Mass in Thanksgiving for the preservation of the Faith


Sheat Manor, Gatcombe


Thursday, 24th August 2006

Feast of St. Bartholomew

Principle Concelebrant - Fr. Bruce Barnes,

Parish Priest of St. Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Church, Newport.

Dean of the Isle of Wight assisted by Fr. Claro, parish priest of South Wight 


With the kind permission of the owners of Sheat Manor,

Lt. Col. & Mrs. Geoffrey Webber

 This Mass of Thanksgiving held at Sheat Manor was most successful and spiritually uplifting. A congregation of approx. 45 assembled in the front garden of the Manor House. In 2006 the Mass was said openly. In the 17th century it would have been secretly and attended only by members of the Urry family and possibly a few other Catholics in the area. Col. Geoffrey Webber spoke briefly before the Mass and welcomed everyone to Sheat Manor. He was clearly conscious of the significance of the House to the Catholics of the Isle of Wight, as this was the centre of Catholicism in penal times.

  In his sermon during the Mass Fr. Bruce Barnes reminded the congregation that the recusant families such as the Urrys were our spiritual ancestors who kept alive the Catholic Faith. They were certainly pragmatic. Records show that they attended the local Anglican Church at Gatcombe and were popular and generous in the local community, but people at the time would have known where their religious sympathies lay. Outwardly they were Anglicans but the Catholic Faith was handed down from one generation to the next. We are here today on the Feast of St. Bartholomew to give thanks to Almighty God for their loyalty to the faith. It was this loyalty and determination that inspired Elizabeth Heneage to build two of the first (Post-Reformation) Catholic churches in England, at Newport and Cowes.

  After the Mass the congregation were invited into the Manor House where Col. Webber had arranged a display of documents relating to the history of the House and a copy of the Urry family tree. In the garden the Colonel pointed out the escape route which would have been used by a priest in the event of a raid when Mass was being offered. Thankfully there was never a need to use this.

  The Isle of Wight Catholic History Society is grateful to Col. and Mrs. Webber for their hospitality and warm welcome.

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On behalf of our family today and our ancestors of the past, I would like to express our gratitude to the present owners of Sheat Manor, Lt. Col. & Mrs. Geoffrey Webber, for their generous contribution in helping to maintain this part of our family's history. Special thanks must also go to Peter Clarke of the Isle of Wight Catholic History Society, who has graciously invested his time and effort in keeping us informed of this event and much of its surrounding history. 

Mark Urry (Website Editor).