A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
From the death of Queen Mary in 1558 until the arrival of the Sisters of St. Clotilde in 1939, there is little evidence of Catholic activity in Lechlade itself, although the town was surrounded by a number of Mass centres. A census for 1780 tells us that there were only two Catholics living in Lechlade at that time. The nearest of these Catholic Missions was at Hatherop Castle, which was maintained by the Blomer and Webb families. This ancient Mission survived until 1844 when Lady Barbara de Mauley died. In the following year the present Parish Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury was erected at Horcott, near Fairford. This little church continues to be the focus of a parish which serves some 300 families scattered between Purton Stoke in Wiltshire and Aldsworth in the Cotswolds.
The Order of St. Clotilde first came to England in 1903 and settled in Guildford. In 1910 a second house was founded at Eltham Park House and a school was established. Owing to the growth of London, it was decided to look for a house in the West Country. The sisters arrived at Lechlade Manor in August 1939. The dining room was converted into the chapel which was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Lawrence. Bishop Lee celebrated the first Mass on the feast of St Lawrence, 1939, and it was noted that this saint was the patron saint of the medieval Parish Church.
The first resident chaplain was Father Henry Bilsborrow and, after he left, there followed a succession of priests, many of whom were Jesuits, including Father David O’Driscoll who left in 1998. On 25th March 1960, the new Chapel of Our Lady of the Annunciation was solemnly blessed and opened by Bishop Joseph Rudderham. Externally the chapel was designed to blend with the Manor, internally being of a simple contemporary style.
After nearly sixty years, the Sisters of St Clotilde departed from Lechlade Manor shortly after their Farewell Mass which was celebrated on 12th July 1998. However, the Chapel of the Annunciation continued to be used as a chapel-of-ease until the final celebration of Mass there on 27th December 1998. Rev. Richard Barton, Parish Priest of Fairford, served the chapel from 27th April 1998 until its closure. For some years afterwards the local congregation was welcomed by the members of Lechlade Methodist Church and Mass was celebrated at 6 p.m. every Sunday evening in their church. On Christmas Eve, during this period,the First Mass of Christmas was celebrated with the children of the parish in St Lawrence’s Parish Church.
When the sisters arrived there in 1939 was only one Catholic family in Lechlade. Sixty-five years later there were over sixty.
Sister Mary St Edmund McDonnell died in peace and dignity in the afternoon of Wednesday, 16 April 2003 in Paris, on the eve of the great Easter Celebrations which meant so much to her. The Funeral was held at Quincy on Tuesday, April 22. Quincy is about 25km from Paris.
Sister Mary St Edmund was part of the Convent and School of St Clotilde at Lechlade Manor in Gloucestershire for nearly all her life, as pupil, nun, teacher, Headmistress and Reverend Mother. Her father was in the Royal Army Medical Corps and she always retained a great affection for military ceremonial. When her father was posted to India the children remained with their mother in England and she became a pupil, at a very early age, at St. Clotilde’s School at Eltham. She became a novice at 17 and later taught both in England and France. She came with the School when it moved from Eltham to Lechlade in 1939. She became Headmistress in 1959, retiring in 1986, but continued to be a member of the Lechlade Community, and continued to take a loving interest in the School until it closed in 1998 when she moved to Paris.
Daphne Walters, from the Old Girls’ Association says “I’m sure all who passed through the School keep a picture of “Eddy’s” tiny, energetic figure in their hearts and they know what she meant to them. She had high standards and expected them of others but doing one’s best was what she appreciated. She loved the history and traditions of Britain; the countryside; the spoken and written word; music; animals and she went into rhapsodies when girls brought their babies to meet her. She had the great ability to put people at their ease with her lively chat. Above all, she loved the young, everyone was unique to her and she considered it a privilege to help nurture them and foster their abilities through the St. Clotildean ethos”.
Her life will be celebrated with a special Requiem Mass at 11am on Saturday 7th June at the Catholic Church of St Thomas of Canterbury, Horcott Road, Fairford. Everyone is very welcome to attend. On that day there will also be a St Clotilde’s Reunion at Lechlade Memorial Hall from noon until 4pm and people are welcome to come along and say ‘hello’ to former staff and also Sister Patricia, Sister Marie Dominic and Sister Anne-Marie who are coming over from France for this occasion. The day will end at 3.30pm with an epilogue (hymns, reflections, prayers and the School song) at the Memorial Hall led by the clergy of Lechlade. (Father Richard Barton, Parish Priest)
Rev. Henry L Bilsborrow 03/09/39 –14/09/48 (died)
Rev. Francis J.Meegan 10-10/48 – 30/10/49
Rev. Gerald Whelan 02/10/49 – 24/02/50
Rev. Michael Garrigan 25/02/50 – 08/07/52
Rev. Daniel Hickie 10/07/52 – 31/12/52
Rev. Cuthbert Keegan OMJ 04/04/53 – 19/09/53
Rev. Thomas J. Keane 26/09/53 – 06/11/53
Rev. John Styles MHM 07/11/53 – 18/12/53
Rt. Rev. Monsignor Charles W. Davey MA 18/12/53 – Feb. 1958
Rev. William Dobbin 1958 – 24/08/61 (died)
Rt. Rev Monsignor Patrick V. Hackett VF, BA 17/10/61 – 28/09/64 (died)
Rev. John Doyle SDB, MA 07/03/65 – 15/08/65
Rev. John King 04/09/65 – 21/10/66
Rev. Thomas J. Walshe 22/10/66 – 16/04/68
Rev. Leslie J.M. Borrett SJ 17/04/68 – 01/02/74 (died)
Rev. Noel Stephenson SJ, BA 1974 – 17/11/81 (died)
Rev. Raymond Bacon SJ 1982 – 05/07/94
Rev. David O’Driscoll SJ 23/08/94 – 19/04/98
Rev Richard J. Barton STB, AKC 27/04/98 – 27/12/98
‘I can name most of the nuns, who include the Mother Superior who came over from the French mother house for the occasion.
There are 14 nuns of St Clotilde in the picture judging from the number of visible bonnets and, having consulted with others, they can be named with varying degrees of certainty, as follows:
From left to right:
Two nuns from a neighbouring convent
1 Sister Gethsemane
2 Sister John (hidden)
3 Sister Bruno
4 Sister Edmund (or possibly Sister Odile)
5 Sister Patricia perhaps (hidden)
6 Sister Angèle perhaps
7 Reverend Mother Dominic
8 Sister (name not known, temporary in the Lechlade branch)
9 Sister Etheldreda
10 Mother Provincial, visiting for the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of the new chapel
11 Sister Odile or Sister Patrick (hidden looking to the left)
12 Sister Hilda (Reverend Mother prior to Sister Dominic)
13 Sister Christine perhaps (only top of head is visible)
14 Sister Angela.
Sr Dominique was Reverend Mother at the time of the chapel’s design and construction. It was the headmistress, Sr Edmund, who told us that Sr Dominique’s input to the chapel’s design was not widely known and that she had considered every item in great detail. On the exterior the new chapel respected the style of the existing building and its features. That may have been the architect’s doing. On the interior, however, I had the impression that she wanted to avoid clutter and aimed for simple uplifting lines and lighting. The Order was French and she was French and would likely have followed progressive French and indeed European church architecture of the time.
Concurrently, we pupils were made aware that Coventry Cathedral was being rebuilt and saw the publicity and some of the details, which became familiar to us.
I might add that Sr Dominique was also a very inspiring and splendid teacher of French literarature which evidently she loved. I am sure that all her pupils were enthused by her lessons on the great classics – Racine, Corneille, Ronsard (Sur la mort de Marie), Mauriac, St Exupery et cetera, and she would calmly make us read material not on the syllabus before exams.
Incidentally, Sr Edmund became headmistress in about 1959, following Sr Hilda. If I remember correctly Sr Edmund had Irish roots, her brother having gone to Clongowes. She invited a specialist to talk to us about James Joyce and she also sent us on outings to historic buildings in which Monsignor Goulder specialised.’
In December 1998 the present pipe organ was acquired for St Thomas’s Church at Fairford. It came from the Catholic Church in Lambourn and was built in 1873 by William Hill & Son of London. The firm’s records reveal that it was commissioned for Hitcham Church in Maidenhead. At the time it was thought that this was probably the first pipe organ to be placed in St Thomas’s Church but the following note discovered in the archives shows that this is definitely not the case:
‘About this time (1908) Captain Garrard, owner of an organ factory in Lechlade, built a beautiful organ for the Church as a thank offering for his conversion. This was removed later to Swindon.’
Within a short time Philippa Hunter of Lechlade discovered some more details–
‘Lindsay Garrard – Organ builder of Lechlade lived at Ryton House and he had two daughters. He left the town before 1914. He built an organ for Uffington Church. He used the buildings at the west end of Church House garden as his workshop. This premises were formally malthouses and are situated between the Library and the garage which is situated behind the church wall.’
St Sampson c. 485-565 Feast Day 28th July
(Robert of Cricklade c.1140-c.1180 & St Thomas of Canterbury 1118-1170)
St Augustine of Canterbury Arrived at Ebbsfleet 597 died 604
Feast Day 27th May
St Birinus of Dorchester Arrived in England 634 died c.650
Feast Day 5th December
St Beornwald of Bampton c.900 Feast Day 21st December
Blessed Hugh Cook or Faringdon Born at Faringdon. Abbot of Reading Martyred 1539
Feast Day 15th November
Blessed Stephen Rowsham Priest Martyred in Gloucester March 1587.
Feast Day 14th November
John Keble 1792-1866 Curate of the Eastleaches from 1815 and Southrop from 1823-27
Feast Day 14th July (Cof E)
Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman 1801-1890 Visited Fairford 14-16th August 1828 and Sept 1831. Feast Day 11th August
Blessed Dominic Barberi 1792-1849 Celebrated Mass at Fairford Easter Sunday 1846
Feast Day 26th August
St John the Baptist Feast Days: Nativity 24th June
Beheading 29th August
St Lawrence (Laurence) of Rome Martyred 258 Feast Day 10th August
St Blaise Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia C4th (?) Feast Day 3rd February
St Agatha of Catania in Sicily C3rd (?) Feast Day 5th February
St Clotilde Wife of King Clovis Queen of France Died 545 Feast Day 3rd June
(Madame Antoinette Sophie Aubry Desfontaines 1760-1821 – Founder of the Congregation of St Clotilde. Convent at Lechlade Manor 1939-1998)
(St Brice (Britius) Succeeded St Martin as Bp of Tours in 397. Feast Day 13th Nov.)
St Malo of Brittany Bishop 525-621 Feast Days:15th November/Translated 11th July
St Frideswide Abbess of Oxford 680- c.735 Feast Day 19th October
St Aldhelm of Malmesbury Bishop of Sherborne Died 709 Feast Day 24th May
St Kenelm of Winchcombe Murdered Prince Died c.819 Feast Day 17th July