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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Ampleforth and Downside (English Benedictine Congregation case study) Investigation Report


Downside estate


Downside map

Chronology of abbots, priors and headmasters

Abbots of Downside Abbey
Abbot Edmund Ford 1900–1906
Abbot Cuthbert Butler 1906–1922
Abbot Leander Ramsey 1922–1929
Abbot John Chapman 1929–1933
Abbot Bruno Hicks 1933–1938
Abbot Sigebert Trafford 1938–1946
Abbot Christopher Butler 1946–1966
Abbot Wilfrid Passmore 1966–1974
Abbot John Roberts 1974–1990
Abbot Charles Fitzgerald-Lombard 1990–1998
Abbot Richard Yeo 1998–2006
Richard Yeo appointed abbot president of EBC 1 August 2001–1 August 2017. During this period Abbot Thomas Frerking (of St Louis Abbey in the United States) acted as abbot president in respect of issues that arose at Downside.
Abbot Aidan Bellenger 2006–2014
Dom Leo Maidlaw Davis[1] 2014–present[2]
Christopher Jamieson, Abbot of Worth Abbey, appointed Abbot President of EBC 1 August 2017


Priors of Downside Abbey
Dom John Roberts 1966–1974
Dom Ninian Fair 1974–1985
Dom Daniel Rees 1985–1991
Dom Philip Jebb 1991–2001
Dom Aidan Bellenger 2001–2006
Dom Anselm Brumwell 2014–present


Headmasters of Downside School
Dom Wilfred Passmore 1946–1962
Dom Aelred Watkin 1962–1975
Dom Raphael Appleby 1975–1980
Dom Philip Jebb 1980–1991


Headmasters of Downside School
Dom Aidan Bellenger 1991–1995
Dom Antony Sutch 1995–2003
Dom Leo Maidlow Davis 2003–2014
Dr James Whitehead 2014–December 2017
Andrew Hobbs[3] December 2017–present



1. Downside Abbey in Somerset is the senior Benedictine monastery of the English Benedictine Congregation. It was the first monastic community to revive the English Benedictine traditions following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1530, and was originally founded at St Gregory’s in Douai, France in 1606. Following the French Revolution, the community returned to England in 1814 and settled at Downside.[4] A chronological list of abbots, priors and headmasters at Downside appears at the front of this section.

2. There is at present no abbot of Downside. Dom Aidan Bellenger was abbot of Downside between 2006 and 2014. When he completed his eight-year term of office in 2014, because of the small number of monks in residence at Downside (fewer than 20) it was considered that there were no eligible candidates, so the decision was taken not to hold an abbatial election. Instead, Dom Leo Maidlow Davis was appointed as prior administrator, a position that carries the same responsibilities as abbot, and to whom the monks at Downside are expected to show the same ‘obedience and reverence’, in accordance with the EBC Constitutions. He was re-appointed in 2016, and currently carries out what would be the functions of the abbot. We understand he will be stepping down in 2018.

3. The community of St Gregory’s became involved in the education of young people as early as the 17th century. During the 19th century, the school at Downside was a small monastic school for boys. Downside School today provides a Catholic boarding school education for boys and girls aged between 11 and 18, having become co-educational in 2005.[5] The school is situated within the historic buildings of the monastery, and the proximity can be seen from the plans and photographs at the front of this section. We have heard that there is an intrinsic and a very physical connection between the two, and that ‘You can’t get away from either side of it geographically.’[6] Also that ‘in the early days’ it was easy to walk from one building to another, and to walk from the school into the abbey and it was common for students and monks to intermingle.[7] Following the investigations in 2010/2011, a system to separate the abbey and the school was introduced, as set out in the school’s bounds policy.

4. Several witnesses have referred to the abbey or the school or both as ‘Downside’. We will adopt that approach but will distinguish between them where necessary when dealing with the allegations below.

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