year 1629. [See Helen More ]
E. B. WELD-BLUNDEL.