Portsmouth Abbey School

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Portsmouth Abbey School
26 portsmouth abbey.jpg
285 Cory's Lane
Portsmouth, Rhode Island, (Newport County), 02871
United States
Coordinates 41°36′12″N 71°16′19″W / 41.60333°N 71.27194°W / 41.60333; -71.27194Coordinates: 41°36′12″N 71°16′19″W / 41.60333°N 71.27194°W / 41.60333; -71.27194
Type Private, Coeducational
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic,
Established 1926
Headmaster Daniel McDonough
Grades 912
Enrollment 353 (2014)
Average class size 13
Campus Suburban
Color(s) Red and Black         
Athletics conference Eastern Independent League
Sports 41 athletics teams in 16 sports
Mascot Raven
Accreditation New England Association of Schools and Colleges[1]
Publication The Raven (Literary Magazine)
Scriptorium (Scholarly Journal)
Portsmouth Abbey School Alumni Bulletin
Newspaper 'The Beacon'
Yearbook 'The Gregorian'
Abbot/Chancellor Rev Dom Caedmon Holmes OSB
Assistant Headmaster John Perreira
Admissions Director Meghan Fonts
Athletics Director Alfred Brown

Portsmouth Abbey School, formerly known as Portsmouth Priory School, is New England’s co-educational Catholic Benedictine boarding and day school. It is run by the Benedictine Portsmouth Abbey, formerly Portsmouth Priory.

Located a short distance from Newport, Rhode Island, the campus sits on 500 acres bordered by Narragansett Bay and the Carnegie Abbey Club. This school has 350 boarding and day students in grades 9 – 12. Added features of Portsmouth Abbey School are its 41 athletics teams, diverse community service programs, squash & fitness center, and its sailing, equestrian and golf facilities.


The school and monastery are located on land originally owned by the Freeborn family beginning in the 1650s. The land was later owned by the Anthony family, and in 1778 it was the site of the Battle of Rhode Island during the American Revolution. In 1864 Amos Smith, a Providence financier, built what is now known as the Manor House and created a gentleman's farm on the site with the help of architect Richard Upjohn. After buying the Manor House and surrounding land in 1918, Dom Leonard Sargent of Boston, a convert from the Episcopal Church, founded Portsmouth Priory on October 18, 1918. The priory was founded as, and remains, a house of the English Benedictine Congregation. It is one of only three American houses in the congregation, and maintains a unique connection with sister schools in England, including Ampleforth College and Downside School.

The school was founded as Portsmouth Priory by John Hugh Diman, a Benedictine monk, and a former Episcopalian. Portsmouth was not Diman's first school. In 1896, Diman founded Diman's School for Small Boys - later, St. George's School - in Middletown, Rhode Island. In 1912, aware that St. George's School catered to the sons of more affluent families and eager to provide educational opportunities to working-class students, Diman founded the Diman Vocational School in Fall River, MA. A conversion experience brought Diman to Catholicism and ultimately to the Benedictines that were just beginning a priory in Portsmouth. After joining the Order of Saint Benedict, Diman was again moved to found a school. In 1926, Diman founded the Portsmouth Priory School, which would be redesignated as Portsmouth Abbey School - indicating the increased size of its monastic community - in 1969.[citation needed]

Originally, Portsmouth Priory offered a classical education to boys. Using the British "public" school model, the Priory School employed a form system, and supplemented a student's education with co-curriculuar activities athletics.

The school has one full four-year academic merit scholarship, for applicants with test scores in the 90th percentile or above. There have been annual scholarships for students with test scores in the 80th percentile or above.

The school's campus is located on over 500 acres (2.0 km2) on the shores of Narragansett Bay. Buildings were designed by Pietro Belluschi.

In 2000, a parcel of the school's land was leased to a golf club.[2]

Contemporary school[edit]

Today the school, often referred to as "the Abbey," has students from 17 nations and 26 states.[citation needed] Its enrollment totals over 350 students, living at home and in eight residential Houses.

Internet access is available in computer labs and all House libraries. The average size for a class is 12 to 14 students. Activities and clubs include the Appalachia Service Project, The Beacon (the student newspaper), The Raven (the art and literary magazine), Scriptorium (scholarly journal), The Gregorian (yearbook), Model United Nations, New England Math League, Future Problem Solvers, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Community Service Projects, Debate Club, Red Key (campus tour guides), Social Committee, Abbey Road a cappella group, Astronomy Club, Peer Tutors, Pro Deo Orchestra, Student Athletic Advisory Board, Teens Leading Children (TLC), and Student Council. The school also has visual and performing art programs, with a fine arts center, a still photography lab, art gallery (which alternatively displays traveling exhibits and selected student work), drama program, annual musical, and private music lessons.

The school has a radio station, WJHD 90.7 FM.[3]

In 2006, the school installed a Vestas V47-660 kW wind turbine, the first such project in Rhode Island,[4][5][6] to provide sixty percent of the school's electricity.


In addition to the Carnegie Abbey golf course next door available for use by the faculty and by the golf team, the school's athletic facilities include eight squash courts and a fitness center, a six-lane, all-weather track, six tennis courts, an indoor ice hockey rink, two gymnasiums, and multiple outdoor playing fields.

Portsmouth Abbey is a member of the Eastern Independent League and has occasional contests against ISL (Independent School League) schools and other non-league boarding and day schools in New England. The Abbey's rivals include St. George's School and Pomfret School. It has a sailing team, and track & field teams, and a football team.

"George's Monday," a day of athletic competition with St. George's School is a major event. The school with a higher margin of success in varsity sports takes the Diman Cup, named for Father John Hugh Diman, founder of both schools, and is buried at Portsmouth Abbey.

Another traditional rival is with the varsity boys' soccer teams of the Abbey's sister school, St. Anselm's Abbey School of Washington, DC.

It had been a longstanding pastime on Alumni Weekend for graduates to play a soccer scrimmage against the current students. In 1990, the alumni game was phased out in favor of having as many home games as possible for the alumni to be spectators.


The school has a number of traditions, such as a six-day week with classes on Saturdays.

In the center of the school campus is a large quadrangle used exclusively for commencement exercises on which students and faculty are not allowed to walk. This "Holy Lawn" is an unwritten school rule that has no confirmed story of origin, however faculty and prefects have enforced discipline that no one is to be walking across the lawn without permission. Its name likely derives from the lawn's location in front of the Abbey Church of St. Gregory the Great. In 2000, a student film series produced a clip of a student running across the lawn from the perspective of a monastery security camera. The Abbot made a cameo appearance in which he pushed a button that sent a bolt of lighting from the sky, electrocuting the student. The clip celebrated the tongue-in-cheek mythology of the lawn's tradition. Although people are required to stay off the Holy Lawn, it has been used for official purposes, namely commencement.

Another school tradition is one required year of Latin.

Notable teachers and alumni[edit]

In Popular Culture[edit]

The 2008 movie The Clique (film), produced by Alloy Entertainment, was partially filmed at Portsmouth Abbey School.


  1. ^ NEASC-CIS. "NEASC-Commission on Independent Schools". Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  2. ^ Carnegie Abbey Club
  3. ^ "Radio/TV - Radio in Portsmouth:WJHD-FM". Rhode Island Roads Magazine. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  4. ^ "U.S. Wind Energy Projects - Rhode Island". American Wind Energy Association. 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2009-01-18. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Wind Powering America: New England Wind Project: Portsmouth Abbey". United States Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  6. ^ Opalka, William (August 2006). "Wind Goes To School". North American Windpower. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  7. ^ a b [1]

External links[edit]