Life at Harlaxton Manor in Jesuit Times
From memories of people living and working here at that time
Father Martin d’Arcy, Procurator, was Head of the English Jesuits (1945-1951) and former Master of Campion Hall, Oxford, and was responsible for the purchase of Harlaxton Manor as an investment by the Jesuits. The Manor was purchased from Mrs Van der Elst in 1948 for £43,000 plus £7000 for garden ornaments, chandeliers etc. It is said that the Jesuits had the Manor exorcised following “odd happenings” when they first took over the building. After the exorcism “shrieks were heard coming from the chimneys”.
Of the 30 novices who entered Harlaxton in 1955, 21 took vows and 13 of the 21 were ordained, but by the 1990s only 7 were still in the priesthood. There was room for 50 novices, but in 1962 there were only 18 here, with an additional 5 joining later, making a total of 23.
The Great Hall became the main chapel. The stone doorway to the Cedar Staircase was removed and panelling installed to make room for the altar.
There was strict segregated hierarchy within the Manor – Brothers, Novices, Priests and Formed Brothers. Only the older priests lived and were allowed on the Blue (300s) Corridor and in the State Rooms. The Long Gallery and sometimes the Refectory were used for voice projection classes and the Schroeder Lounge as a small chapel for Formed Brothers, with only one entrance near the lift. The State Dining Room was a Reception Room, with the stairs in the cupboard from below, still in existence in 1955. Later this room became a Library. The walls were lined with booked filled shelves, and one of the doors was also covered with artificial shelving and books making it difficult to find the exit!
The Gold Room was used as a Sacristy and the Morning Room was Father Cammack’s office.
The Refectory had a pulpit near the servery and food was served on rough, long tables along the walls. One side was for priests the other for brothers. Meals were taken in silence.
The Cedar Staircase was carpeted, as was most of the Manor. It was dusted once a year, using long-handled feather dusters. There were lavish drapes and furniture in the State Rooms, some from the Van der Elst era, but these rooms were only used for visitors and meetings. The Van der Elst room was a spiritual library used by the older priests. Because of the elderly men in the Manor, the lift was installed.
The current Library was used as a Novice Meeting Room, with access from the main Library Corridor. The old kitchen range was still in place.
The Music Room was used for workers at the Manor. Most of the labourers used by the Jesuits were Polish.
Sleeping quarters for novices were in the top floor of the Principal’s Lodge with entry from the corridor past the Library. They were in long dormitories, divided with curtains for privacy. Basic washing facilities were provided in the rooms currently used as offices/IT office. In winter the water would freeze – “cold nose, warm toes” was one Father’s saying! There were also dormitories on the 200 corridor – along this floor the corridor used to be wide and run along the back on the Manor. Cubicles were off to the other side.
The Jesuits did their own cooking and cleaning, with laundry being done by external staff. Two gardeners were employed with a Head Gardener. The novices worked in the gardens with fruit and vegetables being grown in the kitchen (walled) garden. Two hours per day were spent on external operations such as gardening. The Jesuits established tennis courts at the top of the Lion Terrace.
The statue by the Dutch Canal is of Jesuit origin; it is thought to be St. Stanislaus Kostka, who died as a Jesuit novice at 18 years old in 1568, and is considered the patron saint of Jesuit novices. The Dutch Canal was dragged using chicken wire stretched across and lowered into the water but this did not work as the wire got caught on the pipe half way along.
Why did the Jesuits leave Harlaxton?
Reforms within the Catholic Church in the early 1960s led to fewer novices. By 1964 the Jesuits decided the Manor was too worldly and that older fathers were living in too much comfort so the order moved into premises already owned in Edinburgh.
What did the Jesuits create or bring to the Manor?
- The tennis courts above Lion Terrace (not there now).
- Great Hall tapestry, oak panelling to replace the stone doorway was done by Hinkins & Frewin of Banbury.
- Refectory: the archway from the Front Circle was filled in by Streather, Winn & Co, Stone Masons, Grantham. There used to be a cobbled area with a mounting stone and a doorway led to the dining room area. The original dining room was a passageway with small rooms leading off. There were no windows on the Pegasus Courtyard side of the building. These were installed by Mr Salter. All the oak panelling was installed at this time by Hinkins & Frewin, Joiners of Banbury. All this work was done just after the war when building materials were scarce so a North Shield shipyard supplied the wood in exchange for some beams which were on site. The upper floor was demolished and ceiling put in by the Jesuits. During this time the kitchen was in the current Library. The joiners’ workshop was housed in the Pegasus gatehouse and they ate their lunches in the rooms above the present kitchen.
- Central heating.
- Schroeder Lounge stonework.
- Library Corridor: plain glass high windows were put in by Mr Salter 1948-50, also the 200s corridor windows.
- Three small chapels for novices, with stained glass windows, in the Bistro.
- The lift (elevator) installed by Hammond & Champness in 1952.
Father Martin d’Arcy, Procurator, was Head of the English Jesuits (1945-1951) and former Master of Campion Hall, Oxford. He had been responsible for the purchase of Harlaxton Manor as an investment by the Jesuits.
Edmund D’Arcy (brother of Father Martin), nicknamed “Jumbo” due to this hirsute appearance. He was in charge of the Harlaxton novices. Retired in the 1960s.
Brother Michael Kenny was the Cook when Father Orr was here.
Father George Orr SJ. Lived at Harlaxton as a Jesuit 1963-5. He was responsible for placing numbers on the paintings and creating the inventory. He kept the books and worked in an office next to the Rector’s Room (Business Office?).
Father John Twist SJ, responsible for Jesuit land holdings, a Novice at Harlaxton 1962-5.
Father Cammack, in charge of preparations of the building to become a seminary.
Captain W Parlour acted as Agent throughout the Jesuit occupancy.
Kenneth Kahn (Novice) 1955-6
David Smith (Novice) 1963-4
Rev Dr Joseph A Munitiz (Master Campion Hall, 1995)
Ron Salter worked as Joiner 1948-50