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The Alumnate

In 1917, the position at St. Michael's was radically different from the state of affairs in 1874. The Common Novitiate and House of Studies for the whole English Benedictine Congregation at Belmont had practically ceased to exist, while the new Belmont Community with its Prior now numbered fifteen. It had just been granted its complete independence by General Chapter (August 1917) which was confirmed five months later by the Holy See.

 

The problem therefore arose of finding a means of occupation for the youthful community, and in these circumstances Prior Aelred Kindersley decided to open an alumnate or school for boys who seemed likely to have a monastic vocation. This was accordingly opened on September 18th, 1917, with Dom Gregory Buisseret as its first Headmaster.
There were at first ten boys, and the maximum reached during the existence of this alumnate was just over twenty. The old parish school (now the Parish Centre) was used as the classroom and the former novitiate over the refectory became an open dormitory. All the boys wore scout uniform and were encouraged to attain proficiency in Scout exercises, but in church they had their place in the choir and wore the monastic tunic with a short scapular. '
The time-table of the Alumniate was rather severe. They rose at 6.00am, and attended Mass at 6.30. Breakfast was at 7.15, followed by bed-making and cleaning of shoes. They attended the Conventual Mass at 800, and classes followed (9.00 until 1.00pm, with a break at 11.15. On some days there were afternoon classes, and always after tea. They assisted at vespers at 6.00pm. Supper, at 7.15, was followed by recreation until Night Prayers and final prep at 8.15.
Dom Cuthbert Formby was in charge of monastic studies, as well as the studies of the boys. However it was not all work. With the help of members of the community, a team capable of playing some outside matches was formed, and Fr. Cuthbert preserved the following list of fixtures.
1922 Nov. 18.—Belmont v. Hereford High School. Won 2-1.
Nov. 23.—Belmont v. India & China Tea Co. Lost 3-2.
Dec. 7.—Belmont v. India & China Tea Co. Won 3-0.
Dec. 14.—Belmont v. West of England Public Schools Team. Won 3-0.
1923. Feb. 8.—Belmont v. Y.M.C.A. Won
Feb. 15.—Belmont v. India & China Tea Co. Lost 3-1.
However, there were disadvantages in running so small a school, and the steady post-war growth in the numbers of monks made it possible to contemplate starting a school on an altogether larger scale. Such a school, it was thought, whilst providing an occupation for the monks and a source of vocations, would also in due course help the house financially.
The Grange

In these years, the ranks of the Community, depleted during the war, were being filled again by a considerable number of young novices. With them the boys shared their expeditions down to the River Wye and visits to the monastic Grange. Before the war it had been the custom to spend "month-days" at this retreat, and this tradition survived into the first years of the school. This sharing of monastic activities was typical of the very close association of Monastery and school in those early years.

The photos show the monks rowing Abbot Kindersley (he is just visible in the back of the boat wearing his black habit and cross), boys bathing in the Wye (about 1927) and after the swim where the Alumniate Scout uniform has been replaced by the grey suit and tie of the new lay school.