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Heritage & Culture

TRUST: The Story of Gorton Monastery by Elaine Griffiths OBE

Subject: Victorian Manchester; Manchester architecture; Manchester history; Manchester heritage; well-being; Franciscan history.

First edition, hardback, Monastery Publications, 1 December 2021, 176 pages & 304 images. ISBN 978-0-9571484-6-8

A history of the restoration of Manchester Monastery

When Elaine Griffiths stepped over crumbling masonry into the derelict nave in 1996, she was overcome with the power of this incredible Gothic masterpiece.

It was as though Gorton Monastery spoke to her. To save the church and adjoining friary, her and husband Paul set up the charity, The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust.

TRUST is the story of a labour of love. It’s one woman’s extraordinary journey over 25 years not only to restore ‘Manchester’s Taj Mahal’ but secure its future. Elaine writes frankly of the setbacks, despair, breakthroughs, and small miracles that have changed her life and touched the lives of thousands more.

A foreword from Terry Waite CBE, patron of The Monastery and founder of Hostage International

No words can adequately describe the devastation that lay before me. The tiled flooring was a disaster. The statues of saints that formerly lined the nave had disappeared. The ornate high altar now a target for brick-throwing hooligans.

I looked at Elaine and could see she was no pushover. She was the sort of person who, once she made up her mind up to something, would do it no matter what the odds. How could I refuse to join her and Paul in such a worthy cause?

This book records the story of the rebuilding. It’s a story that will bring hope to many by demonstrating that two ordinary people, with vision and commitment, can achieve what in fact is miraculous.

Terry Waite CBE

Trust Elaine Griffiths

Interview with the author, Elaine Griffiths OBE, Executive Officer at Manchester Monastery

One question I’m often asked is why I got involved with the Monastery project.

It’s very much part of our Griffiths family story and would come up in conversation whenever the family had a get-together. Whatever the occasion, it didn’t take long before someone would ask about the Monastery. Who’d seen the latest news report about yet more theft or vandalism at the empty church? Why wasn’t someone doing something to stop it? No one ever had an answer.

Many people have suggested I should write a book about saving Gorton Monastery. I’ve resisted for so long and made so many excuses: I haven’t the time; I’m not a writer and, besides, which story should I tell? Is it the very personal story of constant doubt, worry, stress and struggle, or is it the more professional, sanitised version of endless bid writing and fundraising that eventually led to triumph over adversity?

Should I be brave and share the more mystical and spiritual side of the story – where the magic of the Monastery has guided my every step? I’m sure that’s what motivated me to get involved after our first visit in the summer of 1996. Guidance came to me in dreams, meditation and intuition, and through messages from gifted people. I was sceptical at the beginning but the wisdom and reassurances from these messages have given me the courage, strength and resilience to keep on trusting.

Over the years, I’ve worked more and more with these experiences. My faith has been tested beyond belief, but prayers were always answered. In the eleventh hour, solutions would always arrive. Sometimes answers came in the form of major setbacks that did not always appear helpful. It’s only now, with the gift of hindsight, I realise everything that appeared to go wrong eventually took us one step closer to an even better result.

That’s why the title of this book is simply TRUST. I’ve learnt the hard way and that’s been the process all along. Things happen when the time is right – when everything and everyone is ready. I suppose you could call that divine timing.

This book is a summary of my personal story and a brief recollection of events. There’s so much information and so many memories. We’ve had to leave out more than we’ve included. And I recognise that, over the years, those who’ve shared some of the journey may remember things slightly differently, but that’s fine too.

We’ve nearly given up many times and reminded ourselves we’re the custodians of so many others’ hopes and dreams. We could not let them or ourselves down. The Monastery, now lovingly restored, is in the safe hands of the Trust who will always endeavour to protect and conserve it for the benefit of future generations. With its renewed focus on its charitable purpose this precious sacred heritage site can now step up to serve its highest possible purpose.

The business model is changing so our charity work takes priority, and we hope our new ‘Trusted Partners’ will do more and more in our Modern-Day Monastery. We still need commercial income to pay essential running costs. We’re optimistic that business will continue to grow as we recover from the impact of Covid and weddings and large events gradually return to normal.

Our Modern-Day Monastery is shining brightly as a sanctuary and beacon of hope, which can support others to cope with the challenges of this fast-changing world. I hope and pray we will be guided to do the right thing, so we can continue to ‘do good while doing business.’

I’m so grateful to have been given custody of this amazing project for so long. As we come to the end of this important chapter in the Monastery’s history, I realise I may be mistaken. Maybe the best is yet to come and this is actually the starting line. I will look forward to whatever the future holds and will continue to trust.

Elaine Griffiths

Buy your copy here

Trust inside


Editor’s note

This attractive, hardback, coffee-table book celebrates the 25th anniversary of The Monastery Trust and the remarkable work of those involved in restoring and caring for this precious heritage site.

Within its 176 pages are over 300 images of the site collected by Elaine Griffiths and photographer, Len Grant.

Buy your copy of TRUST online and we’ll post it to you (or perhaps to someone else as thoughtful gift).

You can also pick up a copy in our Monastery shop here at the Monastery.

As a charity, we rely on your purchases and donations to support this special heritage site.

Buy your copy here

The Monastery Manchester