St Joseph’s Convent was set up by French nuns at the beginning of the 20th century following persecution in France, in similar circumstances to that of St Michael’s being set up in Hitchin by the Society of St Edmund (SSE). The building is designed in a French style similar to that of St Michael’s.
There is an original estimate for the building dated April 1907. The order appears to be Sœurs de Marie-Joseph et de la Miséricorde. Kelly’s Directory of 1929 states that Sister Maria Lucia is lady superior at the convent.
The following is a letter written by Richard Blake about his time at the Convent
Thank you so much for the 1966 photograph of St Joseph’s Convent. It was kind of you to
remember me and send it.
You will recall me describing a wooded area behind the buildings where we children played. That would have been in the ‘L’ shaped field to the right and rear of the building. I assume the photograph was taken during construction of the ‘motorway’ and that the white area in the right-hand corner is excavation work etc?
I sincerely apologise for the delay in sending the enclosed photograph taken in 1946. I have only just found it in a box stored in my roof-void. It depicts the Corpus Christi procession from the chapel and around the grounds. I am the boy at the front on the right-hand side with my hands suitably clasped!! I was then aged 5. It appears that there was a community of nine or ten Nuns. I suspect the Reverend Mother, whom we knew as ‘Ma Mere’, is on the left, half hidden by the lady with dark hair, my ‘God Mother’, Emily. The only other Sister I recognise is on the left, Sister Christine, third counting from the rear of the three nuns. Ma Mere and she were French, as were one or two others, with, I believe, Irish and English confreres. The Order was founded in France and came to England as a precaution against possible persecution of Catholics during one of the many periods of upheaval. They were all extremely hard-working nuns; Sister Christine was a particular favourite of mine (possibly because she was the cook!).
I traced a Sister Vincent to a Convent in Paris; I think she may have been the last Prioress of the Baldock house. She is in her nineties and due to return from holiday in America at the time. I have written to her in the hope that she might have photographs of Baldock which may be of interest to both you and I; I will keep you informed.
Meanwhile, please take as many copies of the enclosure as you need. I shall be obliged for two copies for myself, if you don’t mind; I will send one to Sister Vincent (assuming she is still alive).
Kind regards and many thanks for the guided tour of the house; it brought back many. happy memories.
Supplied by Richard Blake
Here are some photos about St Joseph’s: