There were some tensions along nationalistic lines between the Spanish Jesuit rectors and English students during the college’s early days. Some students escaped both the strict St Alban’s regime and the threat of death on their return to England by joining the Benedictines of San Benito in Valladolid.
Amid unrest over where students attended lectures, the king sent the Duke of Lerma to tell then the college would close unless the seminarians did as they were told.
From 1663 it was decided that there would be an intake of students only once every seven years so that each group stayed together for their entire formation and this remained the case through the 18th century. However, the college’s fortunes waned and by the time King Charles III expelled the Jesuits from Spain in 1767 there were only two students remaining.
A court official, accompanied by troops, took possession of St Alban’s on the night of April 2. In August, the Secretary of the Holy Office in Valladolid became the college administrator. However, the Catholic Bishops of England wrote to the Spanish ambassador in London saying that all three colleges were the property of the Catholic Church in England.
On July 26, Bishop Richard Challoner, Vicar Apostolic of the London District, suggested there should be one English college in Spain rather than three, with Valladolid remaining as it had the best climate and the colleges in Madrid and Seville closing and he asked the king to establish an annual pension for Valladolid.
Charles agreed, saying that the clergy of England could immediately send 10 students and a rector to Valladolid and he issued a royal decree stating that St Alban’s would now be governed by an English secular priest. A sum of 10,000 pesos would be available through the royal bank for his travel costs. To this day the rector is officially appointed by the king and his name appears in the official Gazette of Spain.
The first such rector, from 1768, was Father Philip Mark Perry (1720-1774), who brought stability to the college during a period of great political turmoil in Spain. However, many of the students of that time chose not to return home to England, despite having taken “the missionary oath”, which was a promise to do so. Father Perry also convinced the Scots’ College in Madrid to move to Valladolid in 1771. They remained in the city until moving to Salamanca in 1988.
From 1775 to 1796 the college was under the guidance of Father Joseph Shepherd as events in England gradually took a turn for the better for Catholics. King George III stopped short of giving Catholics full equality but was far more tolerant and seminaries were to be tolerated in England. Why, then, should an expensive college so far away from home as Valladolid continue top to be supported? This question came into sharp focus when a rift developed between the college and the English hierarchy. After the death of Father Thomas Taylor in 1808 the bishops did not initially send anyone to replace him.