Father Benet Perceval

FATHER Benet Perceval, who has died aged 92, was a monk at Ampleforth Abbey, near Helmsley, for almost 75 years, and for over 60 years was on the staff of Ampleforth College.

Peter Perceval (Benet was the name given to him when he became a monk), born in Wimbledon, and one of the four children of Major FW Perceval OBE, was always intrigued and delighted that he was related to Spencer Perceval, the only Prime Minister to be assassinated, killed just outside the House of Commons in 1812.

After Prep School with the Jesuits in Wimbledon, he came aged 10 to the Prep School at Ampleforth – this was before it was established at nearby Gilling Castle. Apart from a three-year period when he was studying at Oxford, he would spend his life in the North Yorkshire valley.

He moved from the Prep School to the Upper School, and in his final year in the school, in 1933, his back was broken in a rugby accident; he was carried up the valley on a door from the pavilion and it took many months of convalescence before he could walk again.

Clothed as a monk in September 1934 by Abbot Edmund Matthews, he was given the name Benet, after the 7th century abbot of the monasteries at Wearmouth and Jarrow, a patron of the English Benedictine Congregation.

Br Benet was solemnly professed in September 1938 and ordained priest in 1943.

For 50 years and more, from the 1940s to at least 1993, Fr Benet was involved in the school as teacher, tutor, housemaster and many other activities; in fact he was still organising fishing for students at the lakes in 2008, about 75 years after his first involvement in the school.

He spent many years teaching Latin to those who found it difficult, and for one year, from 1992 to 1993, he was acting senior classics master. Despite the injury to his back when he was a schoolboy, he took his share in taking games, and he was also manager of the school shop from 1947 to 1957.

He was founding Housemaster of St John's House for 23 years, until July 1980.

After leaving St John's House, Fr Benet was Second Master of the school from 1980 to 1986. In the Lent Term 1982, Fr Benet was acting Headmaster of the school. From 1987 to 1988 he was Sub-Prior (third in command of the monastery) and Sub-Economus. Over many years he was auditor of accounts for the Chapter. For four years, from 1988 to 1992, Fr Benet was Prior of the monastery.

Always an astute observer and helpful critic of everything from building plans to finances to school or monastery planning, he had a practical side which was seen in his carpentry – he made many things, including much for St John's House. Among his many roles, he was secretary of the Ampleforth Society.

As Warden of Woodlands, he was much involved in the replanting of the Avenue above Gilling; originally planted in 1740s, the Avenue had deteriorated, but in the 1950s it was replanted.

Fr Benet took a keen interest in the Abbey Farm, being for a time an advisor, and remaining interested until the farm was closed in the early 2000s.

In recognition of his outstanding service to the Community and the English Benedictine Congregation, in 1993 he was appointed by the Abbot President of the Congregation to the titular dignity of Cathedral Prior of Durham.

Since 2001 Fr Benet lived in the monastery infirmary, being increasingly confined to his room there. His mind remained clear and incisive: in November 2008, he organised the usual termly meeting of the trustees of the War Memorial Fund; in December 2008, he attended the annual monastic Conventual Chapter in the School Library. He died, the oldest member of his community, on January 30.