Catholic Legacy Week: Remembering historic benefactors to the Dominicans

Catholic Legacy Week: Remembering historic benefactors to the Dominicans

The Dominican Friars pray daily for their benefactors, living and deceased. Over the eight centuries of the friars’ mission, a great multitude of people have provided generous support that has allowed houses and churches to be built – and repaired – and the friars’ everyday needs taken care of. As we come to the end of Catholic Legacy Week 2023, here is a small selection of people over the centuries whose legacies have given vital support to the Dominicans.

Queen Eleanor of Castile (1241-90)

The great queen of Edward I ‘Longshanks’ is remembered today for the ‘Eleanor Crosses’ set up on the route of her funeral procession by her grieving husband. This highly educated and cultured Spanish woman formed a strong and cordial ruling partnership with the English king, bearing him 16 children, and even accompanying him on crusade.

Eleanor was a patron of the Dominican friars and on her death in 1290 left sums in her Will to 39 Dominican houses.


Sir Carrington Francis Turville (1690-1749)

The village of Aston Flamville in Leicestershire was an important place for the rebirth of the Dominican Order in C18th England, following two centuries of exile. The recusant Turville family encouraged the friars to come to Leicestershire, leading later to the establishment of the first post-Reformation Dominican house at nearby Hinckley in 1765.

Fr John Clarkson OP served as chaplain to the Turvilles from December 1734. Turville sold the Hall in 1746, and on his death in October 1749 left £5,000 to the Order in his Will, on condition that that a priest be appointed to the Aston mission at £30 per annum.


Josiah Spode IV (1823-93)

Great-grandson of the famous C18th potter and founder of the Spode pottery works, Josiah IV converted to Catholicism and was received into the Church in 1885 along with his niece, HELEN GULSON (d.1910). Both became Lay Dominicans in 1888. On his death in 1893, he left his country estate to Helen Gulson, to be passed on to the Dominicans after her eventual death; but she did in fact give the estate over to the friars the following year in 1894. Here was built the great Hawkesyard Priory with its grand church, which remained as the Studium (house of studies) for the friars for much of the C20th.


Marc-Andre Sebastian Raffalovich (1864-1934) and Canon John Gray (1867-1934)

These two converts of the Belle Epoque were benefactors to the Dominicans and supported the establishment of the Dominican priory on George Square in Edinburgh. Raffalovich was born and brought up in Paris into a Jewish banking family from Odessa; he studied at Oxford from 1882 before moving to London where he opened a salon and had connections with prominent persons such as Aubrey Beardsley. Under the influence of John Gray, who had become a Catholic in 1890, Raffalovich became a Catholic in 1895/6, being received at the Jesuit church in Mayfair, and became a Dominican tertiary in 1898 taking the name Sebastian.

The presence today of the Dominican House of St Albert the Great, and with it the Catholic Chaplaincy to the universities of Edinburgh, owes much to both Gray and Raffalovich, not least because it was Canon Gray’s legacy (he had received a legacy from Raffalovich) that permitted the purchase of no.23 adjoining the original no.24.


Cornelia Starks (1937-2016)

US-born Cornelia Starks was a close friend and benefactor of the Dominicans, funding scholarships at Blackfriars Hall. Cornelia taught Latin, Ancient Greek and French at Dormer House School, in Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds, and was also a school trustee. Upon her death, a generous bequest was made to Blackfriars priory in Oxford, and to the Dominicans’ Training Fund, supporting the formation of the next generation of friars. The bequest to Blackfriars priory paid for the extensive works in 2022, replacing leaking roofs, adding insulation, and repairing and replacing crumbling stonework on this historic 100-year-old listed building.

Find out more about how you too can become part of the Dominicans’ story by leaving a legacy to the Dominicans


The Development Office manages the fundraising and communications of the Dominican Friars in Britain. You can contact us on

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.