Hunston Convent’s French back-story

In 1871 an expatriate English community of Carmelite nuns returned to England to their new Chichester Carmel, at Hunston just outside the Sussex city. The origins of the community were in 17th Century England, but they had escaped anti-Catholic measures by migrating abroad to the Low Countries and thence, eventually, in the 19th Century to Valognes, in Normandy, France. Here’s a snippet about the Normandy part of that story.

There is more on this story written from historic documents by one of the community’s 21st Century members in a pamphlet called I carried you. Leaving Normandy, the nuns crossed the Channel to Dell Quay, Sussex in a chartered steamship, SS Fawn. Then they began the short wait for their new home at Hunston to be ready. This post concerns their last Continental home.

The nuns had been living at Valognes, one of the main towns on the Cotentin peninsula, Normandy, which is tipped by Cherbourg. (Their new home was to be on the Manhood Peninsula, which lies south of Chichester and is tipped by the fishing town of Selsey.) The region is famous for castle and monasteries, and is celebrated by a project, “Le Pays d’art et d’histoire du Clos du Cotentin“. (“Clos” is the French for “enclosure”.) The community occupied the 18th Century Hôtel Sivard de Beaulieu, of which there are contemporary images in Wikimedia Commons. Here is an extract from the “Clos du Cotentin” work:

From 1830 to 1871, the hotel housed English Carmelites, who, for the needs of their community, had a chapel built in 1837. On August 5, 1871 the hotel was sold for 80,000 francs to the nuns of [the] Refuge de Caen, who housed girls and children. The growing number of “refugees” led them to build dormitories, a linen room and an infirmary, commissioned in September 1872. Classrooms, dining halls and dormitories, as well as the chapel, were totally ruined during the Allied bombing raids, June 1944. The hotel itself was burned down, losing a wing. The current chapel, of Reconstruction style, was rebuilt in 1959 by MM. Isnard and Epaud, architects.

Accessed from, October 2019 and translated by Google

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Publication date

14 August 2019


Mind & body