St. Boniface College, Warminster

Extract from "The Changing Face Of Warminster" by Wilfred Middlebrook, published in 1971:

Across the street [Church Street], further along, are the imposing and lofty buildings that once housed St. Boniface Theological College, giving an atmosphere of quiet scholasticism as one walks along this pleasant street, curving continuously towards the town. An old resident of Coldharbour recalled the first building of St. Boniface, springing as it did from a small house which was enlarged as time went by. Nearby was a block of cottages on the site later occupied by the Warden’s residence.

The founder of the College was the Rev. James Erasmus Philipps, M.A., one-time Vicar Of Warminster, who was born at Boyton in 1824 (his father, the Rev. Sir James Erasmus Philipps, was assistant curate at Boyton). He was Vicar Of Warminster from 1859 to 1897, and succeeded his father as 12th Baronet in 1873. He had a passion for building, being the originator of St. John’s Church (1865), St. John's School (1868), the Cottage Hospital (1866 - rebuilt 1928), the Orphanage Of Pity (1867), St. Denys’ Home (1868) - the first three Sisters were professed in 1879, St. Denys’ College and St. Monica’s School. He also restored the Parish Church Of St. Denys, also known as the Minster, at a cost of about £10,000, practically rebuilding it except for the tower, the south porch and the Lady Chapel.

The Warminster Mission House, as it was first called, was a small house nearer the church, across the road. A larger house was taken in 1863, now called the Old Building, a spacious house with lovely gardens valued then at £1,100, and held on a yearly tenancy until a Mrs. Torrance of Norton Bavant House gave £1,000 towards its purchase. Byne House stands directly across the road from the Old Building. There is a story to the effect that the Old Building was erected by the brother of the builder of Byne House in order to spoil the view, and there is no doubt about the fact that it has certainly succeeded in its purpose if such were the case.

The name of the Mission House was changed to St. Boniface in 1871. The Warden had received a letter from Bishop Cotton of Calcutta expressing a wish “to see a body of men at work on the old Columba and Boniface systems.” The following day there was dug up in the terrace behind Portway House, at a depth of nine feet, a leaden ‘bulla’ on which was stamped the name of Pope Boniface IX, once Pope of Rome. The co-incidence was too great to be ignored, and the College took its new name of St. Boniface. 

This fine building, with its spacious grounds and lovely chapel erected in 1927, was attached to King’s College of London as a post-graduate college for theological students after the last War, but is now used by the Lord Weymouth’s Grammar School.

A feature of St. Boniface College in its heyday was the annual July Festival, when countless visitors and friends attended the College. A mammoth procession of students and clergymen from all parts of the Diocese wended its way from the College grounds to the Minster Church for the Anniversary Service. This was followed by luncheon in a large marquee in the College grounds. This annual procession with colourful banners attracted large crowds.

A farewell party for nearly a hundred people was held in May 1969 before the College was transferred to St. Augustine’s College, Canterbury. 

During the last War, the premises were occupied in turn by the Brigade Of Guards, the United States Army, and Salisbury Teachers’ Training College. In 1948 the College was re-opened by King’s College of London. Now, a newly-painted board announces the ownership or tenancy of the Lord Weymouth Grammar School.