East Lulworth

A  One-Place Study and part of the Dorset OPC Network

Monastery Farm

Monastery Farm, in the foreground, as viewed from Flower’s Barrow

© Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence

The establishment of a Monastery at East Lulworth

A colony of six monks from the Abbey of Val-Sainte arrived in London during the month of August, 1794. Their superior, Dom. Jean Baptiste de Noyer, had received his appointment the preceding year. Their intention was to proceed forthwith to Canada; but Providence had other designs upon them. The late Thomas Weld, Esq., always ready to assist and harbour the harbourless, invited them to Lulworth, where they arrived in October, 1794, and placed them in the chaplain's house near his castle. Here they remained till March, 1796, when they removed into a new monastery in East Lulworth, which he had provided for them in a dry and sheltered situation,—the very reverse of the old house of La Trappe. It was dedicated under the name of the Holy Trinity and St. Susan, and here they increased and prospered. The first prior was John Baptist, already mentioned. He quitted England in the summer of 1801, when he was succeeded by Dom. Marie Bernard Benoit, who died in July, 1805. Dom. Maur Adam was the third prior; but he was hurried to the tomb in May, 1810. Then was called to the helm a very distinguished character, Dom. Antoinc Saulnier de Beaureaund, a quondam canon of Sens Cathedral, and in every sense of the word a superior man. Pope Pius VII., in consideration of his merits, raised him, in May, 1813, to the rank of abbot, and as such he was blessed by Bishop Poyntcr, in London, in the August following. Under his direction, La Trappe attracted the attention and wonder of all classes. Every unprejudiced visitor* must have departed from the sight of these holy men, delighted with their indefatigable industry, their admirable frugality, and their cheerful and unaffected piety. And yet persons were found who frightened themselves into the persuasion that their example might contribute to the multiplication of such establishments in Protestant England. Had they reasoned, had they inquired, their terrors must have vanished; for in all Catholic France, before the Revolution, there was but one single convent of La Trappe! Until the beginning of 1816, these good religious had experienced the most profound tranquillity, when they had to feel experimentally the force of Christ's words, "A man's enemies are those of his own household." One James Power,t a native of Waterford, after seven years spent in the order, decamped towards the end of January, 1816, and soon after publicly abjured the Catholic faith in the parish church of Blandford. Not satisfied with this scandal, the heartless man, on 16th March that year, swore to several charges, as may be seen in the Appendix. But the unprincipled apostate was soon after summoned before the tribunal of Heaven, to answer for his hypocrisy, false testimony, and violation of his solemn vows. The result of the business was, that the abbot, with much reluctance, decided on transporting his establishment to France, as soon as circumstances would permit. On application to the French authorities, permission was granted, and Lewis XVIII. assisted the abbot in purchasing the ancient Bernardine Convent and domain of Melleray, in the diocese of Nantes, and sent the La Revanche frigate to Weymouth, to take on board their community, as also a lugger to convey their goods and chattles to France. On 7th July, 1817, this band of holy monks, fifty-nine in number, embarked, reached the French coast on the 23rd, and entered their new monastery, with imposing solemnity, on 7th August. There, as at Lullworth, they proved a daily source of benediction to the surrounding country by their virtues and superabundant charity.* (2 Kings vi.) During their stay at Lullworth, they buried twenty-seven of their brethren; viz. seven priests, thirteen choir-religious, the rest postulants or lay-brothers.

Extracted from:

Collections, illustrating the history of the Catholic religion: in the ...

by George Oliver, published 1857

Arish Mell is listed as Arish Mill on a map in Robinson (1882). A curiosity here is drinkable water coming out of the foot of the Arish Mell cliff. Inland of here, between 1794 and 1817, was the Trappist monastery farm supported by the landowner Mr Thomas Weld. Robinson repeats an account of a visit to this monastery made in 1800. The visitor was unimpressed. After 11 miles horse ride from Dorchester he commented, by no means in the best of tempers, that the monastery is built of very rude materials and in a very rude style.

"Its immediate neighbourhood presents a picture of bleak desolation. The hills are destitute of wood, and the east wind, sweeping from the Channel, perishes the early shoots of vegetation. Ringing at the gate of the monastery, we were received by the porter. It is impossible to give an accurate idea of the hideousness of this man's dress, which was composed of a tunic made of coarse, thick and woollen cloth: over his shoulders he wore a cape made of the same material; this was partly thrown back, so that his face was visible; but the other monks, who were clad precisely in the same manner as the porter, covered their visages so that nothing but the eyes and noses could be seen. Their stockings are made of coarse cloth, and their shoes are wooden, and about three inches thick in the sole. After being asked whether we had any women in our party, and being answered in the negative, the porter attended us to the refectory. .... The appearance of the soup, I must confess, turned my stomach. The bread was absolutely black. .....

Passing from the chapel, through a cloister, we visited the burying ground, which occupies a small inner court, overgrown with rank weeds and tall luxurient grasses. Two graves, already tenanted are marked by two wooden crosses; and one grave is always kept open ready to receive the next deceased. Our conductor assured us that each individual of the fraternity prayed sincerely that he himself might become the occupant. At this I am not surprised; for such misery and such a degradation of human nature is exhibited within the precincts of these walls I never elsewhere witnessed.

None of the brotherhood except the porter, are permitted to speak, unless by special permission of the superior. The stillness of the place was awful. ....

When taking leave of this gentleman, he cast his eyes on the ground, with modest humility, half extended his dirty paw.. A few shillings was the toll levied on our exit from this gloomy abode of ignorance and nastiness, which I quitted with a sigh, breathed in compassion of the lot of those whom vice or folly drive for the expiation of real or fancied iniquities into the community of La Trappe. "

Robinson , C.E. 1882. A Royal Warren; or Picturesque Rambles in the Isle of Purbeck. The Typographical Etching Company, 23 Farringdon Street, E.C., London. 186pp. By C.E. Robinson, M.A., Barrister-at-Law, Author of the "Cruise of the Widgeon"; "The Golden Hind, Thessale, and other poems" etc. The etchings by Alfred Dawson.

The nuns [of Stapehill Abbey, near Wimborne] quickly established contact with the monks at that other centre of Catholicism in Dorset, the Weld family’s estate at Lulworth. The monks sent them supplies, then a cow to provide milk, and made shoes for the nuns; in return, the nuns washed and mended the monks’ altar linen.

Source: Dorset Life, May 1998