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A Short History

Benedictine monasticism was part of the landscape of Medieval Britain, but the Reformation in England and the Dissolution of the Monasteries brought an end to monastic life in England and Wales. The age of the great Abbeys like Canterbury, Westminster, Gloucester and St Albans was over, but monasticism itself was waiting to be restored. In the seventeenth century Englishmen and Welshmen went to the Continent and re-established the English Benedictine Congregation in exile.

 

This Congregation, which itself goes back to the thirteenth Century, founded Belmont in 1859 as the Common House of Studies for the three existing monasteries (now Downside, Ampleforth and Douai). At the same time it was the Cathedral for the Diocese of Newport and Menevia which covered the whole of Wales and Herefordshire.

When this black and white photograph was taken, at the Golden Jubilee of Belmont in 1909, Belmont was about to enter into a new phase of its history. In 1917, the General Chapter of the Congregation declared Belmont to be an independent Priory, and in 1920 the Holy See raised it to the rank of an Abbey by the Papal Bull Praeclara Gesta.
Dom Aelred Kindersley, a monk of Downside, had been appointed as the last Cathedral Prior in 1915. The young community elected him as their first Abbot in 1920. Abbot Kindersley ruled the infant community for fourteen more years until his death in 1934. He saw the numbers of monks and the variety and scope of work increase. During his term of Office the Abbey School was established and the Community took to its care a number of parishes.

The school closed in 1994, but educational work continues with visiting school groups and local catechetical work. The Community has also expanded its hospitality work: Hedley Lodge is the Abbey Guesthouse where individuals and groups are welcomed for retreats, conferences and holiday breaks. An annual programme of retreats is organized by the Retreat Director.
In 1981 three monks began the monastic life at Tambogrande in the north of Peru at the invitation of the Archbishop of Piura. This is now the monastery of the Incarnation.

Today the Community numbers about forty five monks: about 18 are resident at the Abbey with others working outside at Belmont's commitments or in Peru.