St Laurence Convent, Field Lane, Belper
TThe Anglican convent of the sisters of St Laurence situated in Field Lane is a fine building of stone three storeys high erected in 1882/1885 at a cost of £12,000. The sisters were engaged in parochial visiting and nursing. The rule of the sisters was based on that of East Grinstead.
The convent was erected on land purchased from the Strutt family. The foundress and first mother Superior was Ellen Lee who died in 1901. The gardens were carefully tended by a gardener and nearly every window had a colourful windowbox full of flowers. The building's fascia was covered over in Ivy at the end of the Victorian period.
Quote from Novice during the 60's "The room on the ground floor, extreme right, was the "community room." This is where, for one hour each day, the sisters would gather together for an hour of recreation. This involved sitting around a big table in front of those windows, everyone had either knitting or sewing to do, no-one was allowed to ever be idle, nor was reading permitted at recreation. The windows on extreme left, top floor, contained what was known as the Novitiate. This comprised of a large sitting room, sparsely furnished with table and chairs, and many bookcases. Next to this was a small school room, with desks. This is where the novices would gather each afternoon, to be instructed in the Religious life by the Mistress of Novices. The recreational hour of the novices was spent in the sitting room, being invited to join the sisters only on special occasions."
The chapel contained several stained-glass windows in the North and South walls and an organ in the West End. This picture was by Edward Bala around 1900. An orphanage and school were also run from the convent.
The convent was converted into flats and houses in 2004 by Peveril Homes. While the three-storey brick houses surrounding the dormitory and chapel of the convent seemed incongruous at the time of building, and those of us who could remember the tranquil garden with its lawns, old trees and birdsong, we can begrudgingly say that it is not the absolute eyesore that we are first feared.
One of the ladies who was a novice in the convent between 1966 - 1968 has kindly sent some information, a photo, and a poem.
TAKING THE VEIL
PHOTO: Postcard of Sister Joyce, Mistress of Novices, laying one of the tables in the refectory. There was a small "shop" situated in the cloister, which sold religious mementos and postcards of the convent for visitors.
It was many years ago, when innocence was mine,
A hundred year old house that was built to be a shrine.
I entered o'er the threshold, forsaking everything,
For in those days i did believe that God was truly King.
Six months or more I spent in prayer, down upon my knees,
My faith was deep and precious, my God I wished to please.
The Great Day came, those months they passed in silent contemplation,
I tood the Veil, (a white one,) and there was no flagellation.
Those days most thankfully did pass, many years ago,
The Convent was a good one, and helped my soul to grow.
There were no penances to do, despite my daily falters,
I still recall the incense and the faded, dusty psalters.
Saint Laurence was our namesake, (the patron saint of cooks,)
And the Convent had a library which overflowed with books.
Many a treasure I found within this old and holy dwelling,
But a sadness came to me today, I heard the nuns are selling.
Their numbers sadly dwindled, half a dozen old
Bent and wizened brides of Christ, their story must be told.
Their Mother House is to become luxury penthouse homes.
The sadness of their ending chills my very bones.
They're banished off to Nottingham, a modern tasteless twist,
They said good-bye to Mother House, its portals they all kissed.
I entered there at seventeen, and left just two years later...
For them I'd only wish for Grace, from their Lord and Maker.
Information About The Order & Convent
The Protestant order of St Laurence sisterhood was established in Belper in 1877 and Field Lane Convent was built on land purchased from the Strutts, with Father E.A. Hillyard, the Christchurch vicar, and Ellen Lee the foundress offered guidance.
The Community of St. Laurence (CSL) is an Anglican religious order of nuns. Established in 1874, the order's house is located in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England. The community was originally established to provide pastoral care, but now focuses more on retreat work and assisting at the cathedral of the Diocese of Southwell.
Community of St Laurence
Registered Charity : No. 220282 (UK)
link to Youtube video from 1950's of the convent and its work
link to a longer version of the above, re-done in 1961 with a commentary (much better quality)
link to a page about their religious order and contact details
The Sisters cared for the 'Treasures' of the Church - those in need of love and care, including elderly ladies. In the 1990s more time was given to Retreat Work after the Residential House was closed, and in 2001 the Community moved to a new purpose-built convent in Southwell, adjacent to Sacrista Prebend Retreat House. The Sisters support the work of the Cathedral and Retreat House as they are able. Address: Convent of St Laurence, 4 West Road, Southwell, Notts