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This page contains extra information on certain subjects relating to St Louis Convent:

Sisters and Teachers of St Louis Convent School 1925-1949

NameSubjects TaughtNameSubjects Taught
Sr Angle-MarieHeadmistressSr PatriciaH/m & general
Sr Joseph Sr Mary Aloysius 
Miss W Farrell Sr AgnesHeadmistress

Sisters and Teachers of St Louis Convent School 1950-1969

NameSubjects TaughtNameSubjects Taught
Sr PatriciaHeadmistressSr AimeeH/m & general
Sr EugenieKindergartenMiss MitchellMathematics
Mrs FallowsPE & generalMrs Roegeneral
Miss MeehangeneralMrs CoffeyElocution
Mrs RedwoodTyping/ShorthandMiss Mansfieldgeneral
Sr Annunciata Mrs LitchfieldPiano
Sr Elizabeth Mrs J Williams 
Sr Veronica Sr WinifredTyping
Sr Maurita Sr Gabriel 
Sr Finbar Miss B Litchfield 
Sr Kathleen Sr Ignatious 
Sr Mary Peter Sr Frances Theresageneral

Sisters and Teachers of St Louis Convent School 1970-1984

NameSubjects TaughtNameSubjects Taught
Sr Lise BarbeauHeadmistressSr Paulinegeneral
Sr Mary ImeldageneralSr Eugeniegeneral
Sr Veronica Sr AimeeH/m & general
Sr Frances TheresageneralSr ElizabethH/m & general
Sr GertrudegeneralMrs Smithgeneral
Mrs BaxtergeneralMrs Cookfoxgeneral
Sr AlphonsegeneralMrs Fallowsgeneral
Mrs RoseGamesMrs Holmes 
Mrs WallSwimmingMr McPhersonScience
Mrs BowdenPianoMr CartwrightHistory
Mrs ThurgourSinging

If you can add anything to this list, please contact us.

The Convent - A Centennial Commemoration

“God has His designs, and perhaps He has permitted that France should for a short while exile her Religious, that the flame of Faith should re-light itself in this land…formerly sanctified by the lives of monks and martyrs, like Richard Whiting, and freshly consecrated today, by the presence of a small body of nuns, and a handful of faithful- very few but rich in the true faith...” [from the farewell sermon of Fr. Edward Chauvat, a French priest, in Glastonbury convent chapel, September 1920]

During April 1907, The Central Somerset Gazette carried a small advertisement which ran:

FRENCH LESSONS – A splendid opportunity of acquiring a good practice of the French language in a short time is offered to the young ladies of this town and neighbourhood by the French Nuns lately settled at The Priory in Magdalene-street. Accommodation for boarders – Apply to the Rev. Mother Superioress. The Sisters will also undertake all kinds of plain and fancy needlework.” 1

This seems to have been the only reference in our local paper to a landmark event in the spiritual history of Glastonbury, which otherwise received no coverage, but which a century on will be commemorated on Divine Mercy Sunday [15th April], when Fr. Kevin will be offering the 10.30 Parish Mass -for the intentions of the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis - to mark the centenary of the canonical foundation of their former convent here, almost two decades before this parish was formally established, with its own priest, in 1926.

For it was on Sunday 16th April 1907, that Fr. Louis Martin, MSC, the superior of the community of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart [resident since 1886 at ‘Tor House’- the first post-reformation mass-centre of the Glastonbury ‘mission’] blessed the sisters’ chapel - the ‘best and largest room’ in The Priory, which with some three acres of land, they had acquired three years earlier, and then found themselves unable to re-sell, [providentally as it turned out!] Following Benediction, Fr. Martin celebrated Holy Mass, before blessing the rest of the house and the adjoining cottage [where after 1913 the resident chaplain lived]- plus an outhouse, washing house and stable, which with its coach house and cart shed, was subsequently converted into a laundry [for the “taking in of washing” helped the pioneer sisters “eke out a meagre subsistence”, before teaching became their main source of income], and finally the gardens and greenhouses.

Thus, as one sister recorded, Our Blessed Lord took possession of our Convent, though “hard days followed” and Poverty reigned as Queen! for two or three decades. But despite their privations, with “heroic goodwill” the small community “prayed and trusted in Divine Providence”, “nostalgically singing hymns in their native language” [which was French – for they were exiles from Brittany – which they had been forced to leave in 1898 under pressure from the secularizing legislation of an anti-clerical government] “to keep up their spirits.” It is recorded that “happiness radiated” even when food was in short supply [resulting in poor health, and for a time the closure of the orphanage they ran 2], and “much good was done by their example.” And so “the little band of sisters plodded on in grim poverty, but content to do God’s will and wait”- for the harvest that was to come some forty [plus] years later, when their school became such “a flourishing concern.” 3 These were years of heroic poverty- though they had the “consolation” not only of the “beautiful trees” around them, but of “sharing their humble roof with the Prisoner of Love”, so as their acting chaplain [1919-20] recognized: They are not poor, because they possess God whom they lodge under their roof.

Our parish has reason to be deeply thankful for the contribution made to its development, and spiritual growth, by the St. Louis community during the eight decades that their convent stood here, close to its heart:

  • from 1913 to 1926, their chapel- under the patronage of St. Joseph- was the mass-centre for the small flock of local Catholics [it is said that “in 1919 the parishioners consisted of a Mr. and Mrs. O’Flaherty”!]- after the MSC. moved to Ireland [and the ‘Tor House’ property with its chapel, subsequently known as ‘Chalice Well’ was sold to Alice Buckton]. To quote further from Fr. Chauvat’s 1920 sermon: “They have opened wide their doors; answer their invitation. Think of their chapel as your own…fill it completely, and when the chapel can no longer hold the holy people [of God] a church will receive you”;
  • in 1926, their grey-stone stable/laundry block, suitably adapted, became the new parish’s first post-Reformation Catholic public chapel, the land on which it stood being gifted by their Mother General to the diocese, where on “to build at some future date a church more worthy of Glastonbury’s glorious past, as well as a presbytery.” During the period between the demolition of this first St. Mary’s church [1938] and the opening of the present shrine-church [1940], the convent once again functioned as the parish mass-centre;
  • the Central Somerset Gazette [July 1940] recorded that “the diocese of Clifton and the county of Somerset have been enriched by the erection at Glastonbury of the new church of Our Lady…with the same dedication and the same faith, the new St. Mary’s links up with the old, and continues as a living shrine of Our Lady of Glastonbury”; but as Fr. M.J.Fitzpatrick, the dynamic parish priest, responsible “under God and the Bishop” [William Lee- whose vision it was] for its realisation, wrote: were it not for [the sisters’] sacrifice our Church could never have been erected- that is, on this choice plot, facing “the ruins of the once great Benedictine abbey, and its world-famed chapel of the Blessed Virgin, occupying the site of the first church [dedicated to her?] in the country, and for over a thousand years a centre of Christian worship.”

As one reflects on the recorded reminiscences of the early, formative years of our parish, a strong impression is conveyed of the Christlike role of the St. Louis community, so closely conformed was their life to Him who “became poor for our sake, to make us rich out of his poverty” [cf. 2 Cor. 8,v. 9b]; and, to conclude, this writer can only echo some words from our church’s Silver Jubilee publication [1966, slightly adapted]:

“We who have come later enjoy the fruits of all [their] labour and generosity, and may seem to take it for granted. We have come into a wonderful inheritance without having to work for it; so we [should] work to enhance what is already so beautiful, and [continue] to build up a parish of living faith and love for God and for one another.” Amen.

Michael Protheroe [for ‘The Shrine’, April 2007]

1 I am indebted to Dr. T. Hopkinson-Ball for unearthing this. ‘Reminiscences of an old parishioner of St. Mary’s’, which were printed in the church’s Silver Jubilee publication [1966], was written by one of these French conversation pupils, perhaps a decade later, and records a number of conversions that came about, that, together with the arrival of Belgian refugees after the outbreak of the Great war, helped to boost Mass attendances.

2 Though a two year old baby remained during that period, 1912-13 - Marie Therese Woods, later to become Sister Eugenie of Jesus, “so greatly loved by so many Glastonbury people.” The orphanage was finally closed in 1944.

3 Until its much lamented closure in 1984 - such a loss to Glastonbury.

Brief History of The Priory in Magdalene Street, Glastonbury

The Priory was built in 1836 for William Naish, a solicitor, and his wife Marianne.

According to the 1851 census, William and his family have moved to Ston Easton, near Bath and his two sisters, Sarah Greenhill and Anna are living in the Priory with a few servants. The Priory continued to be their home until 1892 by which time they had both died. The new owner of the Priory was Eustace Barker, the bank manager of the Wilts and Dorset bank in the High Street in Glastonbury. He lived there with his wife, children and servants. An inscription on the veranda ironwork reads EB 1893, which would suggest that the canopy over the veranda was added at that date.

In 1904 the Sisters of St Louis bought the Priory, firstly using it as an orphange, then opening a school there as well. In 1953 the Sisters bought Somerset House next door to the Priory and a covered passageway was constructed between The Priory and Somerset House, which led to the kitchens in Somerset House. Somerset House was originally built to be the Somerset County Constabulary Headquarters where the Chief Constable of Somerset lived.

In 1984 the school closed and the Sisters left. The Priory then became Abbey school, being the pre-preparatory part of Millfield school of Street. In 2002, this school closed. In 1984, Somerset House became offices for a computer company.

In 2008, the Priory has been restored and made into two town houses - the front half being named Naish House and has five bedrooms and the back half is named Greenhill House and has four bedrooms. The Priory has been restored back to it's former Georgian glory. The former chapel is now a lounge, which measures nearly 30 feet by 21 feet and is approx 20 feet high, with a lovely ceiling centrepiece. The old range of the Priory kitchen has been restored and is in the kitchen of Naish House. The vaulted area under the former chapel is now a bedroom.