St Beuno's College was built in 1848 as a place
of study for Jesuits. It was built as a 'theologate' on the
lines of a small Oxbridge university college. Up to this time
prospective Jesuit priests studied in Stonyhurst College, Lancashire
and for a short time abroad, but the increasing numbers put
a strain on the old buildings. So in 1846, the then Provincial
of the Jesuits in Britain, Fr Randal Lythgoe when visiting the
Jesuit parish in Holywell travelled to see some farm land that
the Society of Jesus owned near Tremeirchion and immediately
decided that this should be the site for his new theologate.
In early Victorian days when epidemics of typhoid and cholera
regularly swept towns and cities killing large numbers, the
country air of North Wales was considered salubrious - a suitable
place to prepare the young men to go into the new industrial
towns and cities to serve in schools and parishes.
The architect engaged for the building was Joseph Aloysius Hansom,
of Hansom Cab fame. Outwardly the fine stone buildings
gave a grand impression. Inside were broad corridors and large
but simple rooms. Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit poet who
studied at St Beuno's College from 1874-7 described the building
in a letter to his father: "It is built of limestone,
decent outside, skimping within, Gothic like Lancing College
Hansom's St. Beuno's enclosed a square garden on the west side
of which there was a basement gallery containing the Recreation
Room, a schoolroom, two private rooms and the Entrance Hall.
On the floor above was the Library, which looks both inside
and out as though it were a chapel, (and is a chapel today),
the Rector's Room and a 'stranger's room. On the south side,
the tallest side, rising higher than the tower, were three galleries
which housed the professors and the students. On the north side
was the monastic refectory with its pulpit for the reader.
Within 20 years of its being built the College was too small
and extra rooms were added in the attics and a new North Wing
to the left of the Tower was built.
In the early days of the College could be said to be environmentally
friendly: Heating for the lower floor was at least in part solar,
with the heat from the greenhouse below the West Front being
channeled into the house. Fresh water was provided from local
streams which were kept in tanks, which still exist above the
terraces, and food was grown locally both in the College's grounds
and on the adjacent College Farm. And though perhaps not too
environmentally sound, the college had its own gas works. There
was also a school built for local children.
1862 the College was presented with a medieval cross by a Mr
Hynde, who bought it for £5 from the Anglicans at Corpus
Christi, Tremeirchion. The Tremeirchion Rood of Grace stood
for 140 years on a plinth at the entrance to St Beuno's before
being restored and then translated back to Tremeirchion churchyard
as a Millenium gift. It now stands proudly under the yew it
was found burried under in the mid 19th century.
In 1866, what can best be described as a folly, the 'Rock Chapel'
was built on a wooded hill to the south of St Beuno's. Designed
by a Jesuit student, Ignatius Scoles, who had followed his father's
footsteps and trained as an architect before joining the Jesuits
to become a priest.
The College remained as a Theologate until
1926 when the students were moved to Heythrop College in Oxfordshire.
It then became a place for the last year of Jesuit training,
the Tertianship. During the Second World War it was home to
many Jesuit novices who were sent from London, as a place of
refuge from the bombings. After the War it reverted to being
a Tertianship until 1980, although ten years earlier, the house
had begun to open to religious sisters on first 8 day and then
30 day retreats. During the 1970's as the tertianship became
increasingly uneasy living in the countryside, the retreat work
grew from strength to strength.
Very little has been added to the St Beuno's
buildings since the 1870's, just two very poor, unsympathetic
additions, a brick built ablution block and a boiler room.
In 2002 St Beuno's was listed as a 2* by CADW as a Welsh Historic
Monument: Denbighshire CC. Record No. 26459
Today the house has a thriving programme of retreats all the
year round, from weekends to 30 days. It also offers courses
in Ignatian Spirituality from one to six months in duration.
To see exactly what is now done, go back to the home page.
* Much of the history on this page has been obtained
from "Canute's Tower" by Paul Edwards. Available from St Beuno's
for £4.50 including UK postage.