Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shuttered Preston Catholic College, The English Jesuit School Is Back In The News

A little history

Preston Catholic College was a Jesuit school for boys, which began in 1865 in a house in Mount Pleasant (a narrow passage between the Square and Mount Street). In 1879 it moved to 29 Winckley Square and expanded over the next century until, at its peak of 915 pupils in 1970, it occupied the whole of the west side of the square from the northwest corner (number 34) as far south as Garden Street (number 25), with the exception of numbers 29 to 32. Classrooms, science laboratories and a swimming pool were built along neighboring Mount Street in the 1930s. A gymnasium in Garden Street opened in 1970. The college also possessed extensive playing fields one mile (1½ km) south of the college, to which boys walked via the Old Tram Road. The introduction of comprehensive schools in Lancashire forced the school to stop admitting under-16 pupils from 1978.
In that year, its sixth form merged with the sixth forms of the other two Catholic grammar schools in Preston, namely Winckley Square Convent School and Lark Hill House School, to form Cardinal Newman College.
Initially the Winckley Square sites continued to be used, but by 1986 the new college was concentrated at the Lark Hill site. Some of the Mount Street buildings have been demolished. The buildings on Winckley Square are used as offices. However the gymnasium and playing fields are still used by Newman College. A blue plaque commemorates the college at its original entrance, number 34.

Link (here) WWI Preston Catholic College War Memorial (here)

Here is a current story.

A former City lawyer yesterday told how he endured years of 'terrifying' sexual abuse by a Jesuit priest as he launched a £5million compensation claim against his Roman Catholic school.

Patrick Raggett, who is now 50, wept as he recounted his harrowing ordeals four decades ago which shattered his previously 'golden childhood' and cast a shadow over the rest of his life.

Link (here)


Anonymous said...

This is a sickening case and, if true, I hope the plaintiff will be fully compensated.

Anonymous said...

No Jesuits on staff now, and they have a condom machine on site for the sixth form students, to add to the "Catholic ethos" of the place. One of my parishioners' sons (160 who himself is no angel, was shocked at this (he started at the now Newman College last September).

Joseph Fromm said...

Thank you for the comments

Anonymous said...

I learned of this proposed lawsuit from another old boy and when I investigated I was not in the least surprised when Father Spencer's name popped up. I attended the school 7 years earlier and even then Fr Spencer's fondness for young boys was apparent even to us youngsters.

Ade Jones said...

I was at the College from 1977 to 1985 and saw no evidence of Fr Spencer acting in this way. I know full well that if he had his colleagues such as Pete Singleton, Eddy Brown and Mr Bradley would have stepped in straight away. My experiences of Fr Spencer was that he was an eccentric priest who loved football to crazy levels. I spent quite a lot of time assisting at footy matches etc in my first year there and was involved in a fair few things that he organised. I never saw anything from him that would suggest this and the majority of kids looked up to him. Interesting to see on blogs and groups that those who "had an idea" this may have happened are anon or have tags making it difficult to identify themselfs or heard via a friend of a friends , uncles, aunts, brother. I never met the guy supposedly abused and "forgot" it as he was before me but I wonder at the length of time and wonder if he was gravely mistaken.

Ade Jones (Cath Coll 1977-85)

Ged Mirski-Fitton said...


I share your views on Pete Singleton, Eddy Brown and Steve Bradley. They were decent hard-working guys, dedicated to their jobs and respected by every boy in the college (I was there from 1970 to 1975, in the year below Paddy Raggett). The fact is that three of them knew nothing about Fr. Spencer and his behaviour. There were many other priests in the college, but none with his notoriety (among the boys).

At the end of my first year, I went on a school trip to Switzerland. Spencer, Bradley and Singleton were the accompanying staff. Spencer made the first few days a misery for myself and four other first year boys, by what I would now describe as stalking and pestering. I am sure that if I had described any events to Steve Bradley or Pete Singleton they would have intervened. But in 1970, 11 year old boys from working class and lower middle class families didn't challenge the authority and character of a Jesuit priest. Instead, we went to the older boys on the trip. We were protected for the two weeks by 4th, 5th and 6th year boys. They'd learned how to deal with him.

I'm quite sure that he was capable of making someone's life miserable. He was persistent, devious and very intelligent - he could put up a convincing argument if challenged. The other 1st year boys and I, on the trip, were lucky. We stuck together and had the older boys looking out for us. We could avoid him. Back in Preston, it may not have been so easy to avoid him, especially if you played football for one of the year teams.

I am sure that Paddy Raggett's story has some substance; why it would take nearly forty years to surface I am not sure. I'm sure different individuals have a range of views. I can recall a number of "Spencer-near-misses" in my time there. Maybe Paddy wasn't so lucky. If the close calls stick in my mind, other incidents would have a profound effect.

We need to protect our children. We need to give them the confidence to blow the whistle. But we also need to protect staff from mischievous and malicious false accusations. I don't think that massive payouts to compensate someone are the answer. £5M wouldn't make me forget anything about Spencer, but it might help to make sure that similar incidents are less likely to take place, if well spent.

Anonymous said...

i attended college from70 to 77....what you say is remarkably accurate'''bad luck for me i played football...thanks for telling it as it is...he only left me alone when i became violent towards him

Anonymous said...

I am another who can confirm Pop Spencer's dodgy behaviour - in my case on a holiday in France in 1968.