A Brief History

This one page is a very short summary of over 100 years of the history of our parish. 

A longer version, including the story of our Vowles organ, can be found at    https://saintbenetsbeccles.wordpress.com/parish-history-archives/

In addition, a “Guide to St Benet’s”, describing the structure of our church, its layout, statues and windows, can be found in the pale blue booklet, available at the rear of the Church. 


St Benet’s Minster

In the early years of the parish, towards the end of the 19th century, Downside was still a priory and Beccles was on the edge of a large rural district.

The area had been served from a Benedictine ‘mission’, which was first located at Flixton Hall and then at St Edmund’s, Bungay.

The beginnings of St Benet’s Parish (‘Benet’ being the anglicised version of Benedict) is usually dated to the year 1889.  The building of the Parish Hall (for the use of a new Catholic School) preceded the construction of the church.

The Parish Church was designated a Minster to indicate service to a community.  Downside had been elevated to the status of an Abbey in 1900; and St Benet’s was planned to be a priory with a community of monks – which never materialised.

However, there were successive communities of sisters serving the parish from new houses in Grange Road, including an orphanage (now St Elizabeth House) as well as convent buildings.

The land for the church and school, on the outskirts of Beccles, had been purchased and donated to the Benedictines by the owner of the Gillingham Estate, John George Kenyon.  Thanks to the great generosity of several other donors, the Minster was largely complete within ten years of the laying of the foundation stone in 1898 and consecrated in 1908.

The Parish was part of the Diocese of Northampton until 1976, when our Diocese of East Anglia was established.

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

This small church at Gillingham is part of St Benet’s Parish.  It was built on John George Kenyon’s estate, in the Italian style.

It is still in use for 08:00 Mass on Sundays and Holy Days – and for certain other services.

It is well worth a visit and a full history of this wonderful church can be found on their own web site –  https://ourladyofperpetualsuccourgillingham.wordpress.com

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