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Ampleforth: a school for scandal

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

Submitted by Simon Irvine…


There have been more paedophile scandals at Ampleforth College than any other school in the UK I know of. How is the school still open? The word ‘school’ is overgenerous in case of this institution. I would not put a dog in that school. I am not that cruel. But the dog would be accepted such are the admission standards. The scandal struck institution has lurched from one crisis to the next. It has had four heads in four years! In the old days there were a few monks who confused pederasty for pedagogy.

The school has a long list of staff who have been convicted of the sexual abuse of minors. Fr Piers Grant-Ferris sexually abused several boys some as young as 6! Fr Gregory Carroll is another monk also sent down for sex crimes against minors. Frank Hopkinson was also sent to prison for child sex abuse while working at the school. Fr Bernard Green was found guilty of sexually abusing a minor. David Lowe was also awarded a sentence of incarceration of crimes of a sexual nature committed against minors. There was a monk who was exposed for paying for sex with underage male prostitutes. He committed suicide before he could be charged. Fr Christian Shore confessed to unlawful sexual contact with minors.  Peter Turner was also sent down for sex crimes with children. Another monk was arrested about 30 years ago on suspicion of sexual abuse but was released due to an order from a government official. He subsequently died of natural causes. That is quite a rap sheet! Ampleforth is the best at one thing – paedophilia. It is not much of a selling point for the school. Am I being unfair? Can you name a school with a worse record on this most serious of issues?

Some staff who left Ampleforth have gone on to get into trouble for wrongdoing in other schools. I wonder where they picked up these dirty habits?

When monks are released from prison after committing sex crimes against kids these monks are welcomed back to Ampleforth Abbey. We are told that the monks are not allowed contact with children. But they still sleep, dine and live in the same building as the school. The school is down the corridor from the monastic part of the building. That is not exactly reassuring.

Dara de Cogan was a music teacher. He was in fact very amiable on a personal level. But that does not excuse his unlawful sexual encounters with an underage girl. This was a real first: a sex crime against a female. Until Mr de Cogan the offences had been directed solely against males of the species.

For decades the school knowingly covered up sexual abuse. Successive headmasters chose to keep the matter secret. They did not even remove accused monks from their duties. Of course, it was possible that the allegations were bogus. But the school chose to kept the allegations a closely guarded secret.

There are those who say that a consensual encounter between a teacher and a pupil who is just below 18 is not even that bad despite it being illegal. But what happened at Ampleforth was nowhere near a grey area. It was a long way on the wrong side of the law.

Fr Basil Hume was the Abbot of Ampleforth when multiple allegations of sex abuse were brought to his attention in the 1960s and the 1970s. He chose to bury the allegations. The monks concerned continued unchecked. The carried on their campaign of gross mistreatment of children for over 20 years after that! The school compiled evidence about the allegations but refused to disclose it to the police.

Basil Hume was later made Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. There is a statue of him at Ampleforth and indeed a Basil Hume Award named in his honour. Should a man who facilitated sexual abuse be exalted as a role model? Is that really what the Catholic Church and Ampleforth stand for? I like to think not.

Several of the monks are blatantly of a homosexual cast of mind. There is nothing wrong with that. I am not suggesting that they are sexually active. But from their timbre and gait it was obvious from a mile off that they were gay. Homosexual acts are totally against the teachings of the Catholic Church as is playing with such thoughts.

Do not imagine that the abuse of children at Ampleforth was limited to sexual abuse. Many pupils spoke of suffering violent attacks and vicious psychological abuse.

At least one victim of sexual abuse has committed suicide because of what he suffered at Ampleforth. Others have self-harmed and been driven to substance abuse.

Several other staff have been investigated on suspicion of sex crimes. So far no charges have been levelled at the staff concerned.

There was a teacher who was sacked for being a panty sniffer. However, in terms of Ampleforth he was morally upstanding. He only stole the underwear of adults. He was an ordinary, decent pervert.

Fr Jeremy Sierla was accused of highly inappropriate conduct towards boys. He had a collection of many photos of his schoolboys but none of the photos was immoral. Fr Jeremy is an odd bod who greets people with ‘hello nice person’. One monk said about him ‘you never know where you are with him’. Has Fr Jeremy suffered an injustice? He has been removed from all contact with children despite never having been charged with a crime let alone convicted.

One monk housemaster repeatedly made lewd comments about women. Let me make it crystal clear – that are no child protection concerns about this particular man. But this priest still used swear words all the time even in front of pupils.

Staff smoked cigarettes in the presence of pupils. If you go to the students’ hideouts in the woods you will find hundreds of cigarette butts, empty bottles of liquor and used condoms. The staff know about this yet do nothing.

If a priest falls in love with a woman and marries her then he is immediately unfrocked. If on the other hand he rapes dozens of children he is not unfrocked. Honestly, which is worse?

The schools soft spot for paedophilia is astonishing considering its intolerance of consensual relationships. One teenage boy was seen hugging his girlfriend and was punished for it. An unwed member of staff is not allowed to spend the night with his girlfriend in a guesthouse. One teacher was reprimanded for mentioning to her pupils that she shared a house with her fiancé. Why is it that sex crimes against prepubescents were considered entirely acceptable but a loving relationship between adults is outrageous?

Drug abuse at the school was common in the 1980s and 1990s and possibly more recently. The whole place reeked of cannabis. The monks did not give a damn.

As recently as the early 1990s a housemaster would say to the house captain ‘I am going away for the weekend so look after the house.’ 60 adolescents would be left in the charge of a 17 year old! Bearing in mind what some of the housemasters were doing this was probably a good thing!

There was severe sexual bullying of pupils by other pupils in the early 1990s. Besides that scholarship children are regularly insulted about coming from low income families. One scholarship boy left the school within a year because he was so badly bullied due to his working class background. Racist bullying of black and Chinese pupils was not uncommon. The school conducted a survey into the level of bullying. The Catholic Church is supposed to believe in equality.

The school suffers toxic management. One of these people had a deeply unhealthy fixation with the Holocaust. There were some among middle management bullied staff and persistently lied at meetings. One deputy head said that the school would close if the staff did not do as he ordered.

The conduct of the staff is not morally upstanding. There was a heavy drinking culture among some even at lunchtime. Teacher could be found drunk in the pubs the White Swan and the White Horse on Friday and Saturday night. Premarital sex between staff is not unknown.

Staff have been horrifically bullied. A young man was so stressed out by workplace harassment from his obsessive compulsive, anally retentive control freak line manager that he contemplated suicide. A mentally ill young woman named Emily Wiffen was employed by the school. She drank vodka in lessons. This trouble teacher drank herself to death at the age of 28.

The exam results are atrocious. The school lies about the number of pupils it gets into Oxford and Cambridge.

Reports are utterly dishonest. Problems are not admitted to. Staff are ordered to rewrite reports so that parents do not find out what needs to be done.

The absolute dregs go to this school. They will take your children no matter how stupid or indolent they are. No matter how atrocious their behaviour they shall not be expelled. Pupils have even sexually assaulted staff and this has been reported to the deputy head and nothing was done about it.

The school has such a horrific reputation that it is not surprising it is a struggle to get staff. Staff from the worst universities in the UK are often hired. Tattooed chavs are highly sought at the school. The school has teachers who are unqualified. The school used to hired 17 year old Australians as staff and put them in charge of 18 year old pupils!

Monks who were incapable of teaching were often used to teach. Fr Francis was a likeable lunatic who taught politics for years.

This Catholic madrassa has a crucifix on every wall. The humility of Our Lord and Saviour is lost on many of the pupils who are crashing snobs.

If the Catholic Church cares about everyone it should not run a school that is financially exclusionary. This is about as far from the mission of Jesus as it is possible to be.

Most Ampleforth staff are not suspected of any abuse of children or of covering it up.

Ampleforth sends monks overseas in a desperate bid to find pupils. I wonder why they find it so hard to get enough bums on seats? They have sent staff to the UAE to find pupils. Really? Going to a Muslim country to get pupils for a Christian extremist school? If having a crucifix in every room and compulsory daily prayer is not extreme then what it?

The school suffered from poor leadership. Fr Leo was headmaster for 10 years. He was an irascible and frightening figure. Staff often called trades union officials in terror. If even teachers were scared of him what was it like for little children? Leo Chamberlain is notorious for covering up child abuse of the foulest possible kind.

Fr Gabriel Everitt appeared to hate being head – it was ‘father take this cup from me’. Did he do it under obedience to the abbot? The man lacked presence and his hissing lisp made public announcements farcical.

Fr Wulfstan was a more credible headmaster. But he lacked a certain warmth. He was a satisfactory administrator. I was more confident with him in charge.

Ampleforth was reduced to appointing a head who is only a lay person. Mr Lambton left after only two years!

After that the school appointed someone who was not only a lay person but also a woman. Miss was actually not of poor competence. She is better that some of the heads of the recent past. She could hardly be worse! Her whole remit was to improve child protection. But a report into safeguarding was extremely scathing. Miss Rowe immediately resigned. There is now another lay head.

Monks are dying twice as fast as they are replaced. At this rate the school will have no monks in 40 years.

Who in his right mind would send his child to Ampleforth? It says it is a school of the Lord’s service!

Close this school down now!


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.

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Olivia Kroth
February 25, 2020

I wonder if Prince Andrew went to Ampleforth? He is ample and forth ….

Seán McGouran
Seán McGouran
February 26, 2020

Lovely bit of No Popery – glad to see some old English traditions being maintained.

March 4, 2020

I know of another monk from this place who was sent out to parishes in Lancs and Yorkshire who then abused girls. I am one of these girls and know of 6 others. Several of us are taking Ampleforth to court at the moment.

Reply to  Christine
May 8, 2020

Christine please contact me.

August 27, 2020

i jan cerny was a pupil there for 5 years until 1963(W).
it was one of my most miserable experiences in my life.
my life’s work is to see that it is closed.

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