In July 1947, Highfields Estate was purchased by the Derby Community which had its Other House in Bridge Gate, the purpose being to provide much needed accommodation for the Senior section of St Philomena’s School which had shared the Arthur Street premises with the Juniors for many years. The Estate consisted of eighty-four acres of land won which were situated Highfields House, Beechwood House, Mile-Ash House and four cottages. Steps were taken immediately to set up Highfields House as a Senior School, but the establishment of a Community in Beechwood House was deferred indefinitely.
Eventually in the late 1960’s, the house was altered and extended to provide suitable accommodation for a Community, and in January 1968, Sr Angela Rice and four others moved in and Beechwood became a Branch House. Initially, the members of the Community went out daily to their various apostolates, but a specific aspostolate for Beechwood itself was frequently considered. In 1974, it was decided that Warden Flats for the Elderly were becoming an increasing need, and that such a project might be initiated by building on land adjacent to and owned by, the Convent. Completion of necessary research, drawing up plans and the security of necessary Planning Permission took some considerable time and it was not until February 1978 that the building was commenced.
In honour of the Bicentenary celebration of the Birth of the Foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, the building was named Catherine McAuley House, the twenty-one flats were ready for occupation in March 1979 and, in July of that year, were officially opened and blessed. Set in a secluded spot, adjacent to the Convent, and with a Sister as Warden, Catherine Mcauley House has enabled many, many elderly people, single and married, to enjoy their Sabbath Years and maintain a degree of independence, in security and peace.
Annual event such as the Carol Service, Christmas party, Blessed Sacrament Procession and Summer Outing, all organised in conjunction with the Community, are highlights in the calendars of the residents. Freedom to entertain their friends is also much appreciated, and the fact that the Convent has always had a resident chaplain – usually a retired priest of the Nottingham Diocese – is another bonus in that the comfort of the Mass is readily available.
When the Derby Congregation, as a result of a second Ballot, was admitted to the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy in October 1984, former Branch Houses became separate units with responsibility for local administration, and each became a member of Mercia Province with Sr M Raphael Maher as Provincial Superior. There was no diminuition of apostolic activity in their local situation, in the neighbouring Parish of Allestree and in work for the Derby Talking newspaper for the Blind.