The Archive of St. Joseph’s College, Mark Cross, 1924-1970,on the 50th anniversary of its closure
Joanne Halford, St John’s Archivist
Sometime after the closure in 1970 of the “junior seminary” of St. Joseph’s College at Mark Cross for thirteen to eighteen year olds, a small but interesting set of records was sent to St John’s for safekeeping. This collection appealed to me as a good place to start my work as archivist, because it mirrors the senior seminary archive in terms of subject matter and record types, but it is more manageable in size and unlikely to have many further accruals.I have cleaned and catalogued the paper records and photographs and placed them in appropriate acid free folders and boxes.The following paragraphs aim to give a flavour of the contents of the Mark Cross archive.Look out for the catalogue which will be made available on the Catholic Heritage website later in the year (https://www.catholic-heritage.net/)
Mark Cross student records
This series comprises a register of all students, 1925-1948, and a register of “Students who have passed public examinations and students who have gone to St. John’s Seminary, Wonersh, and other Seminaries”. These volumes are subject to Data Protection regulations and individuals may only apply to the archivist to consult their own record.
A diary providing a detailed account of daily life at the College was kept. Known as the “College Chronicle”, it was completed by a senior student appointed to be “Diarist”. The Diarist records Masses, feast days, visitors, illness, sport, holidays, exams, choir, Old Boys’ Days, plays, concerts and much more. A complete series of six hard bound volumes survives. Each of the volumes has loose inserts of drama, music and sports programmes, as well as other relevant material. These quaintly illustrated team sheets are for “International” football matches between Ireland and England, which were a regular feature at Mark Cross during the 1950s.
It was “Amazing how many people [at Mark Cross] become Irish on St. Patrick’s day. The English team for the [1945 football] International had to be completed by several conscripts, but even then the game was close. Ireland won 3-1.” Hockey was also played that year “without any serious accidents”, although the illustration which accompanies the report seems to indicate otherwise! (The Wonersh Gazette, May 1945).
A different perspective can be gained by reading the “Rector’s Chronicle” which was faithfully kept by Mgr Ernest Corbishley, first Rector of Mark Cross between 1924 and 1954. For most years, he lists the students and records the highlights of the year. This entry records the first visit to Mark Cross by the Bishop of Southwark on 2 February 1925.
This series includes a Liber Hebdomadarius noting the officiating priest’s rota for the students involved in the celebration of Masses in the college chapel for each of the following periods, 1932-1944, 1944-1958 and 1958-1965. There is also a Liber Onerum recording Masses to be said between 1943-1969.
There are several sets of views of Mark Cross capturing the building from various vantage points as well as showing key internal features such as the chapel, the refectory, the study hall and upper and lower corridors.
So far I have discovered only one whole house photograph of the students of Mark Cross and that shows the very first intake in 1925. We are keen to add to this series, so if readers have any photographs from their time at the college, we would be glad to have a copy.
In June 1944, Dilnott Stokes, Auctioneers and Surveyors of Tunbridge Wells, were instructed to carry out a detailed buildings and contents valuation. The resulting detailed survey enables us to build a picture of each room in the College. We know what was hanging on the walls of the rector’s study, what books sat on the library shelves, and what equipment was at the disposal of the kitchen staff. Such surveys are valuable documents for social history and we can imagine a film maker using this to recreate faithfully a Catholic school during wartime!
We hope that the Mark Cross archive collection will play a part in keeping the memory of the college alive. We hope also that any Mark Crucians reading this will be inspired to send in their reminiscences and copies of any documents/photographs they might have, so that they might be added to the collection. If you would like to consult the archive or have any questions, please get in touch with the archivist, Jo Halford: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01483 892217