The Lady Statue returns to Stonyhurst

former pupil Lawrence Leong & the family of former pupils Winton & Lt. Col. James de St John-Pryce
The Lady Statue, former pupil Lawrence Leong & the family of former pupils Winton & Lt. Col. James de St John-Pryce

The Lady Statue has become an iconic sight for all those who visit Stonyhurst College, standing tall at the top of the Avenue since 1882. The statue, a replica of the one in Rome (set up by Pope Pius IX) was a gift from Mr Thomas Eyre, brother of the then Stonyhurst Rector, Fr William Eyre SJ.

Last year, after 136 years, the Statue was removed from her plinth and sent away for conservation and last week she was returned. To celebrate the occasion the newly-restored “Lady Statue” was blessed in a ceremony involving Fr Tim Curtis SJ (Chaplain at the College and Parish Priest of Stonyhurst & Hurst Green), Fr Brendan Callaghan SJ (Chaplain to the Stonyhurst Association – the Alumni association of the College), and Canon Brian McConkey (Vicar of St John’s Anglican Church in Hurst Green).

Beginning in St Peter’s Church with prayers and a reading from the Gospel of the Annunciation, the congregation of College members and parishioners processed up the Avenue while praying the Rosary (and hoping that it wasn’t really going to rain…). By the time the Statue was reached, the drizzle had died away, and after prayers led by Fr Curtis and Canon McConkey, “Our Lady of the Avenue” was blessed by Fr Callaghan.

The restoration had been made possible by the generosity of Stonyhurst Alumni, notably the Leong and St John-Pryce families. Since the statue stands on a pillar which itself stands on a mound, the wreath of flowers to crown Our Lady was laid by Mr & Mrs St John-Pryce at the foot of the mound in a moment of deep silence.

Fr Callaghan commented: “The ‘Lady Statue’ had been a landmark of my boyhood at Stonyhurst, and it was a real joy to be able to return after half-a-century to bless this beautifully restored statue in a ceremony which brought together college and parish, Catholics and Anglicans.”

A spokesperson for Stonyhurst College said, “thanks to the kind donations made to the Genesis Project and the wonderful craftsmanship of Rupert Harris, the Lady Statue has returned to her home at the top of The Avenue and will once more be a beacon to all who visit the College.”