In 1593, Fr Robert Persons (our founder) appealed for and secured a grant from King Philip II of Spain, worth 1,920 crowns a year, to fund a school for 16 boys in St Omers. Thus, the history of giving to Stonyhurst began.
In 1626, the College printer, Fr John Wilson, donated a country villa with gardens, fishpond and orchards at Blendecque, near St Omers. This beautiful country retreat was presented to the College to allow boys to have a summer holiday. From this donation, the word ‘Blandyke’ was coined, meaning a Stonyhurst holiday or outing. Fr Wilson was certainly a generous benefactor – he also paid for the enlargement of the College Church of St Thomas of Canterbury. Other gifts during the 17th century included the Liège Silver Candlesticks, donated in 1668 by Marie Dotrem and two donations from James II: medieval vestments (including the Dunstan vestment, taken from Canterbury Cathedral c 1686) and, a little oddly, his large intestine.
Throughout the centuries, gifts of all shapes and sizes have continued to be presented to the College. Perhaps one of the largest was in 1794, when Thomas Weld offered temporary sanctuary to our school fleeing unrest in Liège, in the form of the Stonyhurst estate. This site, originally leased, was later gifted to the College.
In the nineteenth century funds donated by Fr Eyre enabled the building of the South Front and West Wing, judged by Pevsner to be the finest single new school building of its age.
In the 20th century, generous benefactors have enabled countless improvements to the school. For example, the Fattorini family generously donated the funds required for the restoration of the College Chapel and the Centenaries Appeal raised over £2.3million. This money paid for many things, including the construction of the Centenaries Theatre at Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall.
Moving into the 21st century, we have seen a number of donations to the College. In 2011, The Ryder Systems Bursary Award was endowed. In 2017, Mr and Mrs Glassbrook enabled the construction of The Glassbrook Tennis Dome, a world-class indoor tennis centre of excellence.
The Stonyhurst Foundation is the latest strategic initiative in this tradition. It will focus all giving towards bursary and fee assistance in one place, seeking to build an endowment which will last for generations to come.