Loyola Hall

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Loyola Hall
Loyola Hall Jesuit Spirituality Centre
Loyola Hall entrance.JPG
Front entrance
Loyola Hall is located in Merseyside
Loyola Hall
Loyola Hall
Location in Merseyside
Coordinates: 53°24′35″N 2°45′07″W / 53.409724°N 2.751872°W / 53.409724; -2.751872
OS grid reference SJ5012490608
Location Rainhill, Merseyside
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Roman Catholic
Former name(s) Rainhill House
Rainhill Hall
Status Closed
Founded 27 April 1923 (1923-04-27)
Founder(s) Fr George Pollen SJ

Extended in 1967

Refurbished in 2000
Functional status Retreat Centre
Heritage designation Grade II
Designated 28 January 1971[1]
Completed 1824
Closed 2014
Parish St Bartholomew, Rainhill
Deanery St Helens
Archdiocese Liverpool
Province Liverpool

Loyola Hall or Loyola Hall Jesuit Spirituality Centre is a country house built in the 19th century in Rainhill, Merseyside, England, by Bartholomew Bretherton. It was a retreat house run by the Society of Jesus from 1923 to 2014. It is situated on the Warrington Road, next to St Bartholomew's Church. It is a Grade II listed building.[1]



Bartholomew Bretherton started a business in coaches in 1800 in Liverpool. On journeys to Manchester or London, Rainhill was the first stop where horses were changed. In 1807 he came to live in the village.

In 1824 he built Rainhill House. In 1869, Mary Stapleton-Bretherton, his daughter, enlarged the house to over twice its original size, renaming it Rainhill Hall.[2] When Mary died in 1883, the Stapleton-Bretherton family owned all the land that made up the parish of Rainhill.[3]

As Mary was childless, she left the family estate to Frederick Bretherton, the only son of her cousin Bartholomew Bretherton, a former coach proprietor. His granddaughter Evelyn Stapleton-Bretherton married Prince Gebhard Blücher von Wahlstatt (1865–1931), becoming Princess Evelyn Blücher. Her memoirs, Princess Blucher, English Wife in Berlin (Constable, 1920) were translated into French and German and reprinted many times, becoming a minor classic.[4]

However, his grandson Frederick, Evelyn's brother, had no direct heir, so Frederick decided to sell the bulk of the family's Rainhill estates. The house and five acres of surrounding land were sold to the Society of Jesus and renamed Loyola Hall.[3][5]


The Jesuits took possession of the site in 1923. They moved from Oakwood Hall, a retreat centre they had in Romiley, in what was then Cheshire now Greater Manchester, into Rainhill Hall.[6] The Jesuits named it Loyola Hall after Loyola in the Basque Country of Spain, the birthplace of their founder Saint Ignatius, where a religious complex now houses a very large retreat centre, shrine, and basilica.

The first retreat took place on 23 June 1923; it was for promoters of Ignatian spirituality. On 12 July that year, the Archbishop of Liverpool Frederick Keating came to attend a day of recollection for the clergy of the Archdiocese of Liverpool and blessed the house.[2]

Numbers of retreatants continued to rise during the 1920s. In 1923 the total number was 504, in 1924 the total number was over 800, and in 1929 over 2,000 people had come on retreat during the year.[2]

In 1933, the director of the house, Fr. Edward Rockliff SJ, expanded the grounds of Loyola Hall by purchasing twenty acres of land from the Bretherton estate to the north-west of the site.[2]


The Blake Room

When Loyola Hall was initially founded by Fr. George Pollen SJ, it more or less only ran 30-day retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola and weekend retreats for working men's sodalities and parish groups.[7]

After the Second World War, Loyola Hall began hosting RAF Leadership courses, under the direction of Fr Peter Blake SJ who was a chaplain to the British Armed Forces from 1939 to 1960 before taking over as superior of Loyola Hall. It was during his time at Loyola Hall that the centre experienced a surge in people and groups asking for residential retreats.[8] In the 1960s, individually guided retreats started.[2] Instead of a spiritual director leading the retreat by giving daily lectures, individually guided retreats would have each person meeting their spiritual director individually every day, helping them with their discernment.

A new wing to Loyola Hall was soon built and cost £100,000. It was partially financed by the sale of fifteen acres of land for the construction of Rainhill High School. The new wing contained fifty rooms for residential visitors, a chapel (with stained-glass windows and sculptures by Jonah Jones), and a conference room.

Before it was opened, it briefly hosted the North Korea national football team. In the 1966 FIFA World Cup, the North Koreans made the quarter-finals but did not have any accommodation arranged near to Goodison Park where the match was being played. So they took over the booking made for the Italy national football team at Loyola Hall. However, the team were not entirely comfortable because they were not used to each person having a single room and, being atheists, seeing a large amount of crucifixes. Some players insisted on sharing rooms and many did not sleep well. They went on to lose the quarter-final match on 23 July 1966 against Portugal 5 - 3.[9]

It was opened on 14 May 1967 by Archbishop Beck. For over a year after its construction it was almost continuously occupied.[7] The conference room was renamed the Blake room, after the Jesuit who after a decade as superior left Loyola Hall in 1970.[8]

On 22 January 1970, Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ, the Superior General of the Jesuits, came to Loyola Hall and planted a tree, which still stands in the front gardens of the house. In 1974, the stables, clock tower, coach house, and east lodge of Rainhall Hall were demolished allowing more space for retreatants to walk around the ground. In 1977, this was also helped by the acquisition of 'The Field', a strip of land to the north of the house, which acts as a separating space between the house and the A570 road, reducing the amount of noise that can be heard from the passing cars.[2]

Renovation and closure[edit]

In 2000 it underwent a renovation, adding en-suite rooms, and the chapel was refurbished in 2006.[10] Although the retreat centre was run by the Society of Jesus it was also staffed by a diverse team of Jesuits, lay people, and members of other Catholic religious orders. In January 2009, it appointed its first non-Jesuit director, Ruth Holgate.[11] Loyola Hall offered weekend, 8-day, and 30-day courses in Jesuit spirituality. For over 25 years, it offered training programmes for people to be able to direct courses in Ignatian spirituality, and accommodated conferences and large-scale meetings.

Loyola Hall closed as a Jesuit retreat centre at Easter 2014.[12]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b British Listed Buildings
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dyckhoff SJ, Christopher (1994). A Quiet Place: A History of Loyola Hall St. Helens, pp. 5-35.
  3. ^ a b St Helens Star Rainhill History
  4. ^ Evelyn, Princess Blücher (1921). An English Wife in Berlin. London: Constable. p. VIII.
  5. ^ Rainhill Parish Village History Archived 17 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Society of Jesus (April 1923). "Province News". Letters and Notices. 37: 241.
  7. ^ a b Society of Jesus (March 1968). "Province News". Letters and Notices. 73 (345).
  8. ^ a b Catholic Herald August 1970
  9. ^ Stapleton, Shane (16 June 2010). "World Cup 1966: Chollima's Italian job". Eircom. Archived from the original on 9 August 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  10. ^ Loyola Hall Gallery of Grounds
  11. ^ The Newsletter of the British Province of the Society of Jesus, February 2009 Archived 10 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Last event to mark closure of Merseyside spirituality retreat centre sells out from Liverpool Echo, 9 April 2014, retrieved 26 June 2014