I very nearly put the nunnery on Milton Road in Swindon in 50 Buildings but didn’t. So I have to include it in this Swindon in 50 More Buildings series, because it’s unique in Swindon. There is no other nunnery – or ex-nunnery – in the town. Unless someone can tell me otherwise.

And also, I can’t hear the word ‘nunnery’ without hearing Shakespeare’s Hamlet telling Ophelia to ‘… get thee to a nunnery … in Act 3, scene 1 of the eponymous play. So that feels like a good enough reason to include it too. Also called St Marks’ Mission House this building housed religious sisters from Wantage.

The Nunnery on Milton Road

The sisters of Wantage

The nuns were part of the Community of St Mary the Virgin. In 1848, William John Butler, the then 29 year old vicar of Wantage founded the community. He did that in the wake of the spiritual revival in the Church of England known as the Oxford Movement. CSMV – one of the first Anglican Religious Communities founded in England since the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.

In 1849, Harriet Day, a farmer’s daughter, came to assist the Revd William Butler in the formation of this new Sisterhood. And, in 1854, Simon Wilberforce, then Bishop of Oxford, installed her as the first Reverend Mother. A position she held for 33 years.

British History online – Swindon Churches

Found here: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol9/pp144-159

To deal with the continually increasing parochial work, 1880 saw the appointment of the the first assistant priests. A few years later there were five assistants. And from then until about the middle of the 20th century five or six was the usual number. Since the Second World War there have generally been only two. 

 To help with parochial work two sisters from the Community of St. Mary the Virgin, Wantage (Berks.) were sent to Swindon in 1891. 1896 saw a house was built for them in Milton Road – the Nunnery on Milton Road. And, after that date, a few sisters from Wantage worked in St. Mark’s parish. They were most active about the beginning of the 20th century when they ran a day school in Maxwell Street and organized various clubs in the parish. By 1965 the demand for their services was much reduced.

When the nuns decided to upsticks and return to the mother house in 1968, the vicar of St Mark’s expressed much regret at their going, saying he couldn’t imagine the parish without them.

Date 1895 on the nunnery on Milton Road

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