Nashdom Abbey

Mentioning Dom Gregory Dix (1901-1952) brought me to do some "googling" for Nashdom Abbey (Buckinghamshire, England), an Anglican Benedictine community of monks, which in the 1960's became liberal and dwindled to the point of closing. The building is now divided into apartments, but the crucifixes and monks' cemetery have been respected. Here is an interesting article on this "Anglo-Papalist Titanic".

Tightly disciplined monasticism was somehow suffused with the culture of a slightly racy country club, with occasional music around the piano from the London shows in the evenings. This was Barbara Pym’s world of cassocks on the lawn, priests who called people “my dear” with dry sherry in urbane huddles. Women’s ordination was as unthinkable as moon landings. Their defining Chicken Little Big Issue was the Church of South India.

A further cynical comment, seemingly resigned to the permanence of secularism and "progress", characterises this ghost from the past.

It’s hard to believe it now, but perfectly intelligent members of the English Upper Crust obsessed about Rome and measured their swelling triumph by the number of bishops they could get to wear copes and mitres! Somehow serious intellectual and pastoral work coexisted with the Wodehouse stuff. The community took as its special intention what was quaintly called “Corporate Reunion” — a top table institutional merger with Rome that would reunite the upper echelons of Christendom and, incidentally, dish the Nonconformists along the way. It all seems like a glint in the eye of John Betjeman’s teddy bear now. Like its secular counterpart over the road at Cliveden, the bottom fell out of this world in the 1960’s. Rising bills, the white heat of technology and Vatican II undermined the whole fantasy upon which it was predicated. All things must pass, and all that is left now are ghosts on the lawn.

It is sad to see a sincere attempt at monastic life trashed in such a trite fashion, as wrote Peter Anson in Building up the Waste Places. How interesting that this community was so interested in corporate reunion and this was the keynote of their contemplative life.

I don't know what lessons can be learned from such an experience. Monasticism is far from dead – far from it. The French Congregation of Solesmes is prospering and has a foundation at Clear Creek, Oklahoma in the States. Many of these monasteries have adopted the old liturgy. There are also religious houses of other Orders rediscovering the old liturgical traditions. The dispositions of John Paul II in Ecclesia Dei adflicta and Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum have done more than anything else to reboot traditional monastic life. Those communities are booming!

Perhaps it is the English thirst for moderation and baulking at asceticism. Our perpetual oscillating between white-hot fervour and fanaticism, on one hand, and via media lukewarmness, on the other, will always be a stumbling stone.

I do believe that attempts have been made to build up the monastic life in Continuing Anglicanism. I heard of some Oratorians of the Good Shepherd and some Augustinians in Canada. There is a significant convent of nuns in the TAC. I have even heard of married Dominicans – which seems right beyond the pale. I hardly see how a married man can be in monastic vows, though he can be a secular oblate.

Has anyone any comments of the present state of religious / monastic life in the TAC? And in Anglicanism in general?

Author: Fr. Anthony Chadwick

Father Anthony Chadwick was born in the north of England into an Anglican family. He was educated in one of the Church of England’s most well-known schools, St. Peter’s in York, at which he was nurtured in the Anglican musical tradition. After several years studying and working in London he studied theology at university level in Switzerland, Italy and France. Still living in France, he has been a priest of the Traditional Anglican Communion (under Archbishop Hepworth) since 2005. Fr. Chadwick is charged with chaplaincy work among dispersed Anglicans in the north of France, is married and lives in Normandy. His interests outside the Church and directly religious matters include classical music, DIY and sailing. As a non-stipendiary priest, he earns his living as a technical translator.

21 thoughts on “Nashdom Abbey”

  1. Yes, the married Dominican…he's Mennonite now.

    Monastically speaking, noting of size in the USA. However, there is a group of Franciscans, The Franciscan Friars of Mary Immaculate, in Michigan, "Roman Catholic" but currently "non-canonical" that have shown interest in the TAC (I think that's the right way to characterize them – I don't fully understand their situation? It seems an exceeding greedy bishop put them in full retreat. They are a good bunch from what I have seen). They would be a great place to start. Also, I don't know what will be the net result of the AC on the All Saint's Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville, Maryland either? They recently left ECUSA for the Roman Church; they may seek entry into an Ordinariate?

  2. The Eastern Province of the Community of Saint Mary here in the Episcopal Diocese of Albany is currently holding fast. They remain orthodox at least partly because of their conviction that any change must be agreeable to ALL the professed sisters. It had been hoped that the All Saints Sisters of the Poor might join with them, but that was not to be.
    Presently, there are five life-professed Sisters and one Novice in Greenwich, NY together with a daughter house in Malawi. The new American house was designed to house sixteen sisters. The African house has around six or seven.
    They have not yet explored the possibility of the Ordinariate. I think that at this point they are more interested in working with the programs at the Spiritual Life Center of the Diocese of Albany where their Convent is located.

  3. What was left of Nashdom Abbey became Elmore Abbey. It has dwindled to only a few monks. Nashdom Abbey started a charter house now in Three Rivers Michigan which became St Gregory's Abbey. It was an orthodox place when I visited in the late 1987, but I don't know now.

  4. St. Gregory's Abbey was once totally Tridentine. It is now totally '79 Prayer Book, folding table, girl altar boys, burlap, rainbows and all.

    Very sad.

  5. S. Gregory's Abbey still uses a Benedictine sevenfold form of daily office, that includes Monastic Schema A from the Thesaurus Liturgiae Horarum Monasticae. They do use the '79 BCP for the Mass, but on a Benedictine kalendar similar to that in use among the Cassinese houses.

    1. I second Fr. Chadwick's enthusiasm! I have long been a lover of the writings of Bede Frost, but there is precious little biographical information to be had on him. Can you share some of his biography? Your own?

      1. Bede Frost is my Great Grand Uncle. He was born Albert Ernest Frost on the 13th November 1875 at Long Ditton, Surrey. His father, Thomas Frost was a very well known radical author and journalist. Albert married Cecily Foxcroft on the 28th November 1900 and they had one son, Edmund Arthur in 1907, who became a monk firstly at Nashdom and then at the Roman Catholic, Belmont Abbey, where he became Prior, and died there in 1991. After much travelling, which included, ministeries, firstly in 1901 at Eastville and Walsall in England and then in 1911 went to Fiji, Australia, India and the Philippines returning to England about 1929 when he became an Oblate at Nashdom. In 1940 he became chaplain to a convent of Anglican nuns in East Grinstead and stayed there until he retired in 1957. He died in 1961 at St. Mary's Nursing Home, Derby.

        1. When I recently wanted to know, I too couldn't work out if/when Bede Frost was ordained as I didn't know his Christian names. I'd forgotten that Michael Yelton gives this information in his biography of Fr Alfred Hope Patten. In 1929 Crockford's Frost is described, after returning from America (1916-25), as having permission to officiate at St Alban's Holborn 1925-6, then a year in India as Chap at Dibrugarh 1926-7 and Chittagong from 1927. But he preached at the Catholic League May pilgrimage to Walsingham in 1933 (there is a photo), and we know he went to East Grinstead in 1940. He was later one of the priests who entered Fr Patten's home for retired priests at Walsingham. Yelton gives the date 1955 (two years before the retirement date given by Norman), but even if Yelton is not right, he was certainly there before Fr Patten died (1958). The home then faded out and presumably Fr Frost then moved to Derby. It's certainly easy to confuse him with his son, until you get it straight.

  6. Ooh! Please tell us about Nashdom and its history. I find precious little on the Internet. What do you think about the possibility of communities with the Ordinariates as Benedict XVI has envisaged the possibility?

    I am familiar with French Congregation observance having spent several months at Triors Abbey installing their chapel organ. They use the traditional Monastic Office and a form of Mass very close to the 1965 revision of the Roman rite.

    Deo Optimo Maximo!

  7. Interesting article. The "English" talk about moderation meant to me that while we practiced mortification, we did not talk about it in public, let alone do it in public. And when we did it it was with a definite end in view of getting rid of vice, practicing virtue, and trying to be more holy and Christlike, not because of an unhealthy masochist urge. Of course, I rather think few Anglicans were serious about doing it, which is another problem.

    One thing we absolutely will need is religious, as both celibacy and the contemplative vocation are necessary for the health of a church.

  8. I believe it to be absolutely necessary to foster vocations to the religious life. The prayers of these saints are the foundation upon which the Church militant stands.

  9. The Nasdom model, an Anglican model, of monasticism seems akin to the rule impressed on S. Dominic Savio by S. John Bosco: Daily Mass, frequent reception of the Eucharist, eat the normal meals, experience normal physical afflictions, enjoy games with your peers and above all be happy offering all up to God. Anybody can be a saint. It's easy to be a saint. Physical purity in all things. And death before sin.

    SS. D. Savio and J. Bosco both had a burden for the conversion of Anglicans. I wonder but that we ought to offer our prayers to Almighty God through these saints for the reconstitution of Anglican monasticism?

  10. Don't forget St Paul of the Cross and Bl Dominic Barberi in that list of intercessors in heaven who toiled and did penance for the conversion of Anglicans on earth!

  11. I would add to the list also the prayers for Anglican conversion said at Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris in the XIXth century. I have read that Newman went there after his own reception, to give thanks. Of course it was for most of the century one of the spiritual powerhouses of France, stemming from the locution of the Blessed Virgin to Fr, Desgenettes, the pastor, and the subsequent consecration of the parish to Our Lady and its spiritual rebirth. It was there that the Ratisbonne brothers went and worked, and there that Ven. Francis Liebermann and his companions refounded the Holy Ghost Fathers (now called "Spiritans"), whose lately departed former superior general I pray for daily; the seminarians of the Foreign Missions Seminary, including the great Saint Theophane Venard, would make their last call there before going off to the missions, and almost certain death, in Asia. And of course most famously, it was to NDV that Therese Martin came to pray for intercession of the Blessed Mother for her (young) vocation to Carmel. Today there is a side chapel for the Little Flower at NDV. So many favors were deemed to have come from prayer there that the walls are covered with ex votos. A must see place in Paris, along with the Salle des Martyres in the Foreign Missions Seminary, on the rue du Bac, where the remains of 8 former seminarian martyrs are housed, including Theophane Venard. You can even see his consecration to Mary, written in the minuscule hand of one who is a constant fugitive. And his chains.

  12. In response; Fr. Anthony Chadwick
    I have been the estate manager here at Nashdom (abbey) for the last eight years.
    the cemetry remains intact and well cared for, as to is the building and its outlaying cottages (the original guest houses).
    the celebration of the buildings centenary was a grand day, full of residents, Lutyens trust members and previous members of the Benedictine community.
    I recently learnt that Elmore has been sold on and the last few monks have moved close to Salisbury cathedral.
    you and other users may wish to try
    an excellent source of rich historical photographs and information regarding the Abbey and its 'previous life'.
    the picture shows Abbot Augustine sitting outside the 'Loggia' or as it was in the Dolgorouki's day-the games room, with Gregory Dix
    please dont hesitate to get in touch for more information
    Lawrence May

  13. I met Dom Patrick Dolton at St Gregorys Abbey in Three Rivers Mi. in the 1950's. He passed away long ago. Before his death he had returned to Nashdom Abbey England. Can anyone tell me anything about Dom Patrick or where I can go find out about his life?

    Thank you,

  14. Alton Abbey is still holding fast, there are currently 3 men aspiring to take orders one of which is only in his twenties. Yes, one of the younger brothers left to join the ordinariate But I think that Alton Abbey is far from dead and that the fun, less serious side of Anglo-Catholicism is still thriving there (Priests calling each other 'my dear', evenings of entertainment provided by the community and last summer there was 'hymns and pimms'

  15. i received my introduction to monasticism through my stanford-oxford tutor fr cheslyn jones who was at the time principal of pusey house. it was easter of 1976. fr jones was saying mass for the anglican sisters of the precious blood at burnham maundy thursday and then said mass at nashdom for the triduum and to both he brought me, more pupil than altar boy.
    as providence would allow, i was living at cliveden for six months as it was stanford's overseas campus for england at the time. but it meant that for me, i could walk through the cliveden forest and be at nashdom within two miles. so i spent every weekend with the monks, well, at their guest house. still i ate with them and visited alot in quiet and polite conversation.
    three stood out as my little group of buddies: dom robert petitpierre (an elderly exorcist), dom cuthbert (who loved eastern orthodoxy) and dom patrick (who loved all things both irish and catholic). i was only 20, but newly penitent after a previous prodigal freshman year.
    these were loving monks who genuinely loved st benedict & his rule and who likewise practised it with saintly moderation. the charity in the air was palpable & the fruit of the blessed Holy Spirit. they were not liberal or modernist at all, even by the late seventies. I became an official associate in 1986 through Dom Boniface Nielson. even elmore became a delightful place and it is very sad that it had to be sold – an ideal location for a new establishment of religious, male or female, with handsome woodwork throughout. they dwindled down to its small state not by liberalism within but by lack of vocations discovered. still, her daughter monastery, st gregory's in three rivers michigan is experiencing a recent growth of vocations.
    nashdom's beginnings go back to dom aelred graham, to pershore and to caldey island, wales. they built a beautiful monastery on that island, but were unable to keep their funding for it after bishop gore heavy-handedly ordered them to become strictly prayer book. and so they converted to rome and thus began prinknash abbey (29 monks out of 30 converted) in gloucester. then the trappists from belgium took over this beautiful place at caldey and dom aelred's dream.
    I have stayed at several monasteries, but never again found this pristine and very spiritual agape as what i deeply took in week after week at nashdom abbey.

  16. I recently picked up "The Shape of The Liturgy" of course by Dom Gregory Dix. It is a fascinating read and helped this retired and semi active Anglo-Catholic Priest understand a little more of our wonderful tradition. It is sad that Nashdom is no longer a monastery. As we know in our Anglican Communion our Religious Communities come and go. It is a pity just the same. Fr. David Valentin Orbost 3888 Victoria Australia.

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