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Ramsgate treasures saved for Church

Many of the ecclesiastical treasures from the former Benedictine Abbey in Ramsgate have been saved for the Church.

The items, including monstrance, a silver chalice and various portraits, had been put up for sale by auction by the 11 monks of Ramsgate Abbey who last year moved to a smaller new home, a former Franciscan friary in Chilworth, Surrey.

But the seven items have now been withdrawn from the auction and acquired through a private treaty sale by the Archdiocese of Southwark, and will be returned to St Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate, which Augustus Pugin designed and built next to his own house, The Grange.

They include a beautiful monstrance of around 1850, similar to one which Pugin designed for his other famous church, St Gile’s, Cheadle, and a watercolour sketch by Pugin of the interior of St Augustine’s, a preparatory study for a large drawing which he sent for display at the Royal Academy in 1849.

They also include a portrait of the writer Kenelm Digby, a close friend of Pugin, who helped Pugin’s son Edward complete the church after his father’s death; the church contains the Digby Chantry.

A silver chalice in the Gothic style by Hardman and Co, Birmingham, which made many ecclesiastical pieces for Pugin, has a Latin inscription on its base: “Pray for John Hardman.”
Other items were bought back for the church by a parishioner; they include images of St Augustine.

The Archdiocese of Southwark took back responsibility for the Grade 1 listed church from the monks in 2010; it has begun a major programme of repair with grant support from English Heritage.

The monks at the Benedictine Farnborough Abbey have acquired two items including a rare silver recusant chalice dating from 1633, when Catholic worship was banned following the Reformation. The chalice, engraved with scenes from the Passion of Christ, was given to the monks at Ramsgate in the 19th century by a member of the Hales family, who were recusants.

The Abbot of Farnborough said, “All sacred vessels are important. The recusant chalice communicates with a particular eloquence the hardships suffered by Catholics in what are described in the inscription on the chalice as ‘cruel times’. We are relieved that this chalice will remain in appropriate hands.”