On 25 September 1861 Fr Alfred Weld (Rector of Beaumont Lodge and Director of Novices) met Fr Henry McCann, Procurator of the Province, at Barnes station, and with two lay brothers, Joseph Mero and Thomas Middlehurst, took possession of Manresa House. It was to become the new Jesuit novitiate, transferring from Beaumont (which was to become a boys' school) to Roehampton. On the 8 & 9 October “the Community arrived in two parties on each day; some walking all the way [from Beaumont] (about 16 miles), and others descending the Thames in the Beaumont boats.”
At that time, according to volume 1 of Letters and Notices (which was begun in 1862 and printed at Manresa), Roehampton was a hamlet “about a mile from the village of Putney, in the Manor of Wimbledon in the County of Surrey.” The mansion was built for William 2nd Earl of Bessborough by William Chambers (who designed several ornamental garden buildings at Kew Gardens and later rebuilt Somerset House) in the 1760s, and was bought in one lot with about 42 acres of land by the Jesuits in 1861. The “close vicinity of London, the healthiness of the situation, the extent and seclusion of the grounds, and the excellence and fitness of the house” made it the perfect choice for the Jesuits’ new novitiate.
Manresa remained in the Jesuits’ possession for 100 years, housing novices and juniors for much of that time. Between 1950 and 1957 the novitiate relocated to Harlaxton Manor in Lincolnshire, moved back to Manresa in 1957 until its closure in 1962, and moved back to Harlaxton.
Below are some of our favourite photographs from the Archives.
Plan of Manresa House & property (fold out in Letters & Notices vol. 1)
West front of Manresa House (photograph pasted into Letters & Notices vol. 1)
The walled garden, undated
Manresa Vine, undated
Bomb damage to the farmhouse in WW2 (no casualties)
The chapel, undated
The Refectory, undated
St Alphonsus Day, 1922