Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Dominic Winter Auctioneers on the Fence over Ramsgate

I rang the auctioneers Dominic Winter about the sale of the Ramsgate cache today just to ask if the auction is going ahead tomorrow.
It is!

Dominic Winter are certainly concerned that they are in the middle between the monastic community and everyone else, I suggested, like a "fence", which caused an in take of breath, they assured me that they had done everything possible to make sure they were staying the right side of the law, at least civil law but apparently the Abbot has not been answering the telephone. I feel for them, all the chalices they are selling are poisoned  and for a reputable auction house, which I am sure they are, this sale is beginning to damage their reputation quite seriously and the damage will grow, as it receives more publicity, unfortunately.

The Pugin Society had written to Dominic Winter several days ago, telling them that the Abbot had no right to sell property that belonged to the Pugin bequest to the Church in Ramsgate - their letter was sent to me and is printed below.
By the late afternoon they received no reply, apparently because of the difficulty of contacting the Abbot. I have emailed him too and received no reply, as have others. Concern over the sale of the heritage of the Church seems not to have broken through the walls of the cloister.

There have been further developments, apparently even if items are sold a group of Southwark priests is examining the possibility of finding legal means to get items like the recussant Hales Chalice back, which could be eventually be very costly for the monastic community, if they are forced to buy back property they have sold which they have no right to, especially if the also have to find the buyers premium.

A Canon Lawyer is trying to discover whether the Abbot and community has sought the necessary permissions from the Holy See to sell valuable and historic artefacts - apparently if it has not been done correctly there could be a huge fine payable - basically the profit from the sale. See Fr Mildew for details of Canons - and for more information. Fr Clifton has really worked hard on this.

All is made more complicated by the fact that the monastery owns land in Kent on which parish churches have been built, so the diocese of Southwark is afraid that the monastery might sell land, literally from under them and I am sure that the monastery is rather afraid that the £2 million they are trying to raise for their new monastery is going to dry up if people see that benefactions are treated with scant respect and it is also a little messy as the Southwark diocesan priest given responsibility for sorting out Ramsgate parish property ended up by joining the monastery within weeks of doing so.

Tomorrow in the Times there should be letter about the sale, probably not favourable to the community.

I understand a number of priests are intending to bid against one another, which should raise the prices but they might well have to give everything back, so be careful Fathers!

Letter from the Pugin Society
I am writing as Chairman of the Pugin Society in connection with your sale of 8th and 9th of February.

As stated in your catalogue, AWN Pugin built the church of St.
Augustine at Ramsgate at his own expense. He made a lifetime gift of the church to the Vicar Apostolic of London and ownership of the church subsequently passed to the Archdiocese of Southwark in 1851; who have owned the building since. At no time did the Benedictine Community at Ramsgate own the church.

He also gifted vestments and plate, as is attested in his correspondence.

I am of the belief that lots 425 (candlestick), lot 434 (sanctuary lamp), lot 453 (monstrance) and lot 478 (paten) are among the items gifted by Pugin to the church of St. Augustine and are therefore not the property of the Benedictine Community, and cannot be sold by them. This also applies to the cross and candlesticks illustrated on page 170 of the catalogue, and I would welcome clarification as to the status of these three objects.

Lot 35 (watercolour of the interior of St. Augustine*s) and lot 79 (portrait of Kenelm Digby) are items intimately connected with the history of the Grade I listed church and are vital to an understanding of its significance. I would respectfully suggest that their sale and dispersal are a degradation of the cultural and heritage value of this internationally recognised site.

I would very much appreciate your comment on the foregoing.

With thanks,
Yours faithfully,


Lawyeratwork.com said...

Father Ray;

Can I suggest please that Fathers do not bid against each other. This will be a false point and may end in more trouble than it is worth it.

Clearly, there is a legal dispute to ownership which even the undergraduate could work out.

Could I suggest that if the auction goes ahead,in the auction room, with a clear single voice, the Dean/Priest,of the true owner in representation, stand and deliver these words;

'In the name of the Law of England and Wales I declare to all present that the objects of ----- are being put to auction without the consent of the owner(s) said objects being --- ownership of ----. I being Fr--- from --- claim ownership to the said objects.

Don't accept verbal reassurance of ownership, only written and signed and make sure it is authentic.

This is a very old Law which is still good Law re ownership issues.
A public claim to ownership.

Fathers do your best and let God do the rest.

If Merrs D. Winter have sought legal comments and plenty of assistance from their lawyers, they would in their wisdom, withdraw the objects from sale with a declaration of withdrawal due to disputed ownership of said items until the dispute is completely settled.

This will hit the Press anyway, so be advised.

Otherwise, Merrs Winters it WILL cost you a lot of money, if you sell the objects without rightful ownership consent.

Good Luck ( My comments have been legally good to both sides and I consider that to be fair)


Thanet said...

I seem to have been receib=ving calls and emails about this all day - there is certainly a lot of unease over the proposed sale.
According to the Subiaco congregation website, the email address of the Abbot of Chilworth is frpaulinusosb@aol.com - it may be worthwhile sending him a note registering unhappiness with the sale.
I have emailed the auctioneers to say that there is a lot of unease that I am aware of.

David said...

I have just sent the following e-mail to Fr Paulinus, to Messrs Dominioc Winter and to St Chad;s Cathedral in Birmingham. "May I add my voice to those many who have serious doubts and alarms about the proposed sale of artifacts from Ramsgate Abbey. I would MOST STRONGLY urge that at least the sale be postponed until a proper investigation of the legalities pf the matter can be carried out. Failure to do this could land all parties in a most unedifying and potentially disastrous financial and ethical muddle from which I suspect no-one would come out with respect or profit intact.

David Chapman

Enfield Lock, Middlesex

berenike said...

I am beginning to feel sorry for the monks of Ramsgate, for all the reasons you listed, Father, and imagining the messy stress of the whole situation. Money always causes problems in families and friendships. Not that the monks don't seem to have brought this on themselves.

Seems to be daft for priests all to be bidding against each other! Unless they have all got more money than they know what to do with, in which case there are some Polish nuns who are in desperate need of flour, blankets, money for at least defrosting their buildings (the temperature's up to -9 today!) ...

Richard said...

If priests are co-ordinating bidding for these items, please take care that you do not end up being prosecuted for participating in an illegal bidding "ring".


Supertradmum said...

Father, Thank you for keeping us informed of this. I have tried to contact people who would buy things and give them to Churches. As to feeling sorry for the monks, if they would do the right thing and not sell sacred objects, God would bless them.

This entire situation is an embarrassment to the Church in Kent. I realize that Abbots have equal power to Bishops, but would a call to the Bishop of Southwark help? And, why have not the other Abbots come forth to stop this sale? I shall try and contact at least one.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am not sure the Abp of Southwark has the time, I urged the Pugin Society to contact the Nuncio.

Supertradmum said...

Thank you and Father Mildew's blog posting, including the comment by Fr. John Boyle are helpful. I cannot tell you how many of us laypersons are upset by this and do not know what to do. Most of us are not in the financial position to bid.

Thanet said...

"I am not sure the Abp of Southwark has the time ...." With respet, it was this lax attitude in the diocese which led to the alienation of the Pugin vestments and thus to the present scandal. I fully appreciate that the clerics are busy - but, surely, the defence oc the Church's reputation and property must be important!

CT11 said...

Supertradmum - email the abbot and the Secretary to the Archbishop (his email address is on the diocesan website). It is vital that the scandalised feelings of the laity are made known.

Supertradmum said...

And without stuffing the combox, as I had students in a secular college who were into this sort of thing and talked about it, here is an article of what sacred objects can be used for--especially in Kent.


Fr Ray Blake said...

It might be the Abp is aware that there are other issues which I touch on in my post that are important too.

Supertradmum said...


Just did as you suggested. Thanks. I consider it a clear but humble note and I hope it makes a difference.

Thanet said...

Fr Blake,
I hope you didnt think I was critcising you because I wasn't: you & Fr Clifton are working hard and well to help clear up a mess. I am a former member of the Ramsgate community and know that there is something deeply wrong which needs putting right.

Lawyeratwork.com said...

Father Ray

I can confirm that:

Lots 425,432,434,453,478,487 and 495 have been withdrawn from tomorrow's sale.

I have made several formal enquiries as to legal ownership and 10 minutes ago Merrs D. Winter's Agent confirmed the above to me personally.

I still say that if a priest thinks that the object rightfully and legally belongs to someone else, then speak up tomorrow at the auction.
You could also phone the Auction -
01285 860006 and make a polite protest.
Mallard House, Broadway Lane, South Cerney, Nr Cirencester.
Gl7 5UA (for your sat navs)


However, the rest is still going ahead.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Well done Father Ray and others if only a partial victory according to Lawyeratwork. Funny how Catholic blogs can influence the secular world but are just regarded as mischievous by others - who shall be nameless!

Thanet said...

Lawyeratwork - that is good news, but there are at least 2 more lots which are part of the original gift. 441 (reliquaries) & 451 (processionla candlesticks). I have emailed the auctioneers to alert them.

Richard said...

lawyeratwork, that is excellent news, well done.

But those withdrawals are of course on civil law grounds, not canon law, and it still leaves a lot of chalices and other sacred objects for sale.

Too late for this sale, but for the future I still think my suggestion of a Trust to bid for sacred objects at auction could work.

Initially funded by donations, but it could become partially self-funding by selling its purchases to priests, churches or monasteries - but with a legally enforceable right to buy-back at a fixed price if the buyers sell them on.

It'll need a good lawyer to set it up properly.

Anonymous said...

Fr Clifton has good news, maybe, on his latest blog post. Some articles have been withdrawn

Thanet said...

This is the reply I have received:
"The nine lots that have been withdrawn have been agreed with all parties concerned. I am instructed by the Abbot at St. Augustine's, Ramsgate, to offer everything else for sale by public auction. This is what I shall do.

If you wish to bid on any items in tomorrow's sale, please send my office a commission bid or I will be happy to arrange a telephone bid if required."

Tony said...

Well, it looks like that Farnborough Abbey is going to be closed down as well. When the objects collected by Abbot Cuthbert Brogan are put up for sale, it will be the auction of the century.



The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...