Jobs lost and nuns to be moved as convent closure confirmed

Convent of Mercy in Alnwick
Convent of Mercy in Alnwick

A convent which has been an integral part of Alnwick for more than a century will close – despite a determined fight from objectors to save it.

The trustees of the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy has pushed ahead with plans to shut St Mary’s Convent, on Bailiffgate, following a consultation period.

But the neighbouring Costello Centre, which was also earmarked for closure, will remain open for the foreseeable future.

It means that the six religious sisters in Alnwick will be transferred to the Institute’s other convents, while four members of staff will lose their jobs. The one employee at the Costello Centre will remain in the post.

The convent, which first opened in 1890, will close on Wednesday, September 30.

The Institute owns the building, but no decision has been made about its future. It could not disclose which convents the sisters will be moved to.

Institute leader Sister Colette Cronin said: “The closure of our convent has sadly become necessary because of the increasing age of the sisters resident in Alnwick. Our sisters will now benefit from the high-quality care provided in our other convents.

“While we are sad about the closure of this community and the associated redundancies, I am pleased to confirm that it has been decided to retain the Costello Centre for the foreseeable future as an important support to the community. This decision follows a full consultation process with the staff of the convent and centre.

“The trustees carefully considered all correspondence received during the consultation and also consulted their professional advisors concerning the future management of the Costello Centre. The trustees realise that their decision to close the convent will be a great sadness to the staff and a disappointment to everyone who has had a connection with the Sisters of Mercy in Alnwick.”

The news will no doubt come as a blow to the community, especially those who fought to save it from closure. St Paul’s RC Church parishioner Margaret Givens launched a petition to try to force the decision-makers into a change of heart.

It was signed by more than 250 people, including objectors from around England and countries such as Australia, America and Costa Rica. Margaret admitted she was disappointed with the verdict, which ends a long-standing tradition in the town.

The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Alnwick in 1890 at the request of the parish priest to provide education and visit the sick. Fr Robert rented 12 Bailiffgate and later Mother Evangelist bought the property. Locals recognised the value of the education provided by the sisters and sent their children to the schools.

At the end of 1897, a new extension was built. The second half of the convent was built and ready for use by the private school in 1917. The new Convent School, on the current St Paul’s site, was opened in 1962 and passed to a trust in 1993.