Dedication of Owen building at Donhead Lodge

Bishop Nicholas Hudson with Fr Preston and Fr Fletcher SJ, and Headmaster, Chris McGrath
Bishop Nicholas Hudson with Fr Preston and Fr Fletcher SJ, and Headmaster, Chris McGrath

Twelve former pupils from the Class of 1966 – including Bishop Nicholas Hudson of Westminster – joined current staff and pupils of Donhead Lodge Preparatory School in Wimbledon for the opening of a new building. They were welcomed by the British Jesuit Provincial, Fr Dermot Preston SJ, and the Superior of the Loyola House Jesuit Community in Wimbledon, Fr Paul Fletcher SJ, at the dedication of the building to the Jesuit martyr, St Nicholas Owen.

Donhead Lodge – the main feeder preparatory school for nearby Wimbledon College – was established in 1933. Since then, it has been enlarged and expanded quite considerably; but this is the first time in the school’s 83 year history that they have been able to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in a chapel on site. The stained glass window in the new chapel was designed by Sarah Galloway, the artist who provided the windows of St Joseph’s School Chapel in Hurst Green, Lancashire, which was restored and opened earlier this year.

At present, there are 340 pupils on roll at Donhead in Wimbledon: the number has doubled over the past eight years and, during that time, the school has benefitted from a £4.5m investment in additional and improved facilities. This latest development began in March 2015 with a budget of £3.2m. Completed last July, it provides a Chapel, a 150-seat Theatre for music and drama and a two storey Art and Design Centre for the pupils. Previous developments have included the Diamond Jubilee Building (1993); the St Ignatius building development (2006), which provided a new Changing Room, Multi-Purpose Hall, Art Room, Music Room and ICT Suite; and the opening of the Berchman's Building for Reception and Pre-Prep children in 2010.The stained glass window designed by Sarah Galloway at Donhead Lodge Prep School

Extremely happy memories

In dedicating the new building to St Nicholas Owen SJ (1562 – 1606), Donhead is recognising the Jesuit lay brother who was known as ‘Little John’ because of his very short stature. As a carpenter and joiner, he put his skills to use in building priest holes or hiding places in the houses of Catholics all over the country at a time when the penalty for Catholic priests being discovered in England was torture and death. He was arrested in 1606 following the Gunpowder Plot and, following more than a month of torture, died on the rack on the night of 1/2 March 1606.

Bishop Nicholas Hudson, who dedicated the new building at Donhead, said he had “extremely happy memories” of his time at the school. He was a pupil there between 1966 and 1972 before continuing his education at Wimbledon College. After serving as Vice-Rector then Rector of the Venerable English College in Rome, he was briefly appointed Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Parish in Wimbledon in 2014, before being ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.