One of the features of the Province that has not previously featured in this account is the work of the Youth Retreat Centre at Savio House, Bollington. Originally Ingersley Hall was a smallish Country House, built in the 1750s by the Gaskell family which eventually came to the Lomas family. It was handed over to the Salesians in 1952 and started life as a House of Studies for post-novices studying Philosophy. When the students moved back to Beckford, Bollington became a publications centre and a not much loved centre for training lay brothers, as was summed up in one famous oft quoted comment: 'a cemetery with lights on'.
In the aftermath of the Vatican Council, the idea of developing a Salesian Spirituality Centre, similar to the centres being redeveloped by the Jesuits where the distinctive charism of the Salesians could be experienced in residential retreats gave new life to Savio House.
Building up an expert Salesian team that could offer such an input and finding audiences that were willing to pay for it was always a struggle. What has emerged is a successful youth retreat centre, directed by Salesians and groups of Young Volunteers who increasingly started taking a gap year between School and University while sharing community life with the Salesians. The facilities have been gradually redeveloped and now serve young people from a wide area of the North West region.
At Battersea, the difficulties of running a small, single sex comprehensive school in an increasingly competitive situation, and the reduction of direct engagement of the increasingly aged community in the work of the school meant that various attempts were made to re-envisage our presence there.
The Sacred Heart parish had effectively become a separate community and when the Primary School moved to new premises nearer Clapham Junction, the parish found itself with a large premises in need of repair and not much used. The possibilities of redevelopment began to be explored. The rediscovery of the De Stacpoole Trust, which had become moribund allowed the sale of the property and the building of the new Don Bosco Parish Centre on the opposite side of the Sacred Heart Church which was opened in February 2012.
A separate student community had been established in Orbel Street in 1991 but the remnants of the College community moved from Surrey House and were united in the Rinaldi community in August 1998, when it became obvious that sharing a building with a day school was not really any longer an option.
Setting up a separate Provincial Youth Office beside the Parish House was one attempt to revitalise the work there, though shortage of personnel made this short-lived. Developing Battersea as an international student house was approved by the Provincial Chapter and may well still become a new way forward for the community.
Redeveloping the Salesian College, as an academy had already been under discussion with the diocese when the Labour Government promoted its' Building Schools for the Future Programme' of rebuilding all the country's secondary schools in 2009. This seemed like an opportunity that was too good to miss.
The plan that emerged was for the College to combine with John Paul II School near Wimbledon Common and to be rebuilt on the Battersea site. This project was consulted on and supported by Wandsworth Borough Council who saw it as a way of re-structuring and improving two small struggling Catholic Secondary schools. The process of School amalgamation was undertaken and a new Head appointed but when, with the arrival of the new Coalition Government the whole 'Building Schools for the Future' was cancelled, including our rebuild, the whole project seemed to be fatally undermined. By that stage, the new St John Bosco College was already due to open on the Wimbledon site in September 2011, whereupon the new Head resigned and the whole project moved into crisis mode. With outstanding help from the Head of the Salesian School, Chertsey, a new Headteacher was appointed, the amalgamation of the staffs was achieved and the Wimbledon site received a facelift, so that the students could begin their education in September 2011 and the Sixth Form could open the following year.
In the meantime the Salesians and the Diocese, explored the possibility of using the capital receipts from the sale of the John Paul II site and part of the Salesian College site to finance a new build at Battersea without any help from central government. This scheme has also allowed the Salesians to develop their own plans for a new purpose built community house on the Surrey House site. Negotiations with a large building company and the diocese lead eventually to a successful outcome so that the building of the new College and community house is due to begin in January 2014 with completion due in September 2015.