Towards the end of 1982, Henrietta Adele, the Dowager Duchess of Newcastle, who lived in Berkley Square, London brought Brandiston Lodge, a house standing in spacious grounds in Wesbrooke, Wroth – and a few months later she purchased the property next door, Novello Cottage. This was in fulfilment of her late husband who left money for the establishment of a Convalescent Home for poor people.
The Duchess offered the houses to Bishop Butt of Southwark who, in turn, sought the help of the Bermondsey Sisters for the project. An agreement was fully drawn up between the Duchess of Newcastle, Bishop Butt and Reverend Mother M Camillus Dempsey, whereby the Duchess placed £5000 in the Bank towards the payment of repairs, Rates, Taxes and servant’s wages, a Condition of the Agreement was that ‘the Home was intended for the poor, and no persons of a different class should be received into it, except in space cases approved by the superior’.
In the years that followed the Sisters assigned to the mission in Worthing were kept very busy seeing to the needs of the poor. The two who were initially appointed to this new apostolate were Sr M Columba Maunsell and Sr M. Michael (Maurais?).
The proper conduct of the Home – put under Our Lady’s protection and named Saint Mary’s – was the responsibility of the Sisters, and the bishop was given the right to alter the original conditions. Accommodation was provided for a minimum of 60 patients, the men paying a weekly fee of 12/6d and the women 8/-!
So great was the demand for places, and the resulting flow of admissions and discharges, that the Sisters were kept in a state of ‘perpetual motion’! A new wing added in 1895, increased sleeping accommodation and dining-and-sitting room facilities. The cost of the building was borne by the duchess, and both she and the Bishop were present for the opening of the new wing. About this time, the Town Planning council rejected a proposal by the Community for the building of a house, near the Home, for the exclusive use of the Sisters and the children in their care.
During World War 1, the Home was placed at the service of the military authorities, and as many as 75 soldiers were billeted there, with the Sisters looking after meals, and sleeping accommodation. Later, it served as a hospital for wounded soldiers, but was returned to the Sisters at the end of the war, and became once more a Convalescent Home and a Holiday Home for Sisters and the elderly.
Throughout the intervening decades, St Mary’s provided a service of care and compassion to the sick and the needy, and maintained a high standard of administration, so was not daunted by any of the requirements of the 1984 Registered Homes Act. In order to obtain space required for up-dating parts of the building, and to give privacy to an increased Community, two semi-detached houses (backing on to the Home and facing on to Salisbury Road) were purchased and converted into a Convent into which the Sisters moved in 1991.
The Sisters today
Because there are always retired priests in the Home, Sisters and residents enjoy the privilege of daily Mass.