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Ramsgate treasures saved for Church

By on Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Many of the ecclesiastical treasures from the former Benedictine Abbey in Ramsgate have been saved for the Church.

The items, including monstrance, a silver chalice and various portraits, had been put up for sale by auction by the 11 monks of Ramsgate Abbey who last year moved to a smaller new home, a former Franciscan friary in Chilworth, Surrey.

But the seven items have now been withdrawn from the auction and acquired through a private treaty sale by the Archdiocese of Southwark, and will be returned to St Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate, which Augustus Pugin designed and built next to his own house, The Grange.

They include a beautiful monstrance of around 1850, similar to one which Pugin designed for his other famous church, St Gile’s, Cheadle, and a watercolour sketch by Pugin of the interior of St Augustine’s, a preparatory study for a large drawing which he sent for display at the Royal Academy in 1849.

They also include a portrait of the writer Kenelm Digby, a close friend of Pugin, who helped Pugin’s son Edward complete the church after his father’s death; the church contains the Digby Chantry.

A silver chalice in the Gothic style by Hardman and Co, Birmingham, which made many ecclesiastical pieces for Pugin, has a Latin inscription on its base: “Pray for John Hardman.”
Other items were bought back for the church by a parishioner; they include images of St Augustine.

The Archdiocese of Southwark took back responsibility for the Grade 1 listed church from the monks in 2010; it has begun a major programme of repair with grant support from English Heritage.

The monks at the Benedictine Farnborough Abbey have acquired two items including a rare silver recusant chalice dating from 1633, when Catholic worship was banned following the Reformation. The chalice, engraved with scenes from the Passion of Christ, was given to the monks at Ramsgate in the 19th century by a member of the Hales family, who were recusants.

The Abbot of Farnborough said, “All sacred vessels are important. The recusant chalice communicates with a particular eloquence the hardships suffered by Catholics in what are described in the inscription on the chalice as ‘cruel times’. We are relieved that this chalice will remain in appropriate hands.”

  • Anonymous

    Very few items have been saved. If you look at the auction catalogue you will see that many of the items not withdrawn were of importance – jewelled 19th century French chalices, for instance, and an Omar Ramsden piece.

    Does anyone know if any of the other pieces were saved for the Church or bought by ecclesiastical institutions?

  • Trish

    I wish someone could have saved or could still rescue the altar from my former high school.  Made of Italian marble, it is absolutely splendid.  When my school was closed and to be torn down, the Sisters sold it.  They said it had gone to a dealer who bought it for a convent in Ireland, when I wrote to ask them about it.  In fact, it is part of the decor at a Rochdale restaurant called, of all things, Fallen Angels.  It breaks my heart.

  • Robin

    If you look up the hotel’s website, you will see that the altar is now used as a bar.   How was this blasphemy allowed to take place?

  • David

    Presumably the relics were removed?  If so it is little more tham a pile of stone so far as the church is concerned – very upsetting for faithful Catholics.

  • Saddened

    I think this is an absolute tragedy, and wonder how some of the departed members of the community would feel were they to know what has taken place.  Abbot Gilbert Jones, whom I knew very well from a time when I had close connections to St Augustine’s, talked about the responsibility of caring for these items.  Whilst I would be the first to admit that he had his own ‘little eccentricities’, he was absolutely adamant that these items would not be sold, despite some 1980s criticisms for holding in to ‘treasure’ when it could be used to help the poor.
    His response was that they had been given as gifts by the faithful to be used by the church/community for the glory of God, and that in selling them – even if it seemed right to do so – they would be breaking the wishes and devotion of those who had generously donated them.
    Though, it is also sad to see the community so depleted and such a shadow of its former self.  And it has been a long-running sadness watching all that they had built up slowly being dismantled and ended ….

  • Hd777

    I have seen the hotel’s website, it is heartbreaking! how can we do things like that? I would be ashamed all the rest of my life!