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St Mary's Abbey, Colwich
Monastery information
Full name St Mary's Abbey, Colwich
Order Benedictine
Established 1623
Dedicated to St Mary
Diocese Birmingham
Controlled churches St Mary's Abbey
Site
Location Colwich, Staffordshire, England
Coordinates 52°47′24″N 1°59′22″W / 52.7900°N 1.9895°W / 52.7900; -1.9895Coordinates: 52°47′24″N 1°59′22″W / 52.7900°N 1.9895°W / 52.7900; -1.9895

Saint Mary's Abbey in Colwich, Staffordshire was a monastery of Roman Catholic nuns of the English Benedictine Congregation, founded in 1623 at Cambrai, Flanders, in the Spanish Netherlands, and closed down in 2020. During the French Revolution, the community was expelled from France and settled at The Mount, Colwich, in 1836, where it remained for the next 84 years.

History

St Mary's Abbey of English Benedictine nuns had its origins in 1623 at Cambrai in the Spanish Netherlands. At that time, persecution made it impossible for women to become nuns in England. By 1645, the Cambrai community under Abbess Catherine Gascoigne had increased to 50 nuns, and was living in conditions of extreme poverty. On 6 February 1652, the community was established in Paris as the Priory of Our Lady of Good Hope under Dame Bridget More as their Prioress. She was a direct descendant of the martyr, St Thomas More, and had been taught at Cambrai under the spiritual supervision of the great mystical theologian, Dom Augustine Baker.

In the French Revolution, the abbey was suppressed and the nuns were imprisoned, first in the monastery and then in the Château de Vincennes. When released in 1795, they settled in England, first in Dorset and then at Cannington in Somerset. In 1836, they finally settled at The Mount, Colwich, an eighteenth century building which had been rebuilt in the Gothick style.

In 1928, the Priory was raised to the rank of an Abbey, and the house was renamed St Mary's Abbey. A daughter house at Atherstone in Warwickshire, continued as a separate community until 1967. The last abbess was Rt Rev Dame Davina Sharp.

By the year 2020 the community had declined in numbers to five after one died, and two of these were infirm. The nuns decided to close down the monastery and disperse, this taking place on 31 October as announced on the monastery website. The two infirm nuns were remaining in care at Oulton Abbey, two were transferring to Stanbrook Abbey and the abbess was remaining on site for a year. No announcement was made as regards the future of the monastery buildings.

Buildings

The abbey buildings are mainly in stone, with parts in brick and parts rendered, and with slate roofs. The main building is in Gothick style, and on the front are two turrets with a gabled section between. At the rear are various buildings arranged around a courtyard, and the grounds are enclosed by tall brick walls. It is Grade II listed. The mortuary chapel in the grounds of the abbey is also Grade II.

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