September 2014 saw the closure of St Anne’s Residential Home, in Burghwallis Hall, near Doncaster. It has been a Catholic Home for the elderly and infirm since 1946.  Over the years the ownership has passed from the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Good and Perpetual Succour, to the Dominican Sisters of Oakford, until in 1998 it was acquired by the Diocese of Hallam.

After many years of striving to keep the St Anne’s Home open, in January, 2014 the sad decision to close had to be taken because of long term financial deficits. Once the decision had been taken there then followed months of work ensuring that no resident was under pressure to leave the Home and much effort was given to facilitating a move that was sensitive to the needs of each remaining person.  When this work was complete St Anne’s Rest Home was officially closed.

History tells us that for centuries the Hall has been the home of the Anne family, who remained loyal to the Catholic faith during the Reformation and ensuing penal times.

As a plaque in the Chapel shows:

“Blessed John Anne, priest, martyr, was hanged, drawn and quartered in York on March 16, 1589, for the faith”.

Briefly, John Anne, from Burghwallis Hall, alias John Amias, ordained priest in Rheims in 1581, returned and worked among persecuted Catholics of Elizabethan England for several years, before being captured.

Other names on the plaque:

“George Anne, SJ, was imprisoned and died in York Castle in 1660, for the faith.

Richard Fenton, of Burghwallis Hall, was imprisoned and died in York Castle in 1600, for the faith.

Elizabeth Anne, Benedictine Nun, daughter of Marmaduke Anne of Burghwallis, died in a French Prison in 1791, for the faith”.

Research shows other names, connected with Burghwallis, also suffered.

The ancient building, Grade 2* listed, built in the fourteenth century has been added to from time to time. It contains the remains of an old chapel, disused for many years, and a priest’s hiding hole, which was secretly accessible from the chapel, which was only discovered by Catherine Anne in 1908.

Burghwallis Hall

Burghwallis Hall

In 1910, a book, “Forgotten Shrines”, was compiled by a Benedictine, Dom Bede Camm, whose life was dedicated to the English Catholic Martyrs of the Reformation and their lost world. His book, based on sound research and “on-site” visits, includes a chapter on Burghwallis Hall.  It is over one hundred years since he visited and recorded what Mrs Anne told him, “The Hall has been the property of the Annes for more than 400 years and has had a Catholic Mission attached to it ever since the venerable parish church was taken out of the rightful owners’ possession in the sixteenth century.”

In 1987 a beautiful new chapel was built. Today it is used by a small group who hold a “Blessed John Anne Prayer meeting” on the evening of the first Wednesday of each month, praying for the canonisation of Blessed John Anne, vocations to the priesthood, renewal of faith in our country and the persecuted Church in the world.

Also, while a few residents remained, a Eucharistic service was held on Tuesday afternoons.

A number of people, who value the strong connection this building has to Catholic history, hope to continue both these services. More information is available from Cynthia Bressani, tel: 01302 702919,  cbressani@btinternet.com or from John Gilliver, tel: 07711608140,  thegillivers@btinternet.com.