An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 9 (of 86 parts) - St. Anne’s Church - History of Religion in Sutton Part 2

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 9 (of 86) - The History of Religion in Sutton Part 2 - St. Anne’s RC Church
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
History of Religion in Sutton Part 2 - St. Anne’s
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVI

St. Anne's Church, Monastery and Convent

Engraving entitled 'St.Anne's Retreat Sutton' of the original 19th century church and monastery

Engraving titled 'St.Anne's Retreat Sutton' of the original church & monastery

Engraving of St.Anne's Retreat Sutton

During the first half of the 19th century, there were not many Roman Catholics within Sutton. It has even been suggested that there were no more than forty followers of Rome. Without a chapel of their own, the Catholics were forced to walk or ride to St. Helens, Blackbrook or Rainhill in order to attend Mass. So in 1849, John Smith, a wealthy railway magnate from Mount Pleasant in Sutton who owned much of the township, decided to build a Roman Catholic monastery and church.

Smith
(1794-1863) was a self-made man who had begun his working life as a labourer when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was being built. After impressing his bosses, he was allowed to employ a few men and then rose from being a small-scale contractor to being a director of the St. Helens Canal & Railway Company. John Smith sought advice from Cardinal Wiseman and he suggested discussing his ecclesiastical project with the Passionists. They were a religious order, who although founded by St. Paul of the Cross in 1720, had only recently arrived in England. So Smith travelled to Aston Hall, near Stone in Staffordshire, to meet Father Dominic Barberi (1792-1849) at the first Passionist Monastery in England. The Italian priest had opened it in February 1842 and Smith made him the offer of building another Passionist retreat, plus church, in St. Helens.

This was gratefully accepted by Fr. Dominic and in January or February 1849, he arrived in Sutton to choose a site. The priest was met at St. Helens Junction station by John Smith, along with his non-Catholic friend
Arthur Sinclair. The latter would later reside at Waterdale House, which after his death would become the home of Sutton Convent. As Fr. Dominic had only limited English, a local resident called Mr. Wallace, who knew some Italian, was brought along to translate. Upon hearing that Wallace was also non-Catholic, Fr. Barberi said "I will pray for you; you will become a Catholic". A year later his prophecy came true and Wallace was converted.

Father Barberi was given a choice of three sites. Upon seeing the third near Sutton’s Intersection Bridge, he declared "Here will I dwell forever, for I have chosen it". Smith was left to draw up the plans for an impressive sandstone church complete with lofty spire, along with an adjacent monastery / retreat upon 12 acres of his land. The date for the laying of the foundation stone by Father Barberi was set for August 27th 1849. However four days earlier the Italian priest died at the Railway Hotel in Reading from a heart attack suffered on a train. As the ceremony took place in Sutton, conducted instead by
Fr. Gaudentius Rossi, Father Barberi’s funeral proceeded at Stone.

Left: Peckers Hill convent (1855-58); Right: Drawing of Holy Cross Convent in Fenneys Lane (1858 - 1901)

Peckers Hill convent and drawing of Holy Cross Convent in Fenneys Lane

Peckers Hill convent (1855-58) and Fenneys Lane convent (1858 - 1901)

Dominic Barberi original tomb in Sutton, St.Helens
Original tomb of Dominic Barberi at St.Anne's
The church and monastery, dedicated to St. Anne, were built by John Middlehurst and completed in 1851. Their consecration by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rev. Dr. Alexander Goss, took place on October 26th 1853 and Father Ignatius Spencer said the first Mass in the church on the following day. It was Fr. Spencer who had overseen much of the building work.

In November 1855 the body of Fr. Barberi was reinterred in Sutton. A few days later on November 16th a convent was opened in a cottage at Peckers Hill. Holy Cross Convent was inhabited by a community of Passionist Sisters, whose order had been created by Elizabeth Prout four years earlier (along with Fr. Rossi). The Sisters of the Cross and Passion taught at St. Anne's girls' school and at Parr Hall and in 1857 they were given responsibility for the new school at St. Joseph's Church in Peasley Cross. Holy Cross Convent was actually two cottages converted into one, which was situated next to the lodge house of Mount Pleasant, John Smith's house in Paradise Row (later Convent Row then Fenny's Lane). By 1861 the Passionists' benefactor had built a new home for himself, known as St Anne's Villa, situated behind St Anne's School. As the Sisters' convent cottage was proving inadequate, they were delighted to be offered Smith's old house. Mount Pleasant was much more spacious, with extensive grounds and gardens, and was rented to the order for just a shilling a year.
“The

The original St. Anne's church in Sutton, St. Helens with spire and tower which existed between 1851 and 1934

“The

The original St. Anne's with spire which existed between 1851 and 1934

“The

The original St. Anne's church

As described in the education page, the clergy at St. Anne's saw the educating of local children as a priority and from 1853 had begun teaching in a large schoolroom attached to the monastery. With a Roman Catholic church and school now in Sutton and with expanding employment opportunities, devotees were increasingly drawn to the district. By 1855 the numbers of parishioners were estimated at 1,350 and by 1861 the congregation had exceeded 2,000. The church's catchment area was quite wide and included Parr, Burtonwood and Peasley Cross. Initially the challenge was in building the places of worship and education. However, it would soon become one of meeting the spiritual and educative needs of an expanding community within Sutton, while at the same time fighting a war against subsidence.

Father Bernardine Carosi as Rector of St. Annes met the challenge head on. He was appointed in October 1852, succeeding Father Honorius Mazzini, the first holder of the post whose brief tenure had begun in August 1851. Fr. Carosi served as Rector for a total of 13 years and held two terms of office. In fact he was longest-standing holder of the post. Although he retired in 1863, his successor Fr. Ignatius Spencer died suddenly during the following year and so Fr. Carosi was reappointed. During his tenures as Rector, a new wing was added to the monastery (1860) and a new church was opened at St. Joseph's Lecture Hall in Peasley Cross (1861).
“St.Annes

An undated photograph inside the original St.Anne's Roman Catholic church in Sutton, St.Helens

“St.Annes

Inside the original St.Anne's Roman Catholic church in Sutton

“St.Annes

Inside the original St.Anne's church

The St. Helens Weekly News of May 25th 1861 reported on a 'tea party and soiree held in the St. Anne's schoolroom. Two hundred clergy and parishioners heard a stirring tribute from Rev. Albin, who declared that 'the parish is now in a great measure free from sickness, but there are many of us who remember when the case was otherwise'. Father Bernadine was praised for his time spent at the bedside of poorly parishioners in Sutton. Or as Rev. Albin put it, at 'the sick bed of suffering humanity'.

On January 11th 1864, Elizabeth Prout, now Superior General at Sutton's Holy Cross Convent, died from a long illness. She will always be remembered for her work in supporting poverty-stricken Manchester mill girls. When Elizabeth (or Mother Mary Joseph Prout) died she had 21 Sisters in her order, including two Americans. Her successor as Superior General was Mother Winefride Lynch and she was succeeded by Mother Mary Margaret Chambers. On October 1st 1864 the Rector of St. Annes, Fr. Ignatius Spencer, died at Carstairs in Scotland. Born George Spencer in 1799, he turned his back on a privileged upbringing and practised as an Anglican minister for eight years before converting to Catholicism in 1830. During that same year he met Fr. Dominic in Italy for the first time, was ordained a priest in 1832 and joined the Passionists in 1847.

About 1868 the Sisters of the Cross and Passion started a private day / boarding school within their convent. This lasted for many years and a night school was added in 1897, the first in Sutton. Dr. Goss, the Bishop of Liverpool, who had consecrated St. Anne’s in 1853, visited the church every three years and so was able to see for himself how its congregation was expanding. During his visit in August 1871, the bishop administered confirmation to almost 200 persons. The community at the retreat was also growing and by 1879 consisted of nine priests, eight lay brothers and four clerical brothers. Six years later a newspaper article stated that there were 26 religious clerics and 14 students resident at the Sutton Monastery.
“Priests

Passionist priests (including from St.Anne’s) at St. Mungo's Retreat in Glasgow in 1892 - Contributed by John Barton

“Priests

Passionists (including from St.Anne’s) at St. Mungo's Retreat, Glasgow in 1892

“Priests

Passionists (inc. from St.Anne’s) at St. Mungo's Retreat, Glasgow

Towards the end of the 19th century, the churches in Sutton began promoting many societies and clubs as healthy outlets for parishioners. St. Anne’s played its part and in 1880 Fr. Athanasius inaugurated the Sutton Catholic Young Men's Club. That same year a married women’s league, known as the Confraternity of Mount Carmel, was begun. In later years branches of other societies - including the Children of Mary, St. Vincent de Paul, Legion of Mary and YCW (Young Christian Workers) - were started at St. Anne's.

Also during 1880 the monastery lost a strip of its land to the London & NW Railway Company. The danger of close proximity to the railways was underlined on November 16th 1881 when Father Sebastian Enrico was killed whilst crossing the line at St. Helens Junction. A year earlier he'd been expelled from France because of his religion and had been resident at Sutton Monastery for three months. According to newspaper accounts he was 'cut into pieces' by the Manchester express.
“The

This photograph of the interior of St. Anne's Roman Catholic church in Sutton was made into a picture postcard

“The

The interior of St. Anne's Roman Catholic church in Sutton

“The

The interior of St. Anne's RC church

In June 1888 a new church altar was donated by locomotive manufacturer William Borrows of Providence Foundry, as a memorial to his wife. William's father Edward had previously presented the church with altar rails that he had made himself. The alabaster altars for these were donated by Elizabeth Grimshaw in memory of her husband Richard, who had paid for the church's Lady Chapel. During 1889 extensive alterations were made to St. Anne’s, which led to a period of closure. The church was completely re-painted and decorated from designs by Brother Mark, with the work carried out by Ambrose Fisher at a cost of £775. After a visit to St. Anne’s a journalist wrote in the St.Helens Reporter of November 9th 1889 that ‘one is struck with the glitter of the decoration’. A new pitch pine entrance porch with glass panels was erected and the statues of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin at the sides of the sanctuary were both gilded, as were the new gas lamp standards. The sanctuary itself was described by the Reporter as ‘a glorious sight’ and when lit up was ‘magnificent in the extreme’. The side chapel was decorated in a 14th century Gothic style and pitch pine seating was to be installed throughout the church. John Fisher Jnr. was commissioned to undertake the latter work.

A Church Decoration Fund was established to pay for the work and a number of fundraising events were held. These included performances at St. Anne’s School of the melodrama The Colleen Bawn by Irish playwright Dion Boucicault. The church was solemnly reopened in a special service, which was held on November 3rd 1889 by
Rev. Dr. Bernard O’Reilly, the Bishop of Liverpool. In 1890 Father Basil, the adopted son of benefactor John Smith who had died in 1863, became the 16th Rector of the church. On October 16th 1892, the solemn opening of the 'peal of ten bells' took place at St. Anne's. This was to celebrate the installation of new church bells made by Harrington and Co. of Coventry at a cost of £300.
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The Sutton Convent of St. Paul of the Cross at Waterdale, previously owned by William Blinkhorn and Arthur Sinclair

“Convent

Sutton Convent at Waterdale, previously owned by Arthur Sinclair

“Convent

The Sutton Convent at Waterdale

On November 29th 1901 the Passionist Sisters relocated to a new convent at Waterdale House in Gerards Lane / Waterdale Crescent, the former home of William Blinkhorn and Arthur Sinclair. It had been the Sisters' wish for some years to have a convent closer to St. Anne's monastery, church and schools and the large house had extensive grounds. Fr. Mark Gavin, Rector of St. Anne's, blessed their new chapel and celebrated the first Mass in their new home on December 7th 1901. The first Superior in their new abode was Mother Evangelist and the Sisters rented out their old home in Fenny's Lane to a succession of tenants before it was demolished in 1954. Mention should also be made in this section of Sister Mary Catherine Joseph who died at Sutton Convent in February 1919 at the ripe old age of 96. She was described in the Lancashire Evening Post as a 'nonagenarian nun'.
“Sutton

Left: Monastery grounds entrance by front of church; Right: Main monastery door - contributed by Ian Campbell

“Sutton

Monastery grounds entrance by front of church and monastery door

“Sutton

Monastery grounds entrance and door

The Passionists had first started educating children in Burtonwood during the 1880s and in 1901 they converted the schoolroom into a church. Around this time 300 of St. Anne's parishioners left to found the Parish of St. Vincent de Paul at Derbyshire Hill. More parishioners left from 1916 as St.Theresa's mission was created in Gartons Lane, Sutton Manor.

In 1902 Church Road in Sutton - where the church and retreat were located - was renamed Monastery Road. Three years later the church organ, which was showing signs of wear, was completely renovated. The growing community at St. Anne's Retreat led to a shortage of accommodation. The solution was to knock down part of the old building and build a much-extended monastery. The work was undertaken in 1910 using red brick, which contrasted with the stone used in the older parts of the Retreat.

The St. Helens Newspaper of January 3rd 1911 announced that the 'magnificent monastery of St. Anne Sutton' would be formally reopened and blessed by
Bishop Whiteside of Liverpool on January 15th. 'The ceremony will be a solemn and impressive one', commented the paper. It was also made into an open day for visitors and hundreds of Suttoners took advantage of a rare opportunity to inspect this normally closed community.
“Monastery

The Monastery gardens at St. Anne's in Sutton, St. Helens - Undated but probably around 1910 - 15

“Monastery

The Monastery gardens at St. Anne's - probably taken around 1910 - 15

“Monastery

The Monastery gardens at St. Anne's

Sir Joseph Beecham
Joseph Beecham
The monastery re-build and extension cost over £8000 and on May 10th 1911 to help pay off the debt, a 4-day Diamond Jubilee Bazaar was opened at St. Helens Town Hall by the Mayor Sir Joseph Beecham. These bazaars were essentially sales of work and were a popular means by which religious orders could raise funds and pay off building debts. Bazaars also raised their profile and often led to subscriptions being made by companies and individuals. For example, brewers Greenall Whitley made a £50 donation to the Sutton Monastery bazaar, which raised in total the remarkable sum of £2,040.

1911 was also the year that Fr. Dominic Barberi was declared Venerable and in 1923 pilgrimages to his remains at St. Annes commenced. The Knights of St. Columbia began their own pilgrimages during the following year and in 1925 'Dominic's Sunday' or 'Pilgrimage Sunday' was established as a regular event in the church's calendar attracting many thousands each August.

The
Rev. Father Cyril Barker was largely responsible for this huge interest in Dominic. Although the Italian priest had been interred in Sutton since 1855, awareness of him had been slight, even after being declared Venerable. However Fr. Cyril was determined to change this and he devoted extensive time to his correspondence and in searching diocesan archives. Documents were found which referred to examinations of witnesses who'd known Dominic and to the official examination of his body in 1886. In 1933 eight thousand people processed to the priest's tomb and in some years, papal telegrams were received at Monastery Lane in support of the pilgrims. In February 1936 the cause for the beatification of Dominic Barberi - which had been sent to Rome in June 1911 - was advanced a stage further, when the Congregation of Rites at the Vatican considered his 'heroic virtues'. These included admitting Cardinal Newman into the Roman Catholic Church on October 9th 1845.
“St.Anne's

A picture postcard of the extended monastery in Sutton, St.Helens taken around 1915

“St.Anne's

A picture postcard of the extended monastery taken around 1915

“St.Anne's

The extended St. Anne’s monastery

The Gothic-style church had been built in sandstone with a tower and steeple and John Smith had predicted that it would last forever. However, the beautiful building became damaged by mining subsidence, which has plagued Sutton over the years. On May 4th 1934, the St. Helens Newspaper reported how the spire of St. Anne's Church was going to be demolished:
 During the last few years, fractures in the wall have become so extensive, due to mining subsidence, that the arches inside the church have had to be supported by props as a safety measure. Already preparations for the demolition of the spire and tower have been made. The tower is more than one hundred feet high, and is a landmark for miles around. The church will be extended for a distance of twelve feet at the west end. The history of the church has been a story of warfare against the effects of mining subsidence. A fault, running diagonally across the west end, has caused the back of the church to be broken. Almost a year ago, the Rev. Fr. Leo, rector of the Monastery, and the Sutton Heath and Lea Green Colliery Company, decided upon the advice of the architect, Mr. W. Ellis, to reconstruct the west end of the church. No ugly patches of new masonry will disfigure the general beauty of the walls of the church, for the stone obtained from the tower and spire will be used in the extension of the church. It is hoped that the work will be completed by October. The church entrance will, on completion, be an attractive addition to the church. Through the oak doors, the worshipper will walk along to the interior of the church by a passage divided from the side chapels by handsome oak screens. The extension will contain a baptistry at the side of the entrance. Overhead a gallery will be constructed with three divisions, the centre being provided for members of the choir. One of the remaining two divisions will serve as a music conservatory, and the organ will occupy the other division…It is calculated that this extension, together with the new part of the church now occupied by the spire, will provide accommodation for 120 people. 
“The

Left: Spire at St. Anne's during demolition in 1934; Right: How the church's Lady Chapel was affected by subsidence

“The

St. Anne's spire during demolition and subsidence affecting the Lady Chapel

“The

St. Anne's spire during demolition and subsidence affecting the Lady Chapel

The work commenced on June 4th and while it was undertaken, Sunday services took place within a screened-off area of the church unaffected by the alterations. Some masses were also said in the girls' school. Some of the larger stone obtained from the tower and spire was used in the construction of windows, pillars and courses for the new front of the church. From the remaining stones, a Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built between the church and a clubroom (nb. between 2001-2 Jack Arkwright and Alf Briscoe created a new grotto at the rear of the new church, using stone from this original grotto.) Later in 1934 a permanent altar was created in the monastery grounds for use on Pilgrimage Sundays. This bore the Passionist Sign that had formerly been sited on the front of the Tower and its iron cross was preserved elsewhere in the grounds. The reconstructed church was finished in January 1935 and it was blessed and officially reopened on March 3rd by the Most Rev. Richard Downey, Archbishop of Liverpool.
“The

The refectory used by the Passionist community inside St. Anne's Monastery in Sutton, St. Helens

“The

The refectory used by the Passionists inside St. Anne's Monastery

“The

The refectory inside the monastery

Every year the Sutton Monastery Whit Monday field day and sports were held, which attracted thousands of spectators. In some years top athletes competed from northern athletic circles and entertainment was also provided, which in 1939 came from the New Beltone Concert Party. The stalls on the sports field during that year included those described in the St.Helens Reporter as roulette, hoopla and darts, roll-a-penny, crazy-house, rollo-wheel, hitting-the-ham, housey-housey, King’s Cup air race and a coconut ‘shie’.

Men’s retreats were regular events at the church. For example on June 25th 1939, eighty male parishioners spent the day at St.Anne’s attending lectures, receiving Holy Communion, singing and at times walking silently around the monastery garden. Also in 1939 a new social centre was created from the small Primitive Methodist meeting house in Robins Lane that had been known as the 'Tin Chapel'. A dance floor was installed, which was considered the finest in the district. On November 9th 1941 the centenary of the arrival of the Passionist Congregation in England was celebrated at St.Anne’s, with a Pontifical Benediction preached by Archbishop Downey. In 1942 a new choir was established by
Fr. Sebastian called 'The Schola Cantorum'. With many men engaged in the armed forces or in war work, the choir comprised students from the monastery, as well as boys from the school. They sang a range of music including Plainsong - the church’s own music - as well as traditional unaccompanied Polyphonic music from the 16th and 17th centuries, plus more modern music.
“St.Anne's

The 'second' St.Anne's church which was demolished through subsidence about 1971 - contributed by Ian Campbell

“St.Anne's

The 'second' St.Anne's church which was demolished about 1971

“St.Anne's

The 2nd church was demolished c.1971

On October 14th 1945 the church celebrated the centenary of Cardinal Newman being admitted into the Roman Catholic Church. The commemorations included Archbishop Downey of Liverpool preaching in Sutton. At the end of the war, the men from the parish took their place in the church choir and it twice featured in radio broadcasts. The first time was on Sunday February 15th 1948, when a service at St. Anne's was broadcast by the BBC for overseas listeners. Then on November 21st of that year, the choir featured in a series of religious broadcasts on the Home Service called 'The Creed of a Christian'. Both services were conducted by Fr. Philip and featured organist Fr. Damian. The choir at the first broadcast was conducted by Fr. Sebastian and at the second by Edward Pilkington.
“Priests

Priests at St. Anne's Church and Monastery - Left: Fr. Damien and unknown; Right: Fr. Mark - Contributed by John Barton

“Priests

Priests at St. Anne's - Left: Fr. Damien and unknown; Right: Fr. Mark

“Priests

Priests at St. Anne's monastery

Subsidence continued to cause a problem at St. Anne's and in 1948 the infants' school was closed along with part of the church. It was reported that its arches were severed by yawning, chasm-like cracks and the floor had sunk to a sharp angle. School lessons took place in the Robins Lane parish centre until a new school was opened in 1950.
“The

The community at St. Anne's pictured in 1949 - Photograph taken by Arthur Normington of Waterdale Crescent

“The

The community at St. Anne's in 1949 - Photograph by Arthur Normington

“The

The community at St. Anne's in 1949

The dual centenaries of the foundation of St. Anne's Monastery and the death of the Ven. Barberi, were commemorated in 1949 by a week of services and celebrations. These culminated in a Solemn High Mass held in the monastery grounds on the morning of Sunday August 28th. This was sung by the Most Rev. Father Albert Deane, Superior General of the Passionists, in the presence of the Archbishop of Liverpool, Richard Downey. This was also Pilgrimage Sunday and the latter led the annual procession to the tomb of the Venerable Dominic, watched by thousands of pilgrims.
“The

In 1963 the body of Blessed Dominic was placed in a marble sarcophagus and a shrine was built around it

“The

In 1963 the body of Blessed Dominic was placed in a marble sarcophagus

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Blessed Dominic’s marble sarcophagus

In an article marking the centenary of Fr. Barberi's death, The Times of August 22nd referred to him as a '…remarkable figure in the nineteenth-century revival of Roman Catholicism in England'. A memorial to commemorate the twin centenaries representing 'Our Lord in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane' was also unveiled that year.
“Beatification
The day of October 27th 1963 was one of the most remarkable in the history of St. Anne's. That was when Pope Paul VI beatified Fr. Dominic Barberi in Rome. Beatification is a very important stage in what is usually a lengthy process that culminates in an individual's canonisation, i.e. being declared a saint. It demonstrates a proven ability to intercede on behalf of those who pray in his or her name and the title ‘Blessed’ is given to a beatified person. A week of celebrations and thanksgivings were held in Sutton and on the day itself, a solemn high mass was held in a large marquee that was capable of accommodating 5000 worshippers. A new shrine for Blessed Dominic's body - which rested in a marble sarcophagus - was also blessed. The Guardian newspaper predicted that as a result of the beatification, St.Anne's would become a 'major centre of Catholic pilgrimage in England'.
“Sutton

Left: High Altar from Monastery Choir; Middle: The 32nd Rector Camillus Nolan; Right: Upper Monastery corridor

“Sutton

Left: High Altar; Middle: Camillus Nolan; Right: Upper Monastery corridor

“Sutton

Left: High Altar from Monastery Choir; Middle: 32nd Rector Camillus Nolan; Right: Upper Monastery corridor

On July 30th 1973, the remains of Elizabeth (Mother Mary Joseph) Prout and Fr. Ignatius Spencer were exhumed from the crypt of the old church and then placed in a special shrine chapel that would also house the tomb of Blessed Dominic Barberi. This was at a new church - to be known as St. Anne & the Blessed Dominic - as the war against subsidence had finally been lost. In an article in the Guardian published on July 27th 1973 they described the monastery of St.Anne's Retreat as a 'green oasis amid the industry that has grown around and beneath it in the past hundred years'. The article stated that the reinterment was being made under a special Home Office licence, which stipulated that the mortal remains must lie below ground. This was because their original place of burial within the old church had been below ground. The new church was formally opened and blessed by the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Rev. George Beck, in November 1973. It had cost £150,000 and although some of the old stained-glass windows were transferred to the new building, others went to Sweden for a new Passionist church in Jönköping.
“Dominic

Left: Dominic Barberi's Pilgrimage Day at St. Anne's RC Church in August 1948; Right: The Monastery library

“Dominic

Left: Dominic Barberi's 1948 Pilgrimage day; Right: The monastery library

“Dominic

Left: Dominic Barberi's 1948 Pilgrimage Day; Right: Monastery library

The BBC recognised the efforts of the Sutton Catholic community and the heritage of their church and monastery by televising their 11 o'clock Mass on February 29th 1976. The Radio Times described it as 'Sunday Mass from St Anne's Retreat, Sutton, St Helen's, Lancs.' with the principal celebrant being Fr. Andrew Lane, preacher Very Rev. Fr. Eugene Kennan, choirmaster James Aldred and the organist was David Saint. There was another special day on May 18th 1994, when Archbishop Derek Warlock opened the 'Cause' for the canonisation of Elizabeth Prout in Sutton. Those who prepared the Cause's documentation included archivist Dr. Edna Hamer (Sister Dominic Savio) and Fr. Barry McAllister, with Fr. Paul Spencer as postulator.

If canonised, Elizabeth Prout will probably be known as
Saint Elizabeth of Manchester, as it was in that city that her most notable work was done, supporting impoverished mill girls. She spent a number of years in Sutton, where she served as headmistress of the church school, dying at the Fenney's Lane convent in 1864. On June 29th 2008, the local phase of the Cause was completed and a dense file was passed onto the Vatican. In May 2012 theologians attached to the Holy See stated in a draft of a position paper that Elizabeth Prout had lived out the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity to a 'heroic degree'. This is an important first step in which the 'Mother Teresa of Manchester' – as some have dubbed Elizabeth – would ultimately be declared 'venerable' by the Pope. Two possible miracles concerning individuals in Chile - who have recovered from serious conditions after their families prayed to Elizabeth - have also been identified.
“Elizabeth

Elizabeth Prout, Dominic Barberi and Ignatius Spencer whose remains are in a shrine at St. Anne & Blessed Dominic

“Elizabeth

Elizabeth (Mother Mary Joseph) Prout, Dominic Barberi & Ignatius Spencer

“Elizabeth

Elizabeth Prout, Blessed Dominic Barberi and Fr. Ignatius Spencer

The convent that Elizabeth Prout had founded closed on June 13th 1979. The building became a fun pub - initially 'Cloisters', then refurbished as 'The Tropical' - before being demolished. However the Sisters of the Cross and Passion didn't leave Sutton for good, as they returned in December 1984, renting two council houses in Eugene Avenue, which later became Tilbrook Drive. These properties would have been quite a contrast from the large convent at Waterdale House, but would have been more suitable for the sisters' needs as their numbers diminished.

On March 1st 2011, an inquiry into the possible sainthood of Fr. Ignatius Spencer
(1799-1864) was presented to the Vatican's Congregation for Saints. Father Ignatius had been born George Spencer on December 21st 1799 and he was an ancestor of both Winston Spencer Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales. In fact images of Ignatius bear a striking resemblance to Britain's former wartime leader and Princes William and Harry are his great-great-great-great nephews.

It is quite conceivable that at some point in the future, Sutton could have a shrine devoted to three Saints, as
Frank Free wrote in his book 'Our Heritage in Sutton and Bold' in 1979:
 So here in a lovely shrine, especially built for the purpose, are the mortal remains of the son of an Italian farmer, the son of a noble English family and the daughter of a good Protestant family. Their lives may have ended, but their inspiration lives on in those around them and in others farther afield who make pilgrimages to this sacred shrine to gather the faith, courage and hope that sustained these faithful three who now rest with their Maker.
“Grotto

Original grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes built out of stone from the church's tower and steeple - contributed by Ian Campbell

“Grotto

Original grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes built of stone from the church tower

“Grotto

Original grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes

“New

Between 2001-2 Jack Arkwright and Alf Briscoe created a new grotto using stone from the original grotto

“New

Between 2001-2 Jack Arkwright and Alf Briscoe created a new grotto

“New

Between 2001-2 Jack Arkwright and Alf Briscoe created a new grotto using stone from the original grotto

Video on the Life of Elizabeth Prout by Mary Ann Strain:
Other Relevant Pages and Articles on Sutton’s RC Churches:
Other Pages and Articles on St. Anne’s RC Churches:
Next: Part 10)  Religion in Sutton Part 3 (St.Theresa & St.Joseph)
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
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