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Alton Abbey to close bakery

07 February 2014

by a staff reporter

MONKS at the Anglican Benedictine monastery in Hampshire, Alton Abbey, are to close down their bakery in an attempt to address the Abbey's financial difficulties.

The bakery has been making and selling thousands of altar breads each year, but a review showed that the Abbey was subsidising its operation and it can no longer afford to do so. The Abbey will, however, continue to make and sell incense, a business that the current Abbot, the Rt Revd Dom Giles Hill, established 47 years ago.

He said last week that the closure of the bakery was part of a strategy to address holes in the Abbey's finances, which were revealed last year on its website. "We realised we had been basically subsidising the bakery, and we cannot afford to do that any longer. The incense sales earn us an income, but most of our income comes from our guest house."

Bookings for 2014 in the guest house are already well under way, he said. The Abbey's guest-house opens from February to November, as the Abbey - situated on the highest spot in Hampshire - can be cut off in the depths of winter.

Abbot Hill said that he had been "deeply moved" by the messages of support - many including donations - which had been sent in by people after news of the Abbey's financial position was revealed.

"It is so easy, living in a monastery four miles from the nearest town, not to realise how much your presence is valued. We have faced a financial situation like this twice before in my time, and at this present moment we have no intention of going anywhere; but we are leaving it up to God.

"People have asked if I am frightened, and I say I am worried, not frightened: we put total and complete faith in God, and that is how we have always lived."

There are seven monks at the Abbey, and two members of staff, and a regular congregation of about 40 people each Sunday.

Abbot Hill said that the guest house was in great demand, and that he and the other brethren were booked to see people every day through February.

"It is a ministry that, we can see, is increasing a thousand-fold. People come to us when they are in trouble or they simply need to talk or need space, and they come from all over, not just Hampshire.

"I cannot think that, after all these years, this ministry will come to an end simply because of financial difficulties. In time, we will no doubt find out what God wants."

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