The Rectors

The history of the Royal English College in Valladolid can be split into two distinct periods. Under the first (1589-1767) it was administered by the Society of Jesus, with Jesuit rectors and teaching staff. Since 1768, however, when the Jesuits were expelled from Spain, the college has been solely run by English secular clergy.

Our College Rectors

October 25 1589 - November 26 1589
Bartolomé de Sicilia SJ
November 27 1589 - June 24 1590
Pedro de Guzmán SJ
June 24 1590- September 1 1591
Juan López de Manzano SJ
September 1 1591 - December 31 1594
Rodrigo de Cabredo SJ
January 1 1595 - September 1596
Gonzalo del Río SJ
October 24 1600 - September 1602
Alonso Rodríguez de Toro SJ
October 24 1600 - September 1602
Antonio Vásquez SJ
September 1602 - 1603
Pedro Ruiz de Vallejo SJ - Dismissed in 1603 due to the trouble with the Benedictines. Juan de Olmedo took charge of the college in November 1603 but was not officially rector.
February 20 1604 - October 1606
Diego de Gamboa SJ
October 1606 - May 20 1607
Pedro Ruiz de Vallejo SJ is reinstated
May 20 1607 - February 25 1611
Juan de Párraces SJ
February 1611 - 1614?
Cristóbal Suárez SJ - The end of his term in office is not known for certain but is thought to have been 1614. Father Alonso Carrillo’s visit to the college led to the English taking a greater role in both teaching and governance. The names of the first English rectors – William Weston, Anthony Hoskins and John Blackfan – start to appear in the register at this time.
614 - April 9 1615
William Weston SJ - A priest famous for his skill as an exorcist, Father Weston became the first English rector of St Alban’s. Upon his death in 1615, he was buried in the original college chapel. In 2008 his skull was brought back to the college from England.
April 1615 - September 10 1615
Anthony Hoskins SJ becomes the second English rector of the college until his death in 1615.
September 1615 - November 1617
John Blackfan, one of the seminary’s first students, and author of the Blackfan Annals becomes the college’s third English rector.
1617 - February 1621
Juan Francisco de Benavides SJ - Vice-rector Thomas Sylvester then took charge of the college for several months.
October 1621 - October 1624
Francisco González SJ
October 1624 - October 1630
Francisco de Aguilar SJ
October 1630 - December 1632
Pedro de Ceniceros SJ
Start of 1633 - October 1633
Juan de Oribe SJ - Often absent, he retired due to ill-health.
October 1633 - December 1633
Sancho de Leguizamo SJ
December 1633 - September 1637
Hernando Cortés
September 1637 - February 1641
Diego Marín SJ
February 1641 - September 1646
Juan Díez de Isla SJ
September 1646 - February 1647
Francisco Juárez SJ
February 1647 - August 1649
Diego de Pangua SJ
August 1649
Father William Sankey takes charge of the college until the arrival of the new rector.
November 1649 - October 1652
José de Ayala SJ
October 1652 - November 1655
Ambrosio de Salamanca SJ
November 1655 - April 1659
Andrés Antonio de la Oyuela SJ
April 1659 - October 1662
Francisco de Liano SJ
October 1662 until his death in February 1664
Ignacio de Loyola SJ
March 1664 - November 1664
Diego de Montezuma SJ
November 1664 - April 1668
Gregorio de Mendiola SJ
April 1668 - June 1669
Andrés Reguera SJ
June 1669 - April 1671
Bartolomé de Occo SJ
April 1671 - December 1679
Manuel de Calatayud SJ
May 1680 - August 1683
Fernando de Haro SJ
August 1683 - September 1686
Fernando Navarrete SJ
September 1686 - September 1687
Teodosio Romay SJ
September 1687 - March 1691
Manuel Portocarrero SJ
March 1691 - March 1694
Juan de Fuentes SJ
March 1694 - September 1697
Domingo de Medina SJ
September 1697 - September 1716
Diego Alfonso de Sosa SJ
September 1716 - September 1718
Alonso de Zifuentes SJ
September 1718 - April 1722
Antonio Ossorio SJ
April 1722 - January 1726
Francisco Vicente de la Torre SJ
January 1726 - September 1729
Bartolomé Florencio de Torres SJ
September 1729 - September 1731
Francisco Nieto SJ
November 1731 - May 1735
Juan Bautista Valcarce SJ
May 1735 until his death in February 1754
Pedro José Solano SJ
February 1754 - 1755
Joaquín Ignacio de Iturri SJ
May 1755 - January 1762
Father Rector, Jesuit Xavier Ignacio de Aguirre
January 1762 - August 1764
Francisco Texerizo SJ
August 1764 - February 1767
Francisco Torrano SJ
April 2 1767
The expulsion of the Jesuits
Father Philip Mark Perry becomes the first secular English rector (d 1774).
Father Joseph Shepherd – d 1796
Father Thomas Taylor – d 1808
Until 1813
Richard Cowban took charge.
Father William Irving, who found the college severely rundown on taking up the rectorship – d 1822.
1822 - 1825
Thomas Sherburne Sherburne
Father Thomas Pilling takes charge of the college.
1826 - 1838
Father Rector Joseph Brown
Until 1845
Father James Standen is in charge and then Father John Guest takes over.
1846 - 1854
Father Thomas Sherburne resides in England while Father Guest looks after affairs in Spain. When Father Sherburne died in 1854, Father Guest continued to administer college affairs and was eventually appointed rector.
Father John Guest – d April 1878.
1878 - 1904
Monsignor Charles Allen – he oversees the modernisation of the college, including the introduction of gas and electricity – d 1904.
1904 - 1906
Father William Wookey
1906 - 1911
Father Thomas Kennedy – d 1911.
1911 - 1915
Father James Thompson
1915 - 1924
Canon Michael John Burns
Monsignor Edwin Henson – d March 3 1961.
1962 - 1975
Monsignor David Greenstock
1975 - 1984
Monsignor John Ryan
1984 - 1990
Monsignor Ronald Hishon
1990 - 1997
Monsignor Paul Smith
1997 - 2002
Monsignor Peter Dooling – d April 8 2011.
2002 - 2011
Monsignor Michael Kujacz
July 2011 - 2017
Monsignor John Joseph Pardo
July 2017
Canon Paul Farrer
I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. - Psalm 16:8

Some Of The Great College Rectors

(Please click / swipe to view the Rectors)

Father Philip Perry (1767-1774)

Father Philip Perry was the college’s first secular rector, chosen by Vicar Apostolic of the London District Bishop Richard Challoner. A 47-year-old Staffordshire man who had studied at Douai, Father Perry obtained a Doctorate of Divinity from St Gregory’s English College, Paris, in May 1754.

On his return to England, he was appointed chaplain at Hassop Hall, Derbyshire, and then Heythrop Park, Oxfordshire, before returning to his native Staffordshire to live with Bishop John Hornyold near Wolverhampton.

On December 11 1767, Father Perry left England for his new role in Spain, travelling via France and visiting the English Colleges in Douai and Paris. Accompanied by St Alban’s new Professor of Theology, Father Joseph Shepherd, he then travelled to Madrid and finally arrived in Valladolid on April 15.

Studies resumed after Father Perry celebrated a Solemn Mass on April 21. The first eight new students came from Douai, while later intakes came directly from England.

Father Perry later helped the Scots move their college from Madrid to Valladolid and began a lawsuit to recover the property of the English College in Seville, a process that was only finally resolved in 1965.

A prolific writer, ten volumes of Father Perry’s manuscripts are held in the Scottish Catholic archives, including a life of Christ, a catalogue of English, Irish and Scots saints and an uncompleted life of St John Fisher.

On top of all this, and his regular struggles with the Spanish authorities, Father Perry found the time to learn Spanish from scratch. He died in September 1774, six years after his arrival in Madrid.

Father James Standen (1838-1845)

Father James Standen was never officially appointed Rector of Saint Alban’s, even though he governed the college after Father Joseph Brown resigned. He arrived in Valladolid during difficult times and found Spain completely devastated and impoverished by the War of Independence, with a growing national determination to abolish the absolute monarchy.

King Ferdinand VII was forced to swear allegiance to the first constitution that had been written in Cádiz in 1812. With this came some anticlerical measures and the ratification of English College rector appointments by the king were continuously postponed, bringing an atmosphere of uncertainty to the college. Previously profitable ventures such as wine selling and the production of the harvest no longer covered the college’s upkeep and it was unable to meet its debts.

Previous rector Father Brown had failed to obtain enough funding from the Spanish crown and lost the support of the English bishops. This was a crucial period for the Church in England, with the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1791 having granted limited freedoms, including the right to establish seminaries for the training of future priests. Many bishops considered this made the costly maintenance of English colleges abroad no longer necessary.

This placed English College rectors in an awkward situation. On one hand they suffered the suspicious gaze of the Spanish authorities who threatened to seize the college’s property under the Mendizábal Mortmain Laws (1836-7), while on the other they suffered the indifference of their own hierarchy, now more interested in developing their own seminaries.

Despite such turmoils, Father Standen’s brought an admirable spirit to the college. His letters and a diary about his trip from England provide an indispensable source of information about the college during this period of uncertainty, including valuable descriptions of customs and traditions.

Before leaving England, he visited all the country’s seminaries to experience their atmosphere, discipline and the variety of studies carried out in these institutions.

The description of his trip from Durham to Valladolid is spiced with moving stories depicted with a touch of irony. London made little impression on him. He compared the city with a particular type of hell where the corrupted atmosphere and the consequences of the Industrial Revolution had destroyed the slightest sign of human touch. He suffered from seasickness while crossing the English Channel and sensed signs of revolution on the streets of Paris.

When he finally arrived in Spain, his letters reflect the reality he encountered with irony and great melancholy. He tells about the soldiers escorting travellers from Vitoria to Burgos to guard them against the frequent assaults of bandits – then discovering that the soldiers had been bandits themselves!

On his arrival in Burgos, he experienced the Spanish custom of paying a sum of money for the dispensation of eating meat during Lent, a tradition he found most convenient, and he was impressed by magnificent buildings such as Burgos Cathedral.

Finally reaching St Alban’s, he devoted himself to the study of Spanish language, culture and literature, considering this to be his duty as the incoming professor of humanities. But he also felt abandoned and the indifference that came from his home bishops affected his health. Against all the odds, however, he stood alone in resisting the closure of the college. Nobody appointed him rector or came to his aid. He alone, together with the fictional character he created in his diary, became the saviour of the college.

While he acknowledged that the college might be expensive to run, he wrote enthusiastically about the benefits of continuing to educate priests, “in Catholic ecclesiastical Spain, familiar with the apostolic principles and thought of Avila and Granada expressed in their own sublime language, who has studied the same books, contemplated the same scenes and daily knelt before the same altars whence our Holy Old English missionaries drew all their knowledge, zeal and piety.”

Father Edwin Henson

Father Edwin Henson, a priest of the Nottingham Diocese, was one of the college’s longest-serving and most distinguished rectors. He was appointed in 1924 at the relatively young age of 28 and helped the British promote the cause of the Allies in Spain during the Second World War.

The college was isolated and travel to England was virtually impossible. In the early years of the war, it was by no means certain that England would survive and Spanish neutrality could not be guaranteed. Father Henson took the brave decision to stay on his own in the college, while most of the remaining students made their way to the English College at Lisbon.

Father Henson occupied time by preparing a comprehensive catalogue for the big library that contains many 16th and 17th century books. This was a far from easy task – in more recent times, visiting academics have expressed admiration of the catalogue, which is typed on index cards and carefully cross-referenced.

The exact details of what else happened during this period are difficult to come by. Rumours abound of mysterious figures appearing at the college, possibly escaped prisoners of war, and of cars from the British Embassy in Madrid arriving in the small hours to take them away. Perhaps wisely, none of this was ever formally recorded.

What is known, however, is that Father Henson maintained a close relationship with the embassy and circulated information to counter propaganda from the German side. The embassy’s Press section wrote asking for his advice on publicising British material in the Spanish newspapers.

One of Father Henson’s first suggestions was to translate and distribute Pope Pius XI’s 1937 encyclical against Nazism, Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Concern), as it was all but unknown in Spain.

We also know that in 1940, Father Henson was invited to a private dinner with new British ambassador Sir Samuel Hoare and that October the ambassador visited Valladolid.

In the months that followed, the embassy asked him about certain individuals in Valladolid, including whether they were German sympathisers or would be able to help the British war effort. He told them of a shopkeeper who was prepared to buy wireless receivers from England if he could get an import licence and college student Father Gerald Chidgey, who was undertaking further studies at the University of Comillas, was able to circulate publications provided by Father Henson to promote the British cause.

When the tide of the war changed in 1945, Father Henson was instructed by the Embassy to take possession of the German Consulate in Valladolid. He found only a deserted office with a single table.

Father Henson also fed information to the BBC, criticising the tone of their reports and pointing out inaccuracies in their pronunciation of Spanish names and places. He advised on the best radio wavelengths for the BBC to use and how to avoid jamming by the enemy. In doing this he was building on earlier links forged with the BBC during the Spanish Civil War, when he began broadcasting to England from local station FET Valladolid. His objective and fair reports are quoted in some of the histories of the Civil War. Historian Hugh Thomas, for example, quotes Father Henson on the number of Republicans who were put to death in Valladolid following the uprising, when the city had been rapidly taken over by Nationalist forces at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936.

Bravely, Father Henson decided to reopen the college as soon as possible after the Second World War and the first group of students arrived in 1947. Gradually, a full six-year course was established and by the mid-1950s there were 35-to-40 students.

Father Henson died in February 1961 and was buried in the college grave in the cemetery at Valladolid, known as Spes Nostra, an underground vault excavated from the dry, sandy soil. When later rector Monsignor David Greenstock was buried in 1990, the vault was opened and Father Henson’s coffin was found to be well preserved and resting on stone blocks.

Visiting The College

Although our primary focus is always priestly formation of the seminarians, when we are able to do so we warmly welcome groups and individual visitors who would like to learn more about St Alban’s crucial role in the life of the Catholic Church.

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