Ealing Abbey

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Ealing Abbey
Abbey Church of St Benedict, Ealing
St Benedict's Ealing Abbey, Charlbury Grove, London W5 - geograph.org.uk - 1750464.jpg
The Abbey Church – front
Ealing Abbey is located in London Borough of Ealing
Ealing Abbey
Ealing Abbey
Location with the Borough of Ealing
Coordinates: 51°31′10″N 0°18′31″W / 51.519477°N 0.308655°W / 51.519477; -0.308655
OS grid referenceTQ1742781453
LocationEaling, London
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationRoman Catholic
FoundedMarch 1897 (1897-03)
Founder(s)Cardinal Vaughan
DedicationSt Benedict
Functional statusActive
Heritage designationGrade II
Designated19 January 1981
Architect(s)Frederick Walters[1][2]
StylePerpendicular Gothic
ArchbishopMost. Rev. Vincent Nichols
AbbotMartin Shipperlee

Ealing Abbey is a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastic foundation on Castlebar Hill in Ealing. It is part of the English Benedictine Congregation.


The monastery at Ealing was founded in 1897 from Downside Abbey, originally as a parish in the Archdiocese of Westminster. It was canonically erected as a dependent priory in 1916 and raised again to the rank of independent conventual priory in 1947. Finally, in 1955 it was elevated to the status of an abbey by Pope Pius XII.

The Building[edit]

The architect was F A Walters. Two or three bays in the nave were open by 1899 and part of the monastery in use by 1905. By 1915 the sanctuary and Lady Chapel together with more bays were completed. The west end together with the four western bays were completed by 1934 by Edward John Walters, the son of F A Walters.[3]

Two bombs damaged the church in 1940. The first destroyed the organ chamber and the War Memorial Chapel. The second destroyed the east end, including the sanctuary and choir. Only two stained glass windows survived, although damaged.[4]

Restoration of war damage was started in 1957 and completed by 1962. The church was enlarged and the transepts completed by Stanley Kerr Bate. The Sanctuary and Lady Chapel were added in 1996-98.

The single hammerbeam nave roof has a painted, patterned decoration, with the monograms IHC and SB (for St Benedict).

The west window, depicting the Coronation of the Virgin attended by the heavenly host, is by Burlison and Grylls.[3] The window in the south transept, a memorial to victims of two world wars, is by Ninian Comper and William Bucknall (c.1960). It depicts a beardless Risen Christ and saints David, George, Andrew and Patrick.

There is a painting of Peter’s Denial of Christ by Jusepe de Ribera.



One of the main apostolates of the Abbey is running a major parish in Ealing centred on the Abbey Church of Saint Benedict where both the parish and monastic liturgies take place.


Ealing Abbey Choir of boys' and men's voices sings at the Sunday Conventual Mass. The choir appeared in the BBC television programme Songs of Praise in 2005.

The Abbey has an active programme of music recitals, which include the choirs and the organ.[5] Occasional concerts by other choirs are also held.[6]

The Lay Plainchant Choir gives lay people the opportunity to practise and sing chant. The choir provides opportunities for workshops and training. The choir has weekly rehearsals and sings monthly at a Sunday Mass. Those members available also sing periodically at a local care home for elderly people suffering from dementia.[7]


The monks of Ealing accept clerical and lay men as guests in the monastery, on the understanding that guests will attend morning mass and evening vespers with the monks. Residential and non residential guests are welcome at the sung liturgy of the hours in the Abbey Church and the monks have a house for guests and retreatants.


A major work of the Abbey in the past has been teaching and administration in St Benedict's School, founded as Ealing Priory School in 1902 by Sebastian Cave.[3] This is an independent day school for boys and, since 2007, girls at both the junior and senior levels. There is also a small co-educational nursery. Since 1987 the Abbey has engaged a lay headmaster for the school having previously provided the headmaster from foundation. In 2012 the trust of St Benedict, Ealing created a new charitable trust, St Benedict's School, and passed school administration to a new board of governors. As a result, members of the monastic community are more free to choose different apostolates. The Abbey also has close links with the nearby girls' school St Augustine's Priory, a former convent school.

Sex abuse scandal[edit]

In April 2006 civil damages were awarded jointly against David Pearce, a former head of the junior school at St Benedicts, and Ealing Abbey in the High Court in relation to an alleged assault by Pearce on a pupil while teaching at St Benedict's School in the 1990s, although criminal charges were dropped.[8] He was subsequently charged in November 2008 with 24 counts of indecent assault, sexual touching and gross indecency with six boys aged under 16. The counts related to incidents before and after 2003, when the law was changed to create an offence of sexual touching.[9] [10] After admitting his guilt at Isleworth Crown Court to offences going back to 1972 Pearce was jailed for eight years in October 2009, subsequently reduced to five years, for sexual abuse offences at the school from 1972–1992 and for one further offence in 2007 after he had ceased to work in the school.[11][12]

The conduct of the Ealing monastic community, as trustee of the St. Benedict's Trust, was examined by the Charity Commission, which found that it had failed to take adequate measures to protect beneficiaries of the charity from Pearce.[13][14]

In March 2011, Dom Laurence Soper, the Abbot of Ealing Abbey during the 1990s, was arrested on child abuse charges relating to the period when he was a teacher at, and the bursar of, St Benedict's School.[15] In 2016, he was arrested in Kosovo and extradited to the UK to face trial.[16] In December 2017, following a 10-week trial, Soper was found guilty on 19 counts of child sexual abuse including buggery, indecency with a child and indecent assault.[17] He was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.[18]

Following these incidents and other alleged offences, the Abbot commissioned a report to be prepared by Lord Carlile of Berriew with a view to making recommendations on the School's governance.[19] As a result of the changes made the Independent Schools Inspectorate said in its 2013 inspection report that the pastoral care at St Benedict's was excellent.[20]

In 2018-2019, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) commissioned by the UK Government was investigating any institutional failures to protect children from sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the handling of complaints about Catholic schools and specifically relating to investigations at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s school. The pope’s representative in Britain, archbishop Edward Adams, refused to co-operate with the enquiry.[21]

In February 2019, Martin Shipperlee, the abbot of Ealing Abbey, resigned over a failure to investigate child sexual abuse allegations.[22]

Benedictine Study and Arts Centre[edit]

The monks of Ealing also run the Benedictine Study and Arts Centre, which was originally suggested in 1986 by Francis Rossiter, the Abbot, and opened in 1992 by Laurence Soper, then Abbot. The present Abbot, Martin Shipperlee, has continued his support since his election in 2000. The Centre, which is endorsed and supported by the Archdiocese of Westminster, has developed and provides a Liberal Arts programme of adult education and a programme of Sacred Liturgy, with some officially validated courses. The studies pursued now focus upon Sacred Liturgy and the Liberal Arts, including theology[23] (go to directory of institutions) and both modern and classical languages, of which the Latin summer school[24] has become a regular feature of the annual programme.

The Centre's library contains three main collections for undergraduate liberal studies and graduate study in theology and liturgy. Its current contents are based on a collection assembled in Oxford, London and Rome from 1978 to 1992, subsequently supplemented by purchase and gift, in particular by recent donations from several members of the Alcuin Club.[25]

The Centre is based at "Overton House", an elegant red-brick, neo-gothic property built by John M. Bartholomew[citation needed], son of the founder of John Bartholomew and Son, the map-maker; the name of "J.M. Bartholomew" features in some carved stones in the walls of the garden. The property was purchased by Downside Abbey in 1930 and sold to Ealing Abbey upon its independence in 1955.[citation needed]

In 2002 the Centre's principal, James Leachman, was appointed professor of Liturgy at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy at Sant Anselmo in Rome, from where, as a tenured professor, he still directs its work.[26] The UK arm of the project, Appreciating the Liturgy (based on the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia),[27] founded and directed by James Leachman and Daniel McCarthy, a monk of St. Benedict's Abbey in Atchison, Kansas, has been housed since 2009 in the former "Scriptorum" at the Centre, originally established by Bernard Orchard in 2003.[28]

The Centre publishes the periodical Benedictine Culture twice each year.[29]

Monks of Ealing[edit]

Bernard Orchard, the biblical scholar, was a distinguished monk of Ealing.[30]

Ealing Abbey has been the home for parts of the careers of various notable monks. Between 1933–1939, David Knowles, the monastic historian and later Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge resided there and conducted the research for his magnum opus The Monastic Order in England.[31] Cuthbert Butler also lived at Ealing following his retirement as Abbot of Downside from 1922 until his death in 1934.[32] John Main, a proponent of Christian meditation, whose methods are now fostered by the World Community for Christian Meditation, was a monk of the Ealing community in the period 1959–1970 and 1974–1977.[33]

In March 2011, Laurence Soper, the Abbot during the 1990s, was arrested on child abuse charges relating to the period when he was a teacher at, and the bursar of, St Benedict's School; it was reported in October 2011 that he had failed to answer bail and was being sought by the police.[15] In May 2016 the BBC reported that he had been arrested in Kosovo and that he faced extradition back to the UK.[34] He was convicted of sexual offences in 2017 and sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment.[35]

In September 2011, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered an apostolic visitation of Ealing Abbey. The Abbey's safeguarding policies and procedures formed part of the remit of the visitors.[36]

Priors and Abbots[edit]

The following monks have served as Prior and, since elevation to the status of Abbey on 26 May 1955, Abbot:[37]

Tenure Office Incumbent Notes
1916 to 1925 Prior Wulstan Pearson Consecrated as the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, 25 February 1925
1925 to 1935 Prior Benedict Kuypers
1935 to 1938 Prior Edward Green Headmaster of Ealing Priory School 1917–1919
1938 Prior Mark Pontifex
1938 to 1945 Prior Stanislaus Chatterton
1945 to 1946 Prior Ambrose Agius Member of Ealing Community at independence from Downside, December 1947
1946 to 1955 Prior Charles Pontifex Member of Ealing Community at independence from Downside, December 1947; appointed as the first Abbot
1955 to 1956 Abbot Charles Pontifex Resigned following a car crash; died 1976
1956 to 1967 Abbot Rupert Hall Headmaster of Ealing Priory School 1939–1945; member of Ealing Community at independence from Downside, December 1947; died 1974
1967 to 1991 Abbot Francis Rossiter
1991 to 2000 Abbot Laurence Soper Arrested in 2011 on child abuse charges [15] and subsequently imprisoned.
2000 to 2019 Abbot Martin Shipperlee Resigned over a failure to investigate child sexual abuse allegations[38]




  1. ^ Kollar 1989, p. 53
  2. ^ Kollar 1989, p. 126
  3. ^ a b c "Ealing - Abbey Church of St Benedict". Taking Stock.
  4. ^ "Abbey Church history". Ealing Abbey. 21 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Ealing Abbey Music". ealingmonks.org.uk. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  6. ^ "The Sixteen's 2013 Choral Pilrimage – The Queen of Heaven". bbc.co.uk. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  7. ^ Ealing Abbey Lay Plainchant choir
  8. ^ Alleged Assault Ealing Times 13 April 2006
  9. ^ Priest charged with paedophilia Ealing Gazette 9 December 2008
  10. ^ Ealing priest charged Ealing Times 9 December 2008
  11. ^ 'Devil in a dog collar' priest faces jail for sex abuse Archived 9 December 2012 at Archive.today London Evening Standard – 12 August 2009
  12. ^ Jailed child pervert priest ruined my life Ealing Gazette, 9 October 2009 Archived October 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Charity Commission Report on St. Benedict's Trust, 15 December 2009
  14. ^ Constituency Matters: Protect children but don't abandon civil liberties Ealing Gazette 21 December 2009
  15. ^ a b c Father Laurence Soper of Ealing wanted over sex abuse BBC News 14 October 2011
  16. ^ "Kosovo sends accused ex-priest Lawrence Soper back to UK". BBC News. 22 August 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  17. ^ Bowcott, Owen (6 December 2017). "London priest who fled to Kosovo found guilty of abusing schoolboys". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  18. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (21 December 2017). "Priest who sexually abused boys at London school jailed for 18 years". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  19. ^ Carlile Report
  20. ^ St Benedict's School 2013 Inspection Report
  21. ^ "Inquiry to hold public hearing on Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's School". IICSA.
  22. ^ "Ealing Abbey abbot resigns over failure to investigate child abuse allegations". Guardian.
  23. ^ "Distance learning and flexible study – University of London International Programmes".
  24. ^ "Benedictine Study and Arts Centre – Latin Summer School".[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ Benedictine Culture (ISSN 1751-4673) 2010
  26. ^ "Pontifical Institute of Liturgy website".[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Appreciating the Liturgy". Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  28. ^ referenced in two books * Born to be King – The Epic of the Incarnation (A theological application of the Matthean Priority Hypothesis), Ealing Abbey Scriptorium, London (1993); * The Origin and Evolution of the Gospels, Ealing Abbey Scriptorium, London 1993
  29. ^ "Benedictine and Monastic Academic Periodicals and Serials. Catalog. OSB". Archived from the original on 2010-04-19. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
  30. ^ "Dom Bernard Orchard (obituary)". The Telegraph. 2006-12-08. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  31. ^ Encyclopedia of Monasticism by William M. Johnson, p.713
  32. ^ Kollar 1989, p. 146
  33. ^ Silent Teaching – The Life of Dom John Main Archived 2006-12-30 at the Wayback Machine, by Paul T. Harris, Spirituality Today, Winter 1988, Vol.40 No. 4, pp. 320–332
  34. ^ "UK priest wanted over sex abuse claims 'held in Kosovo' – BBC News". BBC Online. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
  35. ^ "Priest gets 18 years for abusing boys". 2017-12-21. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  36. ^ "Vatican inquiry into Ealing Abbey child sex abuse", BBC News, 25 October 2011
  37. ^ Kollar 1989, pp. 191–192
  38. ^ enquiries@thetablet.co.uk, The Tablet-w:. "Abbot of Ealing Abbey resigns over failure to report abuse". The Tablet. Retrieved 2019-02-09.


  • Kollar, Rene (1989). The Return of the Benedictines to London, Ealing Abbey: 1896 to Independence (1 ed.). Burnes and Oates. ISBN 0-86012-175-5.

External links[edit]