Convent Orphanage in Baldock - addition

Convent of Providence, School Photo 1954

In the correspondence, articles and memories under the heading Convent Orphanage in Baldock, I think there may be some confusion between the Convent of Providence, which was based at South Lodge on London Road, and St Joseph’s Convent that was off the Letchworth Road. The latter was known as the French Convent and I remember children from there coming to school at the convent of Providence. It is now, I see from local maps, Burleigh House Residential Home. Certainly before I left Baldock in 1966 it had ceased to have children there and had moved to caring for the elderly.

When the nuns from the Convent of Providence first came to Baldock in 1919, they set up a school called St Joseph’s College in what is now Pepper Court on the Market Place. St Joseph’s Convent was already established before that. It was in 1945 that the Convent of Providence was established at South Lodge, which had 11acres of land. (Information from the booklet, ‘ The Parish of The Holy Trinity and St Augustine of Canterbury, Baldock – One Hundred Years of History’ produced by the parish in 2013)

The photo shows the pupils of the school taken in the Sunken Garden. My sister Catie ( Catherine FitzGerald, mentioned in George Wright’s memories,) is the only one not in school uniform. She is in the picture because our mother taught occasionally at the school and she came with her. I am sitting to her left and my sister, Marian, is on the third row back second girl in from the left.

This page was added on 28/06/2021.

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  • Surprisingly no more entries since my comment in 21/09 /23 – I was looking forward to finding ‘old friends’ particularly as I remember so many – I refer to Mary below and recollect 2 sisters also boarders ‘Mary and Gloria Ashjian’ (or similar) during my time 51/54 but Mary’s entry includes different dates – also I contacted one sister about 2000 through Friends Reunited and learned about other boarders from my time – I also have another school photo taken maybe a year earlier which if of interest I can post.

    By Jim Norris (10/01/2024)
  • Excellent memories of my time as a boarder from 1951 to 1954 at the Convent of Providence, a large manor house, South Lodge, obviously previously own by some ‘well to do’ family, with great gardens, lawns, tennis court, fields etc and I am in included in the school photo top row ninth from right! – as with all boys attending convent schools at age 11 I left for a boys high school and I was way ahead of my age group in my new London school – there was a great comradery amongst the boarders and with the day pupils and I still remember many names – we slept in dormitories about 6 to a room, the girls on the top floor and the boys on the first floor – I helped to set the dining room tabIes each morning and always ensured my table always had all the bread crusts! – I had a fantastic view from my bed looking down Baldock High St with the Kayser Bonder on my left and the Cinema on my right! – a truly outdoor life in the fields, the woods, helping with the vast vegetable gardens and with long country walks each Sunday morning – my favourite walk was the Western Hills – we were told an outlaw was buried somewhere there! – also visits here and there by coach including London to see Billy Graham , Norfolk to Walsingham, a memorable concert at a girl’s school in Letchworth and first time I had heard Jerusalem sung and so well! – also the nuns had great personalities all very different nearly all Irish, some gentle and some tough and I remember them all – I probably went to CoP as I had been a weekly boarder at St Josephs in 1948for a year or more when we lived in Stevenage, also more great memories and then we moved to London – I visited Baldock in 2000 and yes, time had moved on and sad to see the change and also the disappearance of the enormous ‘conker’ tree which stood in the middle of the huge grass play field and where today are houses – now I live in Canada, in my eighties and cherish those good memories – Jim (James) Norris.

    By Jim Norris (21/09/2023)
  • I have been most interested in memories of the convent of providence baldock, as I was a boarder with my twin sister (Gloria) from 1944 to 1946 when we left and moved to Oxford. Also the teacher Miss Fitzgerald who taught music lessons/dance. I have very vivid memories of baldock and have kept in touch with the nuns over many years from Hampsted, Hazelmare and Roystone where the sisters of providence had convence too. Can anyone enlighten me on anymore fond memories?

    By Mary (01/07/2023)
  • For the attention of Mr Kyri Ioannou.

    Dear Kyri,

    Once every few years i do a google search for anything related to St Joseph`s convent in Baldock and tonight i came across your post.

    I was at St Josephs for a couple of years from 1971 to 73
    and i remember you, i might ( not seen it in a few years ) have 1 photo from my time there but i believe you are in the shot, it was at xmas time and we were two of the three kings for the nativity play, does that ring any bells ?

    Memories from that time are not great, Sister Everett who enjoyed reading us horror stories before bedtime, she also enjoyed wacking us on the knuckles with her cane quite a lot. The food, and in particular some kind of fish paste that everyone hated except one of the girls.

    The only real positives that i remember where watching the Goodies on the tv before bedtime once a week and being outdoors when the weather was good.

    In the bed next to mine was a young girl called Allison, she used to wake me up most nights so i could go with her to the toilet as she was afraid of spiders.

    To be honest the best i can say about that time is that it was an Interesting life experiance.

    I sincerely hope life has been good to you.
    My very best regards
    Stephen Dixon.

    By Stephen Dixon (12/05/2023)
  • This is a reply for Emma Elliot, I hope it helps you somewhat.

    I know nothing of St Joseph’s Convent School, however I do have some information that you may find helpful regarding St Joseph’s Convent (orphanage)?
    I was at St Joseph’s Convent from October 1968 to July 1974. I was placed there by my mother at age 3 yrs, at this time it was a private children’s home run mainly by French and Irish nuns. It also functioned as residential
    home for elderly single women, of which there were about 8-10.
    Again there where only ever 8-10 children, boys and girls, at any one time, though the dormitory had a capacity of approximately 20 beds. We would attend the local schools, mine was St Mary’s Infants, then Juniors, just like other children in the area.
    When I left I went onto a council run children’s home in Enfield where I stayed until I was fostered in 1976. Many years later, when in my mid 40’s, I got access to my file that was kept by Enfield Social Services, it was in there that I discovered for the first time that the convent was a private and not a state run children’s home and that the local Social Services had wanted to to shut it down!
    I went back to visit the nuns and the children with my social worker a number of times during the 1980’s and managed to take a few photos. On my last visit, which I believe was the early 1990’s, all the children, nuns and old ladies had left and the convent was taken over by Derek Prince Ministries. Then it was sold to developers a few years ago and is now known as Kingsfield House, Hadrian Way, Baldock. If you do a search for Kingsfield House you can see what it looks like today.

    Regarding whether you could find photograph’s of your father, unfortunately I’m unable to help. However I came across an article a few years back regarding the convent and evacuee’s from the war that you may find interesting, just copy and paste the link below into Google.

    Kind Regards Mr Kyri Ioannou. (23.04.23)

    By Kyri Ioannou (23/04/2023)
  • Hello, I have just come across your website and this group photo. This photo is of the Convent school and not the orphanage. I know this as, to my surprise, I have just discovered my mother sitting cross-legged in the front row—Janet Brusey, who was 4 in that photo.

    I also wondered if someone could lead me in the right direction. Also, my father Patrick Heffernan was placed in the St Josephs’s Convent (infants), Letchworth Road, Baldock (orphanage) (1940-1944).
    My father passed away seven years ago in Australia, but before his passing, he was trying to contact someone who may know Sister Veronica. She was always kind to him and had an album full of photos of him as a boy growing up in the orphanage. As he desired to obtain these photos and give them to his grandchildren, I would love to seek them out for me.
    I would love any help you could provide.

    Many thanks

    Emma Elliott (nee Heffernan)

    By Emma-Kate Elliott (15/01/2023)