Our 140th Anniversary 1878-2018 – Part 0ne

Our 140th Anniversary 1878-2018 – Part 0ne

On September 29th, feast of St Michael and All Angels, we will celebrate the 140th anniversary of our foundation. In the intervening weeks we would like to share with you something of our story.

The idea of having a Carmelite monastery in London had first been raised by Cardinal Wiseman and Fr Faber of the Oratory, probably as far back as 1850. This was the dream that had caused Fr Faber to send three of his penitents to the first French Carmel at the Rue d’Enfer in Paris. One of these was Lady Minna Fitzalan-Howard, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, who became Sr Mary of St Joseph. When she made Profession in 1862, in an act of generosity on the part of the Paris Carmel, her inheritance was set aside to be used for the projected foundation in London.

On June 5th 1874 the decision was formally made to begin the work of planning the foundation, under the guidance of Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity (Elizabeth Thompson), one of Fr Faber’s converts and another of the three postulants he had sent to Paris. The third was, by this time, too old to take any part other than prayer and keen interest.

The necessary permission of Archbishop Manning of Westminster was obtained and, after many delays and disappointments, it was he who found for them the land on which the monastery now stands, in what is now the famed Notting Hill district of London. The strongest desire of the nuns was that the new Carmel should conform in every way to the spirit of their great foundress, St Teresa of Avila, and that the building itself should be as poor and austere as St Teresa would have wished. Admittedly, this caused much perplexity to the poor architect, not lessened by the fact that he had no French and all the necessary correspondence between Paris and England had to be copied and translated. Nevertheless, the work was begun, with the aim of building initially only the Chapel, which was the generous gift of the Duchess of Norfolk, and one wing of the monastery. There was no money for more at this point.