Theodore House is a Grade II listed building. Previously known as the Old Mill and dating to the 1840s, the site was a corn mill built by the Jesuit school that relocated to Stonyhurst Hall from St Omer, France in 1794. The mill was run by the school community as part of the operation to sustain itself. Comprising of a three storey block with parallel pitched roofs, the mill was powered by water from the two canal ponds that still grace the College’s main driveway. The building fell into disuse and by 2010 part of the roof and the first floor had collapsed.
The site was leased to the charity by Stonyhurst College and has been rebuilt by funds raised from trusts and private donors. Although the original roof and floor structure has been lost, the exterior walls with all their original openings have been conserved, as have three of the original roof beams.
As a result of the careful planning, design and work that has gone into rebuilding Theodore House, the charity has won the regional Building Excellence 2019 award from LABC.
Theodore House is named after St Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury from 688 to 690 AD. He was best known for his work in reforming and renewing the English Church, for his scholarship and learning, for decisive Christian leadership and for his promotion of education.
Born in Tarsus, Cilicia in 602 AD, Theodore was of Byzantine Greek descent who would also have had experience of Persian culture. His studies took him to Antioch and he was also familiar with Syrian culture, language and literature. During his childhood he witnessed the ravages of war between Byzantium and the Sassanid Empire of Persia. These conflicts saw the Muslim conquests of Antioch, Damascus and Jerusalem and, when Theodore was 11 or 12 years old, of his home town of Tarsus, birthplace of St Paul.
No longer able to pursue serious Christian studies in Antioch, he continued his these in Constantinople. By around 667 AD, he was to be found in a community of Eastern-rite monks in Rome. His combined studies in Greek rhetoric and philosophy, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, Roman civil law, Latin literature (secular and ecclesiastical) and theology made him a formidable intellect and the very embodiment of the unity of faith and reason.
At this time the English church, riven by divisions, met at the Synod of Whitby and resolved to affirm its unity with Rome. Nonetheless, conflict remained between English bishops, amongst whom were Wilfrid and Chad.
Theodore’s gifts as a scholar led to his being recommended for the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. He was consecrated by Pope Vitalian in Rome on 26th March 668 AD. He had turned 67 by the time he arrived in England.
As the eight Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore immediately embarked on a tour of the country tackling abuses and confronting the seventh century’s warring factions. He filled vacant sees, founded churches, reformed the liturgy, regularised marriage and established proper episcopal authority. His reform of the northern dioceses however, led to conflict with Bishops Wilfrid and Chad. He removed Chad from his questionable position; but seeing in Chard’s obedience, holiness, and humility, a man of God, he regularised his episcopal consecration and appointed him later as Bishop of Mercia.
Despite their differences, Theodore, Wilfrid and Chad were united in their striving to heal the divisions in the Church, to hold fast to unity with the Petrine See and to teach the orthodox tenets of the Faith. Today, each is remembered as a saint of the Church.
Theodore’s gifts (his name in fact means “God’s gift”) strengthened the Church in England to the extent that it was able to undertake its mission with zeal vigour, a paradox to the political divisions and strife amongst the tribal kingdoms of the time. His love for both faith and learning, and his passion in disseminating both of these, was instrumental in producing a golden age of Anglo-Saxon scholarship.
Theodore House has a beautiful area of garden and woodland behind it, directly accessible from the dining room and the annexe rooms. A first phase of works has been completed in part of the garden area in the form of some hard and soft landscaping immediately outside the dining room. The pleached trees surrounding the hard-paved area form a sort of cloister, at the centre of which is one of the millstones from the original corn mill. Surrounding the patio are beds filled with a variety of herbs and flowering plants, many of which have been chosen because of their Biblical references. This provides a beautiful and tranquil setting for a quiet read, some meditation or simply taking in nature’s beauty!