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Solitary Missionaries

For over a century, the devastated English Dominican Province had no real existence, though a handful or more men found their way at different times to Dominican houses in Europe where they joined the Order.

A few brave souls returned to England where they undertook discreet missionary work in the same way as the Jesuits and diocesan clergy: serving as chaplains in recusant houses, and ministering to Catholics in several rural pockets of England.

Solitary Missionaries

For over a century, the devastated English Dominican Province had no real existence, though a handful or more men found their way at different times to Dominican houses in Europe where they joined the Order.

A few brave souls returned to England where they undertook discreet missionary work in the same way as the Jesuits and diocesan clergy: serving as chaplains in recusant houses, and ministering to Catholics in several rural pockets of England.

Bornhem: a Home in Exile

In 1657, thanks to the fundraising efforts of Thomas Howard, a convent was established at Bornhem in the Netherlands which would host the noviciate and a boys’ school. This would grow large enough to educate 150 boys from English families at any one time.

Bornhem was a vital foundation for securing the future of the English Dominicans. It would only be abandoned in the face of the advancing French Republican army which overran Flanders in 1795. The property was sold in 1825.

Bornhem: a Home in Exile

In 1657, thanks to the fundraising efforts of Thomas Howard, a convent was established at Bornhem in the Netherlands which would host the noviciate and a boys’ school. This would grow large enough to educate 150 boys from English families at any one time.

Bornhem was a vital foundation for securing the future of the English Dominicans. It would only be abandoned in the face of the advancing French Republican army which overran Flanders in 1795. The property was sold in 1825.

New Footholds in England

The loss of Bornhem, though it provoked a return to Britain, caused the English friars an existential crisis. While the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1791 afforded greater freedoms, the Emancipation of Catholics would not occur until 1829 and popular prejudice remained strong.

It was far from certain that the English Dominican Province would survive. The friars would, however, struggle on, acquiring footholds while wrestling with financial worries.

Fr Thomas Norton OP arrived in Hinckley, Leicestershire, in 1759. He often had to travel in disguise, hiding his priestly ‘tools of the trade’. He was a devoted priest, known to have walked on the same day to Leicester and back, and to Coventry and back, to administer the sacraments to the dying.  From 1822–4 the friars built a sizeable priory in Hinckley, with a large church and a school.

Leicester was served by Dominicans intermittently from 1774 when Peter Robson OP seems to have opened a small chapel in Causey Lane. In 1815, Benedict  Caestryck OP, a native of Flanders, began work on the current Holy Cross site in 1817 with a formal opening in 1821.

New Footholds in England

The loss of Bornhem, though it provoked a return to Britain, caused the English friars an existential crisis. While the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1791 afforded greater freedoms, the Emancipation of Catholics would not occur until 1829 and popular prejudice remained strong.

It was far from certain that the English Dominican Province would survive. The friars would, however, struggle on, acquiring footholds while wrestling with financial worries.

Fr Thomas Norton OP arrived in Hinckley, Leicestershire, in 1759. He often had to travel in disguise, hiding his priestly ‘tools of the trade’. He was a devoted priest, known to have walked on the same day to Leicester and back, and to Coventry and back, to administer the sacraments to the dying.  From 1822–4 the friars built a sizeable priory in Hinckley, with a large church and a school.

Leicester was served by Dominicans intermittently from 1774 when Peter Robson OP seems to have opened a small chapel in Causey Lane. In 1815, Benedict  Caestryck OP, a native of Flanders, began work on the current Holy Cross site in 1817 with a formal opening in 1821.