St John's Seminary was established in 1891 to train students for the priesthood. While it serves mainly dioceses of the South of England, it also provides formation for students from dioceses further afield and for members of religious orders.
Since 1985 it has offered courses in theology for lay (external) students. These courses now run alongside the academic programme offered to students in formation. This programme is validated by the University of Surrey, of which the Seminary is an Associated Institution.
The Seminary is also a valuable resource for the local church, and provides a venue for various groups including the formation programme for the Permanent Diaconate, as well as a centre of expertise in the work of formation and sacred science.
The motto "spes messis in semine" (the hope is in the sowing), speaks of confidence in the work done at the Seminary for the future of the Church and the Kingdom of God.