Reprinted from Newsletter 125, dated 2008 June

St Louis convent is converted, and school is in cyberspace

Jim Nagel

A woman wearing a nun's headdress stands in a playground surrounded by children.

1970s: Sister Pauline surrounded by a group of pupils in the St Louis playground.

Former pupils and teachers of the St Louis Convent school in Magdalene Street have a new location for the Remembering St Louis website they set up to record the school’s history.

Working from memory, they have posted the layout of the convent, priory and grounds back in the 1960s.

The converted Priory building has been converted to just two large residential properties called Naish House at the front and Greenhill House at the back; the builders have finished and for-sale boards are up.

An interior. An empty room with a dark floor and light-painted waals and ceiling. An archway is visible on the left wall but has been closed off. On the right wall is an open door. On the back wall is a large bay window with an arched top, letting in a lot of light. Overhead hangs a lamp.

2008: New kitchen has a view to rear veranda.

An interior. The ceiling vaults slightly between square pillars. Lamps attached to the walls shine light upwards, accentuating the curved ceiling. Some building materials lie on the floor.

The Priory renovation makes a feature of the vaulted basement under the former chapel.

Next door, a separate developer turned the three-storey former classroom building into two more large dwellings, named Magdalene House and Abbey View. They have been on the market since early 2008 at around £400,000.

The St Louis nuns came from France in 1903, and lived at The Priory. They eventually expanded to Somerset House next door (which was built as the residence of the chief constable when Somerset Constabulary was formed in Victorian times and originally had its headquarters in Glastonbury).

The three-storey building was purpose-built in 1924 as a school, and the new St Mary’s Church was built next to it in 1939–42. The convent school thrived until 1984, when the nuns, declined in numbers and increased in age, retired to their mother house at Minehead.

The playing field was sold to the Safeway supermarket chain (and St Mary’s built a new church hall — where the Conservation Society and many others meet). Millfield used the buildings as a pre-prep school until moving to the Edgarley campus about five years ago, and another tract of land was sold for the Cavendish Lodge retirement homes. Somerset House has been the offices of a software firm for most of the time since the sisters left.

The website has sections about the sisters’ other convents, St Mary’s church and the Roman Catholic pilgrimages.

Further back

Neill Bonham

The priory house was built in the first quarter of the 19th century. Sarah and Anna Greenhill Naish owned and lived in it; they also owned the property where St Mary’s now stands. William Benjamin Naish was the attorney who lived in the present High Street offices of Gould and Swayne; he also owned the Abbey Kitchen, which Sarah and Anna Naish used.