HOLMURST ST MARY, III
HOW THEY SUBDIVIDED IT
AND MADE IT UGLY
n the 21st Century, the Mother Agnes Trust, a Registered Charity (which can be found on the website, http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/registeredcharities by clicking on 'Search the Register', then scrolling half way down that page, click on 'Search for charities by name', then type in 'Mother Agnes Trust'), chaired by the Diocesan Bishop, put the Holmhurst Theological Library of 20,000 books first into boxes, then nine years later opened a diocesan centre with this library on moving shelves at sea level, where the sea is already eroding the coastline, in a place they called not the 'Mother Agnes Mason Centre' but the 'magnet', with cheap low ceilings and cheap plastic furniture. It was a library formed by learned contemplative women, of books in Hebrew, Greek, Spanish, on the Bible, on Holy Land archeology, on the contemplative mystics, such as John Tauler, Henry Suso, Julian of Norwich, Mechtild von Magdebourg, and especially on Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross in their original Spanish, Richard Hooker's first complete edition of the Ecclesiastical Polity, on the Oxford Movement, on the Naini Tal school in India and on the Umtata theological school in Africa, and was particularly for use in the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury's Degree in Theology in the Lambeth Diploma. The Trust used to sneer at me for praising such old-fashioned books, which they considered of no use for modern parish work by male clergy, who are no longer required in England to study Greek and Hebrew for ordination (nor even now for the Lambeth Diploma), though that is the rule for all other European Lutheran churches. The Community's treasures were sold off in boot sales by the Chaplain's wife. What was left on the Ridge after bulldozing the convent and the chapels and many of the classrooms and library, all that was not listed, they subdivided and sold off, cheap work priced at vast sums, profit above all. When I wrote to the Charity Commission I found the Trust, which included the Bishop and the Chaplain, merely loaned £1,000 to the Sisters of their own money, while pocketing for themselves millions of pounds, earned by women and girls over a hundred years. I had, for four years, restored acres of floors, taken up hundreds of nails from the previously linoleum-covered parquet floor of the coachhouse, bound thousands of books, bought yards and yards of fine cotton and fine linen for the Sisters' habits and wimples and many sets of fine American cotton sheets for their houseguests, bought thousands of pounds of computer hardware and software and a photocopier for doing the Community's newsletter, mended exquisite embroidered chasubles and altar linens, without pay, having given up my professorship and citizenship, family, house and car, to enter the Community of the Holy Family. The Anglican Trust, which was to be ecumenical, wrote that I could not have one penny because I had become Catholic and that this was English law. They also promptly, and retroactively, rewrote the Trust in such a way as to exclude any Catholic though Mother Agnes, the friend of Baron von Hügel, spoke of secretly becoming Catholic, and trained in Catholic convents, and though Mother Gwendoline formed the Trust to be ecumenical and likewise to include Catholics. Even though some of the Trust's earnings came from my school fees paid by my great grandfather's Sir James Roberts Trust for my ten years' education with them, from 1943-1953. I asked 'What English law?' Their reply came back, 'Under English law we can do as we see fit'. Pirate talk. A Bishop explained to me that the Church of England had been speculating on property, had lost vast sums, and were getting it all back using these means. The Sisters had made me give back the habit and veil I had sewn myself (I sewed myself others), they had given away my secular clothes, including my cloak. I lived for four years in one unheated room, editing the surviving manuscripts of Julian of Norwich, work Mother Agnes Mason would have encouraged. Then I found this post, looking after the English Cemetery in Florence, where I have space for a library, the Biblioteca e Bottega Fioretta Mazzei, run without money, instead with knowledge, work, time and love. I continue as the Hermit of the Holy Family. And care for the graves of Anglican clergy.
Soon the last and most beautiful green belt at Holmhurst with its badgers will be built over. Everything is now secularized and mechanized, instead of what was human and lovely and learned and holy.
We used to be able to walk round the grounds of
Holmhurst, and it took an hour, on Sundays, then the land was
leased to a farmer. Later, much of the acreage was sold off to
become Conquest Hospital. Augustus Hare shows it with the sea
and Hastings Castle.
This is the Trust's stewardship:
Scullery, Kitchen, Pantry
In front of which had been a rockery garden beneath trees. In Augustus Hare's day beside it had also been a poultry yard with another Venetian welhead, lost even in my day, and then the couch house and stables, where Mother Agnes, imitating Teresa of Avila, built her chapel.
Venetian wellhead with dovecot to the top right.
Holmhurst pantry, now turned into kitchen.
At least they kept the original beautiful windows
and the skylight which always leaked. But the
other materials are cheap and won't last.
One can hear those clocks ticking away and feel the warmth of the great cast iron stove. Now turned into a living room
Holmhurst scullery, now turned into dining room
Dormitory turned into bedroom. It looks like a room in a caravan.
School bathroom, now turned into one of three
bedrooms and above bathroom
£325,000 3 Bedroom
Now it is double that price and still
available, still unsellable
. . . its beauty I shall never forget,
Nor its constant mood,
And I pray God
It will not be spoilt,
But remain a sanctity
Of holy good.
Hazel Pigott, 1967
Return to Augustus Hare's Holmhurst (http://www.umilta.net/holmhurst1.html)
Return to Holmhurst St
Mary and the Community of the Holy Family
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