Former religious orders in the Anglican Communion

This article is about former religious orders. For current religious orders see Anglican religious orders.

Former religious orders in the churches of the Anglican Communion are those communities of monks, nuns, friars, or sisters, having a common life and rule under vows, whose work has ended and whose community has been disbanded. In a very few cases this is due to the termination of the work for which the community was established, but in most cases it is due to amalgamation or the death of the final remaining member of the community.

Former communities for men

Brotherhood of the Epiphany (BE)

The Brotherhood of the Epiphany, also known as St. Paul's Brotherhood, was an Anglican religious order for men founded in 1879 by priests associated with the Oxford Mission. The order was originally based in Calcutta, and later expanded to include houses in other parts of northern India and present-day Bangladesh. With the closure of the Indian houses, jurisdiction was transferred from the Church of North India to the Church of Bangladesh. The final house of the order was at Bogra Road in Barisal, Bangladesh. It oversaw boarding schools, Christian youth hostels, a medical centre, an orphanage, and a primary school. The community was reported as active in 2003, but by 2011 was no longer listed on the Anglican Communion directory of religious communities. The Oxford Mission, an associated body, states on its website "The brotherhood has come to an end, but in India the work continues under an Administrator appointed by the Bishop of Kolkata, and in Bangladesh under the supervision of the Diocese of Dhaka."[1]

Ewell Monastery (OC)

Ewell Monastery was an experimental Cistercian community of monks within the Anglican Church from 1966 to 2004, located at West Malling in Kent. The revival of religious communities within the Anglican Communion during the 18th century, and more especially the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was influenced by many of the traditional monastic rules, particularly those of the Benedictine, Franciscan, and Augustinian Orders. There were few attempts to revive the Cistercian Rule within the Anglican communion prior to 1966, and none that lasted more than a few years. In 1966 the Revd Fr Aelred Arneson OC, established his Cistercian community,[2] which came to receive official recognition by both the Church of England and the world-wide Cistercian Order within the Roman Catholic Church. Fr Aelred OC was the Prior throughout the life of the monastery.[3] The Abbey buildings were constructed on the site of a former farm, with an ancient Tithe Barn being developed into the community chapel. This chapel still remains after the closure of the monastery, and is a Grade II* listed building.[4] The Cistercian Rule was never popular within Anglicanism, and the community never numbered more than five members, although these were often strengthened by temporary residents at the monastery from amongst the associates of the Order. In 2004 the community shrank again leaving the Prior, Fr Aelred, as the only remaining member living under vows. The decision was taken to end the Cistercian experiment and the monastery was closed.[5] Fr Aelred continues to live the religious life as a Cistercian solitary, with the distinction of being the sole member of the worldwide Anglican Communion to be living under the strict Cistercian Rule of life, although some Anglican religious follow an adapted form of the Cistercian Rule. In 2010 a dispersed, uncloistered community was established as the Order of Anglican Cistercians in the Church of England.

Former communities for women

Community of the Epiphany (CE)

Not to be confused with the Sisterhood of the Epiphany (see below).

The Community of the Epiphany was founded in 1883 by George Wilkinson, Bishop of Truro,[6] who afterwards became Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane.[7] The community was formed for work in the Truro diocese and was based at the Convent of the Epiphany, Truro, Cornwall. The sisters were involved in pastoral and educational work, the care of Truro Cathedral and St Paul's Church, and church needlework. The head of the community was the Mother Superior. There was for some forty years an active branch house in Tokyo, Japan, and there was a more long-term branch house at Penzance.[8] Branch houses were also opened in Newquay, and Truro (separate from the mother house). The sisters ran a convalescent home in St Agnes, and in Truro (in addition to the main convent and the Truro branch house) they ran a small school (Rosewin School) and a retreat house (St Michael's House). The main convent was originally located at Alverton House in Tregolls Road. The house, built in the early nineteenth century, was extended for the convent, and the chapel was built in 1910 by Edmund H. Sedding.[9] After a century at Tregolls Road it moved to Copeland Court in Kenwyn.[10] After a very full history, covering 125 years, the community was reduced to its last surviving member. In 2008 Sr Elizabeth CE attracted some attention in the local and national press, as the last surviving member of the order; she was then 92, and living in a nursing home, but still engaged in charitable work. In 1936 the sisters founded a parallel community for Japanese women, the Community of Nazareth, which achieved full independence in the 1960s. This community continues its work in Tokyo and Okinawa.

Community of the Holy Family (CHF)

In origin, the community was formed of well educated young women who wished to commit themselves to educational work and evangelism. Three of the four original members, who were admitted as novices in August 1896, were graduates of Newnham College, Cambridge; one of these was Agnes Mason, the foundress.[11] The focus of the community's work was in London and the south-east of England, with convents and schools in the capital and in both Kent and Sussex. However, there was also a small branch house at Cambridge for sisters wishing to study. Another house was at Peakirk, near Peterborough, attached to the ancient Chapel of Saint Pega, for those Sisters wishing to follow a more contemplative form of the religious life. The Community also ran a teacher training college at Naini Tal in India. Sister Dilys left the Community at the Reverend Mother's request in 1968 and joined the Community of the Sisters of the Love of God in Oxford. In January 1997 the remaining three sisters moved to Malling Abbey in Kent and lived in the gatehouse, alongside the resident Benedictine community. Two of the sisters died in 2002 and 2006, leaving just Sr Jean Beare CHF. The community closed with the death of Sr Jean on 27 November 2010.[12] Sr Julia Bolton Holloway, educated by the nuns of the Community, with a doctorate in Medieval Studies from Berkeley, joined them for their final four years at Holmhurst St Mary, and continues the ethos of the Mother Foundress for education and ecumenism, but as a Roman Catholic hermit in Florence, Italy.

Community of the Presentation (CP)

Founded in 1927 as a nursing order, originally named the Nursing Community of Christ the Consoler,[13] the sisters lived in a convent and nursing home in Highgate in north London, and maintained a convalescent home in Hythe, Kent, and after a short time renamed themselves the Community of the Presentation. In 1935 they took over St Saviour's House from the Community of the Epiphany. This House, opened in Regents Park in 1845, and relocated to Osnaburgh Street, London, in 1852, was also a nursing home, and the Presentation sisters closed their original Highgate home. In 1960 St Saviour's House was subject to a compulsory purchase order, and the sisters decided to relocate to the site of their existing convalescent home in Hythe, opening a new thirteen-bed hospital, St Saviour's Hospital. Running the hospital alone until 1975, from January 1976 the sisters began to employ nurses who were not members of the community. Their numbers declined, and a Board of Trustees took over the running of the hospital. Brigadier Ronnie Winfield, appointed Chairman of the Trustees in 1981, began an expansion programme up to a modern standard 36-bed hospital, and in 1989 this was sold to a private hospital company. The sisters' chapel had already been sold and converted into a private clinic. The remaining assets of the Community of the Presentation were invested to form the St Saviour's Medical Charity, for the benefit of the people of Hythe.[14] The last remaining sisters continued to live in the convent beside the hospital during these last changes, until only one sister remained. Sr May CP moved in 1997 to live with the Community of St Francis in Birmingham, and died on 9 January 1999, ending the life of the Community. From 1960 until the 1980s the sisters were the owners and guardians of The Buxheim Carvings.

Community of Reparation to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament (CRJBS)

A community of nuns in the Church of England, founded in 1869, whose work came to an end in the early 1990s. The last remaining member, Sr Esther Mary CRJBS, lived for several years (and into the 21st century) with the sisters of the Community of St John Baptist (CSJB), and then for the final months of her life moved to St Peter's Convent, Woking. The order was founded following a meeting at All Saints, Margaret Street, by members of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament (including the President, Canon Carter of Clewer, and his friend Father Goulden), to make reparation for any dishonour perceived to have been done to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. From 1869 to 1872 the first sisters served as novices at CSJB, but from 1872 they worked together from a mission house in Southwark, south London. In 1911 they were able to construct their own convent, the Convent of Reparation, Rushworth Street, Southwark. In 1948 they opened a second convent, the Convent of Reparation, White Rose Lane, Woking (Surrey).

Poor Clares of Reparation and Adoration (OSC)

The 'Poor Clares' are the second order of the Franciscan religious movement, more formally known as the Order of St Clare. The Poor Clares of Reparation and Adoration were founded in 1922 and based at St Clare's Convent on Mount Sinai, Long Island, New York. Members of the Order of St Clare live an enclosed life, and the Poor Clares of Reparation and Adoration also maintained a perpetual watch before the Blessed Sacrament. The last remaining sister died in 2003,[15] leaving the Community of St. Clare in England as the only remaining Poor Clare community in the Anglican Communion. However, the Little Sisters of St. Clare in the United States do have some members living the Poor Clare life and Rule, within the somewhat flexible bounds of that community's style.

Sisterhood of the Epiphany (SE)

Not to be confused with the Community of the Epiphany (see above).

The Sisterhood of the Epiphany (SE), more formally entitled the Oxford Mission Sisterhood of the Epiphany, was a companion body for women, working alongside the Brotherhood of the Epiphany (see above) in India and Bangladesh. The Sisterhood was founded in 1902 under the leadership of Edith Langridge, and followed a slightly adapted version of the Benedictine Rule. The mother house was located at Barisal (then India, but now Bangladesh), and there were several branch houses, the largest at Calcutta. The work of the sisters was very broad in scope, including evangelism, medical work, educational activity amongst women, and (in Calcutta) the provision of both a primary school and an orphanage. In 1970 a parallel community was founded for sisters of Bangladeshi nationality, named the Christa Sevika Sangha (Handmaids of Christ), and in 1986 this order became fully independent.[16] The foundress, Sr Susila SE, left the Sisterhood of the Epiphany to become the first Mother Superior CSS, an office she still held until her death on 16 May 2011.[17] At the same time another sister (Sr Leonore SE) transferred to the Community of St. Francis in order to follow the Franciscan Rule. By the early 1990s only three SE sisters remained, and they left Bangladesh (where the work in continued by CSS) and returned to England, taking up residence at Ditchingham with the Community of All Hallows. The last three sisters died there Mother Joan in 1999, Sr Rosamund in 2003, and Mother Winifred on 26 May 2010, when the Sisterhood ended.[18]

Society of the Most Holy Trinity (SHT)

The Society of the Most Holy Trinity, also known more simply as the Society of the Holy Trinity, was established by Lydia Sellon[19] in 1849, the second Anglican religious order established for women, to minister to the poor in the seafaring community of Devonport, hence their popular name, the Devonport Sisters. The Society expanded rapidly, and in the 1850s absorbed several smaller London communities, including the first-established, the Sisterhood of the Holy Cross (or 'Park Village Community').[20] The order grew large and very active, from its work with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, to the establishing of a convalescent hospital and a grammar school (St Christopher's). The rule of the order was based on that of St Francis de Sales.[21] From 1860, the community was resident at Ascot Priory in Berkshire, which remained its headquarters until the closure of the community in 2004. At the start of the 2000s the community had grown very small, and some sisters were placed with other (larger) orders, such as Sr Rosemary SHT who lived her final years with the Community of the Holy Name. The last sister was Reverend Mother Cecilia SHT, who joined the community in 1935, having been born in 1914, and offered herself as a postulant at the age of 18. She died on 12 February 2004, aged 89, and thus ended the life of the Society. Before her death, Mother Cecilia established a trust to ensure that the buildings at Ascot Priory continued to be used for the good of the Church of England and of society in general, principally in the care of the elderly, but also through the provision of facilities for retreats and conferences.

Order of St Elizabeth of Hungary

Reverend Mother Elizabeth (detail) painted by John Collier

The Order of St Elizabeth of Hungary was a Franciscan Order, founded in London in 1916; it took its name from the 13th-century saint and princess Elizabeth of Hungary (Elizabeth of Thuringia), who was influenced by the early Franciscans and lived a religious life in Marburg. The Order was founded as an offshoot of the Confraternity of Divine Love, and Reverend Mother Elizabeth (Elizabeth Ann Hodges, 1869-1960) was the founder both of the Confraternity and of the Order in its final form. It retained three male priests to function as the Visitor, the Warden, and the Chaplain. In 1923 the Visitor was the Bishop of London, and the Warden was the Revd and Hon E. Lyttleton DD.

The English Order of St Elizabeth of Hungary was devoted mainly to mission work among the poor of Southwest London, and was based at the Convent of St Elizabeth, 94 Redcliffe Gardens, London SW10, and had retreat houses at Oakhurst (Kent), and St Mary's Retreat, Heathfield (Sussex). It also had a children's home and guest house at 10 Earl's Court Square, London, and a home for retired ladies at Mayfield (Sussex). St Margaret's Guest House was also operated at Heathfield, near St Mary's Retreat. The Order also operated extensively in Western Australia, with convents at Bunbury, Busselton, and Margaret River.[22] The sisters undertook missions to women and girls, and were responsible for Church Girl's Institutes as well as Children's Homes. The sisters observed a fruitarian diet, and were committed to absolute poverty, owning no property or invested funds.

A short history of the Order and its work among the poor was published in 1967 entitled Into the Deep and subtitled "The story of the Confraternity of the Divine Love and the Order of St Elizabeth of Hungary by Mother Elizabeth of the Order of St Elizabeth of Hungary”. Little Grey Sparrows of the Anglican Diocese of Bunbury, Western Australia by Merle Bignall (1992) deals with the history of the Order with particular reference to its work in Australia, which began in the 1920s. The Sisters of the Order referred to themselves as Sparrows and wore grey habits.

The Order continued to appear in the Post Office Directory at 94 Redcliffe Gardens until 1971. By 2000, it was under the care of the Anglican Community of St Peter (founded 1861), which is based at St Peter’s Convent, Maybury Hill, Woking, Surrey. The archives of the Order of St Elizabeth of Hungary for the period 19041990 are held at Lambeth Palace Library in London under reference 3862-93.

See also


  1. See the Oxford Mission website.
  2. History detailed here.
  3. Details at this directory page.
  4. Official listing status shown here.
  5. Closure notice shown here.
  6. Article by Richard Savill “Last surviving nun of 127 year-old order” (p. 7) Daily Telegraph Tuesday 4 November 2008
  7. "Death of The Bishop of St. Andrews".The Times; Thursday, Dec 12, 1907; p. 4; Issue 38514; col C
  8. Cornish Church Guide. Truro: Blackford; pp. 325-26
  9. Pevsner, N. (1970) Cornwall; 2nd ed. Harmondsworth: Penguin; pp. 234-35
  10. "Last nun celebrates birthday of Order". Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  11. Biography,, Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  12. 'Community of the Holy Family' article in Anglican Religious Life 2012-13, published 2011 by Canterbury Press, Norwich, pages 5-6.
  13. See brief history in the Anglican Religious Communities Yearbook 2000-01, page 6.
  14. See full history by Bruce Tait in Hythe Civic Society Newsletter, edition 153 (2010).
  15. Her death is reported here.
  16. Read summary history at this Oxford Mission page.
  17. Her death is reported here.
  18. 'Sisterhood of the Epiphany' article in Anglican Religious Life 2012-13, published 2011 by Canterbury Press, Norwich, page 5.
  19. Williams, Thomas J. (1950). Priscilla Lydia Sellon: the restorer, after three centuries, of the religious life in the English Church. London: SPCK.
  20. Mumm, Susan (1999). Stolen Daughters, Virgin Mothers: Anglican Sisterhoods in Victorian Britain. Leicester University Press. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0-7185-0151-9.
  21. See "Guide to the Religious Communities of the Anglican Communion", Mowbrays, 1951, page 53.
  22. See 'Guide to the Religious Communities of the Anglican Communion', Mowbray, London, 1951, page 62.
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