Cross Penzance Catholic Church  'The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady' part of 'The Holy Family' Parish  >  "History section index" | sitemap




In taking over the mission in 1843 one of the first things the Oblate Fathers did was to bring in some of their Oblate Sisters to help teaching in the parish school. No details are known of their names, how many sisters there were or where they lived; they were established "in a house and garden in the vicinity". But when their finances collapsed in 1852, the Oblates left the mission and took their sisters with them.


On the re-establishment of the mission, the school was run by lay teachers for many years. However, when Canon Courtenay built his new school in 1893, he invited a group of French sisters called the Filles de Notre Dame to come from Bordeaux. They arrived in Penzance in September 1892 and leased a house called Leskinnick House owned by Mr. James Runnalls, next door to the new school. Bishop Graham visited them and presided over the election of Mother Alice Healey as Superior. But the sisters soon discovered that, as a semi-enclosed order, they were not really suited to the work of teaching in a parish school. With the Bishop's blessing, they left for London in 1895.


It was not until 1902 that another order of sisters arrived in Penzance. Miss Ellis, a lady of some means had recently moved into the town. Although still under instruction to become a Catholic, she took a great interest in the mission. She had previously known at Carshalton some sisters called the Daughters of the Cross; she persuaded some of them under their superior, Sister Antonia, to come to Penzance in January 1902. Temporary accommodation was arranged for them at Albert House, in Alma Terrace. But, by October, she had bought Leskinnick House from the widow of Mr. Runnalls for 1,150 and this became their permanent convent. The sisters quickly settled in and began teaching in the parish school. They also opened a laundry which flourished in the town. And later an orphanage for girls was started and continued until its closure in 1938. This, in turn, was replaced by St. Gertrude's School - a High School for Girls. After the war, the order had to reorganise itself, and there was great sadness when the sisters withdrew from Penzance in March 1947, after so many years valuable and appreciated work in the town.


A group of Irish Presentation Sisters from Cheshire immediately moved into the same convent. The work in St. Gertrudes and the parish school was enthusiastically entered into. St. Gertrude's School had to close down in 1969. The sisters moved into a new convent, called Medrose on Barwis Hill in 1975. This enabled them to develop their work among the elderly and sick people of the town in the old convent buildings, that were renamed St. Mary's Haven. And as well new purpose-built premises were erected in the grounds of the old convent, in cooperation with the housing corporation. A Day Centre and Residential Home have both flourished and has proved to be and still is a very valuable asset to the parish and to the town.

created 29th October 2004 - last  revised 13th March, 2011 v1.02 -