Newly-qualified teachers offered flats in convent

11 May 2018

SIMON BUNYARD

A room at St Mary’s Lodge

A room at St Mary’s Lodge

A COMMUNITY of nuns have turned one of their buildings into flats for newly qualified teachers.

The Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV), in Wantage, Oxfordshire, no longer had any use for a large 19th-century country house on their land, known as St Mary’s Lodge.

Rather than let the property commercially, the Sisters decided to use the house to further their long-standing interest in education, and have now converted it into six dwellings, which will be rented to young teachers at affordable rates. The conversion was funded by CSMV’s trustees.

“The cost of accommodation in Oxfordshire is very high,” Alastair Hunter, who chairs the trustees, said. “The Community of St Mary the Virgin has a long and very active association with education and teaching. The Sisters wanted to offer accommodation to the next generation of teachers, attracting the brightest and best to serve the schools and communities of Wantage and the surrounding area.”

One teacher, Kathryn Walker, who teaches maths and PE at King Alfred’s Academy, Wantage, has already moved in. “St Mary’s Lodge is the perfect place to live, starting out in my professional career. My apartment is spacious, modern, and equipped with high-quality fixtures and fittings. It has beautiful views of the Ridgeway, is conveniently located, and I love living here.”

SIMON BUNYARDSIMON BUNYARD

The Sister-in-Charge of CSMV, Sister Stella, said that she hoped all six flats would be full by the start of the next school year, in September. “Teaching undergraduates in their final weeks at university and colleges are already applying for their first professional posts. We hope that, when the autumn term starts in September, the six flats in St Mary’s Lodge will all be taken, and that local schools and the children and families they serve will benefit from this new legacy.”

Two academy trusts near by — including the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST) — are also starting to use space at St Mary’s Convent to hold meetings and house other functions.

The chief operating officer at ODST, David Locke, said: “We are delighted with the generous support of CSMV and the Sisters in progressing this important new venture. Many teachers at schools in Oxfordshire are finding accommodation costs excessive. We believe that these new flats are a positive and innovative step forward.”

SIMON BUNYARDSt Mary’s Lodge, part of the Community of St Mary the Virgin, which has been converted into six flats for new teachers

The community, which began in 1848, was one of the first Anglican religious communities to be established after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, as a result of the Oxford Movement and Anglo-Catholic revival of the mid-19th century.

Their numbers were halved, however, in 2011, when 11 of the then 22 Sisters, including the Mother Superior, were received into the Roman Catholic Church and set up a new religious community under the auspices of the Ordinariate (News, 14 December 2012).

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