Convent Orphanage in Baldock

Edwin Weston

My name is Edwin Weston and I am trying to locate a convent orphanage in Baldock where my brother and I resided for about three years in the early fifties. As we were both very young (6 and 7 years of age when we left), we do not remember any details of the location or name of the convent. I remember the large dinner hall and being served hot lemonade and bread and jam. There was a big stairway going up to the dormitories. The convent had its own spacious grounds at the back which were surrounded by farmland. I remember there were rose gardens (I think) and also being taken by the sisters to watch some kind of coronation parade, but did not see very much because it was so crowded. The sister superior was an elderly little lady. I remember once I was sick and had to stay in the locked dormitory and a sister brought me lunch on a tray. I got very lonely and jumped out of the second floor window and gashed my lip. A policeman came to my bedside the next day and told me I was a naughty boy.

I live in Canada now and have never returned to Baldock, but I’m curious to know the name and exact location of the convent. Based on the memories and comments of other people, I believe it may be St Joseph’s convent (but I am not sure). Does anyone know if the convent is still there? Also is there a photo of it anywhere? Any information would be much appreciated.

This page was added on 23/02/2017.

Comments about this page

  • This at one time may have been an orphanage but it evolved into a boarding and day school. The boarders were often children of families where both parents worked, and several of these were immigrant families. I remember the Greek/Cypriot Papandreous:George and Yioulla; ditto Nicholas and Margarette Makafides; Gordon and Marilyn Martyr who were I think from India, John Symes from what was then called Ceylon. several other siblings boarded together: the Tipper sisters Joan and Veronica; Geoffrey and Michael Haver. Other boarders I remember Caroline King, Sean McConville and John Brogan (who seemed to live at the convent), Pascal Wollard, not a name you would forget. Some of the older boys I remember: Lorenzo De Neo and Peter Max-Lloyd. Of the day pupils in our class were the Gerards Doyle and Solish; Susan Only or Awnley; Roland Rogers and John Bysouth, and Catherine Fitzgerald. Catherine and Gerald Hankin were invariably top of the various classes, I think Gerald left before the 11 plus class. Catherine unfortunately was killed in a car accident when she was about 15. Bridget Mynott also died young, her death was featured in the papers as a drugs related story.
    We often hear stories about the harsh treatment meted out by priests and nuns in Catholic institutions, the Magdalen laundries etc, but the Convent was not like this at all. I think the tone was set by the two brightest nuns there, Sister Ailbe and Sister Genevieve, who between them taught the two year groups prior to the 11 plus class, Sister Clare taught the latter. They were both kind but not soft and commanded respect, I never saw either use a cane, though Sister Ailbe did once spank a boy (Sean) in front of all in the playroom. They being the strong personalities they were, were able to give a lead to all the others, though they didn’t need much prompting for example Sister Germanna was another kindly soul, as was the Mother Superior at the time. The one great drawback was the food, simply awful. I learnt to loath leeks, marrow and boiled onions, all of which I think were grown by Sister Collette, in her garden which we ran past as the cry went up “Up the field”. We had plenty of space to play up there, I remember the big horse chestnut tree that stood in the top field, where the cricket pitch was. The football pitch below that. There was a tennis court but I don’t remember seeing the pupils on it that often.
    There was no tv, and only the radio at tea time, but luckily enough, a couple of us were allowed into the gardener’s house (Mr Seymour) to watch the 1959 Cup Final. The following final in 1960 was played on the same day that Princess Margaret got married, and a tv was hired to watch that and kept on for the afternoon game.
    All in all such pleasant memories of the girls particularly, and those two outstanding people: Sisters Ailbe and Genevieve. I went back to Baldock, Haselmere and London to see as many as I could in the early eighties, and what struck me then was that they were all Irish, a factor I hadn’t realised as a child.

    By George Wright (07/04/2021)
  • Both my sister and I were at The Convent of Providence in
    the early 50s. I remember Sister Clare,and the pony riding
    each week in the field.
    Tony ellison and my sister is Avril

    By tony ellison (03/12/2020)
  • I was there in 1961 when i was ten..you guys have brought so many memories flooding back.I recall we were given our pocket money once a week to buy sweets..me and two of my friends planned to discreetly take more money than needed and escape from the covent that night..which we did.It was so exiting.We left the grounds and kept walking through the night with no idea of direction..we walked what seemed for hours..A policeman on his bike suddenly appeared..”Hey boys what are you doing walking so late at night”,We said,going home to london!!!.He made us follow him to the police station..the police were so kind..kit kats..hot chocolate..so warm cosy and comfortable there with the police..until the convents driver came to take us back.The nuns were waiting..and boy did we get it.They sent us up to our dormitory..not a word was spoken.We thought we got away lightly..the nuns waited till we fell asleep..then woke us and, gave us the biggest strapping you can imagine..great memories😂😂😂

    By Christopher Patroklou (29/07/2020)
  • Hi Edwin, I was at the CONVENT OF PROVIDENCE in Baldock in the early ’60s. Your description closely matches my memories of the place. I remember the big dining hall. Breakfast was bread and jam, and supper was hot lemonade and bread. I think that lunch was the only hot meal of the day (except Sundays when we had spam, which was a huge treat! I remember the big staircase up to the dormitories. The grounds, which seemed huge to me, (I was 7 when I went there) backed onto farmland. There was a rose garden through which we walked to get to a Lourdes grotto where we went to say the Angelus when the weather was nice. There was also an apple orchard and green houses that some of the nuns tended. I think that much of the food that we ate was grown at the convent. I remember us all, inmates and nuns together, shelling peas when the pea crop was harvested. The nuns were wonderfully kind to me. I will always be grateful to them.

    By Chris Austen (05/12/2018)
  • i was in a kinda nunnery in baldock in the 50,s’i just wana know where it is and what was it.this is my name now,but at the time it was the greek version.mickalagis gavrielidis

    By michael.gavriel (29/09/2017)
  • You can see pictures of the convent as it looks now at:

    https://stmichaelshitchin.wordpress.com/st-josephs-convent-baldock/

    By Stefan (23/02/2017)
  • Hi Edith, there was indeed a St Joseph’s convent in Baldock. The building still exists but it is no longer a convent – I believe it may be a care home.

    By Stefan (23/02/2017)
  • Dear Edwin Weston, please contact Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies who may be able to help with your enquiry

    http://www.hertsdirect.org/hals

    By S Williams (23/02/2017)

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