When the monastery was built and opened in 1859 it was the great desire of Bishop Brown of Newport that, along with its other functions, Belmont should serve as the Seminary of his diocese. The best that could be done to meet the Bishop's wishes in this respect was to accept a small number of young boys who had the nominal intention or hope of ultimately becoming secular priests. To this Bishop Brown agreed and so the desired seminary became in fact a very small preparatory school.
This opened in 1860 and it lasted for fourteen years. The boys lived, under the charge of Dom (later Bishop) Cuthbert Hedley. Two or three rooms were assigned as sleeping quarters for the boys, and divided into cubicles. A larger room nearby served as playroom and study. These quarters were situated near St. Raphael's Chapel, on the top floor of the monastery, the present-day Novitiate.
A junior monk presided over the boys in the refectory, and it was also his duty to tell stories when they gathered round the fire on winter nights. In number, these boys rarely exceeded twelve, and only a small proportion actually persevered in theological studies. Their lessons were of a very elementary nature: the 'three Rs' (Reading, writing and arithmetic) and the beginnings of Latin and French. Organised team games were, of course, impossible.
In 1874 Bishop Brown withdrew his support from this venture and it came to an untimely end. Forty-three years were to elapse before boys were to be seen again at Belmont.
“For real education there must be that continuous skilful guiding and piloting, without pushing or forcing, which makes a boy turn his acquirements into mental growth, and discipline his own mind, heart and soul. To achieve such a result in a school, first, the boys must be left judiciously to themselves; secondly, the masters must forbear from taking too much notice of them; thirdly, the brilliant boys must not be made too much of, and the average ones must never be neglected; and lastly, cramming and feverish work for examinations should be carefully kept down, for work of that kind runs off mind and character like a shower of rain from the roof”. Bishop Hedley on education, 1911