Bishop of Newport & Menevia (1873-1915)
A monk of Ampleforth, professor at Belmont Abbey.
Belmont’s importance for the liturgical movement lies in the fact that countless Benedictine priests were trained here, priests who were to serve all over England and Wales in a period of consolidation and growth. Many parishes owe their origin to the English Benedictine Mission.
The training they were given was of a very high standard, as was the monastic formation they received. Among the professors was Dom Cuthbert Hedley, who became successor to Bishop Brown.
The Holy Eucharist, Longman and Green, London – New York 1907, 278 pp
The Spirit of Faith: or, What must I do to believe? Catholic Publication Society, London
1875 – 146pp
© James Leachman, O.S.B., 11 November 2015
Belmont has a fascinating and unusual history. It was the brainchild of Francis Richard Wegg-Prosser of Belmont House, Clehonger, Herefordshire, who, to mark his conversion to the Catholic Church, decided to build a church. For this he engaged the services of Edward Pugin, but they were unable to build all that was planned. Only about a third of the project was completed. On 21st November 1859 the first stage was officially opened and given to the English Benedictine Congregation. The church was blessed by the first Cathedral Prior, Dom Norbert Sweeney, and, on the following day, the first Mass was offered by Bishop Thomas Joseph Brown of Newport and Menevia, whose cathedral it now became. Later that day a Solemn High Mass was celebrated by Bishop Bernard Ullathorne.
Belmont was unique in that it was a cathedral priory, just like the great medieval Benedictine houses at Canterbury, Rochester, Durham, Worcester and so on. It became the mother church of a fledgling diocese as well as a monastic church where the divine office was sung each day in full by Benedictine monks from Downside, Ampleforth and Douai. They formed the cathedral chapter and prepared both Benedictine and diocesan candidates for the priesthood. It also served as common novitiate and house of studies. An aspect of Belmont’s importance lies in the fact that countless Benedictine priests were trained here, priests who were to serve all over England and Wales in a period of consolidation and growth. Many parishes owe their origin to the English Benedictine Mission. The training they were given was of a very high standard, as was the monastic formation they received. Among the professors was Dom Cuthbert Hedley, successor to Bishop Brown.
Belmont was pivotal to the movement for monastic reform that was gathering momentum in the second half of the 19th Century. It is interesting to note that Abbot Prosper Guéranger of Solesmes preached at the dedication of the church on 4th September 1860. Belmont was instrumental to the reintroduction of Gregorian Chant to Britain and for 60 years was the only cathedral in the world where the Chant was sung every day at Mass and Divine Office. Also of note is the fact that many “Belmont men”, such as Dom Bede Vaughan, took an important role in the Church’s mission to Australia.
A new chapter in the life of the community began with independence, first as a Priory in 1915, then as an Abbey in 1920. Dom Aelred Kindersley, last of the Cathedral Priors, was elected first Abbot of Belmont. The community grew quickly, but was desperately poor, for although Belmont was a foundation of the English Congregation as a whole, it was never endowed or provided with a means of self support. Individual monks were loaned to the other houses to serve on their incorporated parishes. It was not until 1926 that a small school was opened, the founder not wishing Belmont to have a school, but to dedicate itself to the evangelization of Wales and Herefordshire. The first incorporated parishes were taken on in 1934. In addition to training its own men, Belmont also trained priests for the Archdiocese of Cardiff. Archbishop Michael McGrath continued the tradition of ordinations at Belmont well into the 1940s. There have always been and continue to be close relations between Belmont and the Archdiocese.
© Fr David Bird OSB, http://fatherdavidbirdosb.blogspot.com/ 8 November 2010.