Campion Hall’s remarkable art collections are mostly due to the inspiration of one man, Fr Martin D’Arcy (1888-1976), who was the Master of the Hall for a long period in the mid-twentieth century. D’Arcy has been described as ‘perhaps England's foremost Catholic public intellectual from the 1930s until his death’. He was a friend to many of the leading writers of the English twentieth century: Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark, Edith Sitwell, Graham Greene.
He was also a man of acute sensitivity to the visual arts. He was educated at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, which inherited the collections formed in exile by the English Jesuits from the late sixteenth century onwards. As a schoolboy, D’Arcy saw precious items that had been saved during the turbulence of the Reformation period taken abroad, including vestments from the chapel of Henry VII, and a rich collection of works of art reflecting the worldwide activities of the Society of Jesus. These collections educated his eye and nourished his imagination, and also impressed him with the power of art to communicate, inspire and move people to devotion.
When he became Master of Campion Hall, D’Arcy resolved to fill the hall with art whose primary purpose was (and is) to promote dialogue. It is also a collection, which aimed to communicate something of what it meant to be English, Catholic, and a Jesuit. So there are portraits of the Catholic Stuarts, one of the finest assemblies of baroque religious art in England, and works of art related to the activities of the Jesuits worldwide, from Ibero-America to the Far East.