After a 150 year presence in Darlington, the Poor Clare Sisters moved out of their abbey to leave the region for a new convent in Herefordshire.
The abbey has been gifted to the Brothers of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God. The relationship between the Brothers and the Poor Clare Sisters goes back to Scorton, in North Yorkshire, where both Orders were once based: the Sisters from 1807 to 1850 and the Brothers from 1880 to 2004. The Poor Clare Order is a direct continuation of one founded in Gravelines, Belgium, which came to England in 1795 to escape persecution following the French Revolution. The Order has been in the region since 1807, when Sir Caranby Haggerston, a benefactor, offered his castle in Northumberland for the use of the Order. The Sisters then moved to Scorton, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, in 1807, before moving to Darlington in 1850 and buying land offered by the neighbouring Carmelite sisters. In 1855 the Sisters laid the foundation stone of the Abbey and by 1857 they were established.
Over many years, the Order has continued to hold close links with the Sisters. It has always tried to respond to the Sisters’ need for food and material aid. It is this loyalty and care shown by the Brothers over the years that inspired the Poor Clare Sisters to leave the abbey to the Order so that we can develop the property for the good of those in need.
The abbey and the grounds are extensive. We are beginning a major piece of work to discover how we can use this gift to its full potential. Many ideas are being thought through, for example some form of nursing home for the elderly with special provision for those living with dementia, and/or some provision for the young with physical or learning disability. Another idea is that we make provision for those already in our care throughout the country whose needs are changing as they are be coming older and will require more specialised support.