Our Safeguarding Officer is:
Sheila Sparks

Diocese of Oxford Safeguarding Advisor: 
Stuart Nimmo
01865 208290

For all emergency situations call 999

Other useful contacts:

  • RBWM Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub: 01628 683150
  • DASH (support to anyone affected by domestic abuse): 01753 549865
  • Action on Elder Abuse: 0808 808 8141
  • Childline: 0800 1111
  • Samaritans: 116123 / /  email:
  • Modern Day Slavery Helpline: 0800 01210700

Ascot Priory Safeguarding Policy

The following policy was agreed by the Trustees.

1. We are committed to:

  • The care, nurture of, and respectful pastoral ministry with, all children and all adults
  • The safeguarding and protection of all children, young people and adults when they are vulnerable
  • The establishing of safe, caring and loving environment where there is a culture of ‘informed vigilance’ as to the dangers of abuse.

2. We will carefully select and train all those with any responsibility within the Priory, in line with safer recruitment principles, including the use of Criminal Records disclosures.

3. We will respond without delay to every complaint made which suggests that an adult, child or young person may have been harmed, co-operating with the police and local authority in any investigation and we will have a clear reporting procedure in place.

4. We will seek to work with anyone who has suffered abuse, developing with him or her an appropriate ministry of informed pastoral care.

5. We will seek to challenge any abuse of power, especially by anyone in a position of trust.

6. We will seek to offer pastoral care and support, including supervision and referral to the proper authorities, to any member of our church community known to have offended against a child, young person or vulnerable adult.

7. In all these principles we will follow statute, guidance and recognised good practice.

8. We will review this policy annually, check that our policies are up to date, and supply a copy of the updated policy statement to the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.

Mother Cecilia

Cecilia Pem Toyer was born on May 6, in Stopsley, near Luton, in 1914, one of nine children, of whom only three girls survived. She left Wigmore Lane School at the age of 14 to work in a hat factory. Her elder sister, Ethel, was teaching at St Augustine’s School, run by the sisters of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity, and visiting her brought Cecilia to Ascot Priory when she was 16.

She offered herself as postulant at the age of 18, was clothed as a novice in 1935 and professed at the age of 25, just before the outbreak of war in 1939.

The community’s chapter minute book records the novice mistress’s statement that:

“For four years Novice Cecilia has shown strong signs of vocation to the Religious Life. Her influence in the Novitiate has been good, her work conscientious, her purpose steadfast. She has been faithful in the Rule and it is anticipated that she will be a good Religious.”

Her election for profession was passed unanimously.

Obedience, faithfulness and obscurity were among the qualities to which even the most gifted and extrovert nuns aspired. Sister Cecilia’s first work was in the priory kitchens, where she assisted in the preparation of 176 meals every day, for the community of nuns, the convalescent home, the school and the priory workers. But whenever there was a gap in other departments, she emerged the natural person to be called on to help. So it was that she often found herself supervising children in the orphanage, “mugging up” her classics to teach in the school or taking groups to the Community’s holiday home at Hayling Island.

She might have been called to be Reverend Mother in 1981 had the vacancy not come so soon after an abortive effort she and two other sisters had made to open the community to new ventures and a more modern form of habit.

Throughout her life she kept up an extraordinary ministry of correspondence, not only with old girls from the school dispersed throughout the world, but also with casual visitors to the priory who determined, often after only one encounter, to keep in touch with her.

To be called to be the last member of a distinguished religious order in the eventide of life is a very special vocation. But there was no trepidation or bitterness in the way Mother Cecilia approached this prospect. Not for her declining years in a hotel in Felixstowe, as in Betjeman’s poignant poem “The Last of her Order”:

We built our orphanage
We ran our school
Now only I am left to keep the rule.

She was more determined than anyone that the community should prepare for its inevitable closure by planning for the future role of the priory as a resource for the Church.

As changes were made—little by little—she would show the new facilities to visitors as though she had personally initiated and supervised them.

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.

The last member of a distinguished religious order, Mother Cecilia of the Transfiguration, the Reverend Mother of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity (the first of the religious orders refounded in the Church of England since the Reformation), died after a stroke and short illness on February 12, 2004, aged 89, rounding off a significant chapter in the history of religious orders in the Church of England. .

Her funeral on 23rd February was attended by 153 people: “old girls” she had taught in St Augustine’s School, priests and undergraduates from Pusey House in Oxford, and many friends made during her long life and ministry.  The day was gloriously sunny and after the Solemn Requiem she was carried from the Priory Church to the cemetery at the head of a long procession.

The Times – 1st April 2004

Thoughts at the conclusion of the funeral

 The crisp morning and the winter sunshine.
The stillness of the waking Priory.
Snowdrops, daffodils and the constant trees.
The muted footsteps and the dolorous bell.
People coming from near and far –
Cornwall, Newcastle, Kent and Chavey Down.
Some making their first visit to the Priory,
Some reliving memories spanning seventy years.

Waiting and watching in the Church,
While ritual manoeuvres were confirmed.
The soft lighting, the fluttering candles,
The solitary vigil flame.
The stillness of the catafalque and the tangible silence.
The overture of the music and singing.
The balletic movements of the central figures.
The scent and the sight of the soaring incense
Listening to familiar words,
Singing seldom shared hymns,
Identification with profound prayers.
The swinging censer and the rising smoke.
The trundling bier and the shuffling figures.
The sentinel trees and the benevolent sky.
The expectant cemetery and the rows of crosses.
The simple black and white vestments,
The sumptuous sable of the cope.
The sunshine and the shadows.
The final pilgrimage to the cemetery.

The Walk in the wilderness and the blazing sunset.

Building & Grounds

The substantial estate at Ascot was bought in 1860, using a legacy left to Dr Pusey by his mother.  The chief work of the community was to be a convalescent home. 

The first architect commissioned was G. G. Scott, but he handed the job over to his former pupil Charles Buckeridge (1832/3-73). According to the Ecclesiologist (1864), the ‘works were begun’ by Scott, but the design seems to have been Buckeridge’s, based on a sketch by Mother Lydia. It was to be cruciform, with a long nave for the hospital ward, transepts for the sisters’ cells, and the eastern arm for the chapel. 

The Chapel was to have been Early English, with an antechapel, an apsidal sanctuary with ambulatory, and a massive central tower with an octagonal broach spire. Two chapels were to have been built over the main chapel aisles, at first floor level.

The first part built was the single-storey nave, 100 feet long, with 33 beds (one for each year of Our Lord’s life) and cots for children. Over the doorway is a relief of the Crucifixion by James Redfern. A ‘small oratory’ was built.

In 1863 the Cemetery was consecrated.

From 1864 Dr Pusey spent his vacations at Ascot, in a house called The Hermitage (now demolished). 

The first part of the Priory Church was built in 1870: it consists of two bays in Norman style, the dog-tooth carving suggested by a visit by Mother Lydia to Iffley, near Oxford. 

Before the aisles were built the arches were bricked up. The Church was linked to the Hospital by a ‘greenhouse’.  In 1879 the ‘north transept’ (now known as St Michael’s), as planned by Buckeridge, was built, with William Butterfield as architect, to provide cells for novices. A Visitors’ Wing was built in 1884. 

In 1884-6 Butterfield completed the church (using a nun’s legacy). The ‘south transept’ (south wing) was built in 1901-3, to the design of Leonard Stokes. Although a Roman Catholic, he also built the Anglican Convent at London Colney, Herts. 

The Priory Church of Jesus Christ is severely simple, in banded stone.  The interior has been described by Paul Thompson as ‘noble’ and ‘calm’.  It features Butterfield’s only use of a wagon roof in his later years. The nave was ‘barrelled’ by ‘Bodley and (Cecil) Hare’ c.1930. It seems that Bodley embellished Butterfield’s stone reredos with painted woodwork. The carved altar frontal is in the style of Martin Travers. 

Most of the stained glass is by Gibbs, but the eastern-most light on the south side (a memorial to the second Warden, Fr Suckling) is by Comper. In the South aisle is the portable altar from Pusey’s sitting-room in the old Hermitage, and above it a painting given by his biographer, H. P. Liddon.  The Gallery and organ-case are presumably by Bodley.

Between 1906 and 1920 various extensions were made (including one to the ‘choir’ of the church), the Children’s Ward (St Gabriel’s) was built, and the ‘greenhouse’ was replaced by a narthex (in the style of Butterfield). 


The History of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity

During the Middle Ages there were hundreds of monasteries in England.

In 1534 Henry VIII proclaimed himself supreme Head of the Church, starting the Reformation in England and Wales.

In 1535 Parliament enacted the Suppression of Religious Houses Act, this had devastating consequences, hundreds of monasteries disappeared during a short period. 

Most were closed, and their land and wealth taken. The buildings were destroyed or adapted to secular use some survived by being converted to cathedrals or parish churches. Unfortunately, many fell into ruin.

The Oxford Movement originated in 1833, led by John Henry Newman, John Keble and Edward Bouverie Pusey among others.

In 1633 St Vincent de Paul founded the  ‘Sisters of Charity’.  

Dr. Pusey believed that similar companies of devoted women would be a powerful instrument to combat ignorance, poverty and vice in England’s cities. He longed for such ‘orders’ to become a reality in the Church of England. 

On the Wednesday of Easter Week 1845 a small detached house, No. 17 Park Village, Regent’s Park was opened to receive a small number of ladies who wished to live under a religious rule. 

This was the beginning of the re-introduction the of the religious life in the Church of England after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.

This first community was known as the ‘Society of the Holy Cross’. The first two Sisters were; Miss Jane Ellacombe and Miss Mary Bruce.

It began as The Sisterhood of the Holy Cross in Park Village, North London, in 1845

In 1848 the first ‘Rule’ of the Sisterhood, drawn up by Dr. Pusey was submitted to the Bishop of London, Dr. Blomfield.

That same year, Miss Lydia Sellon answered the call of the Bishop of Exeter for gentlewomen to work among the poor and sick of Devonport and Plymouth, and in 1849 the Sisters of the Holy Cross went to Devonport to help tend the sick during a cholera epidemic.

It was during this period that the sisters asked the Vicar of St Peter’s Plymouth for a Daily Mass and so the Daily Mass was restored to the Church of England. She visited the Park Village Community and subsequently established the ‘Devonport Society’.

  • Both communities sought the guidance of Dr Pusey.

In 1854 the two communities under the leadership of Mother Emma (Langston) sent sisters to nurse in the Crimea with Miss Florence Nightingale.

In 1856 the Sisterhood of the Holy Cross amalgamated with Priscilla Lydia Sellon’s Devonport Society, under the title of The Congregation of Religious of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity. 

The History of Priory

In 1860 an estate at Ascot was purchased with the aid of gifts from Mother Lydia’s father and the Revd Dr E. B. Pusey, and the present buildings – in 40 acres of beautiful woodland and gardens – were begun, with the aim of supporting the London hospitals by providing convalescent care in healthy surroundings.

Over the years the Community adapted to changing times and needs, but underpinning all its work was the daily round of worship in the Catholic Tradition of the Church of England, the care of souls and the monastic custom of welcoming guests.

The Convalescent Hospital opened in 1862 patients being brought from Boyne Hill. 


On November 20th 1876 Mother Lydia died and was succeeded by Mother Bertha. 

The same year the Orphanage at St Christopher’s which had been established at St Saviour’s Devonport was moved to Ascot and the sisters cared for orphans in the Priory.


1861 first part of the church built.

The first part of the Priory Church was built in 1870: it consists of two bays in Norman style, the dog-tooth carving suggested by a visit by Mother Lydia to Iffley, near Oxford.  Before the aisles were built the arches were bricked up.  The Church was linked to the Hospital by a ‘greenhouse’. 

Thirty-three pine trees were planted by Dr Pusey, marking each year of Our Lord’s life, and many of the other trees in the grounds are in groups of three, reflecting Dr Pusey’s devotion, and the dedication of the Community to the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity.

The Priory Church of Jesus Christ has been described by Paul Thompson as ‘noble’ and ‘calm’.  It features Butterfield’s only use of a wagon roof in his later years.  The nave was ‘barrelled’ by ‘Bodley and (Cecil) Hare’ c1930.  It seems that Bodley embellished Butterfield’s stone reredos with painted woodwork.

1877 Dr Pusey became ‘Warden’ and the Hermitage was built (now demolished)

1879 North transept built

1886 Completion of the church.

1894 Organ Gallery built

1899 Lady Chapel begun

In 1902 G. F. Bodley built a temporary Lady Chapel, and some other work.  The new Lady Chapel, attached to the East end of the church, was built in 1935-6 by E. Mitchell and D. L. Bridgewater.  Pevsner describes it as ‘Expressionist Gothic, all steep arches and no bases or capitals’.  Below it is the former Chapter Room

1903 South transept completed

In 1933, a building in North Road was taken over and named St Augustine’s School. There were about 136 boarders and day girls. The teaching the girls had received from the sisters as a secondary school rapidly developed and various lay teachers were engaged. Many happy generations of girls were educated there until it closed in 1965. 

I began my schooling at Ascot Priory in 1929, when I was five years of age.  I was one of the first day girls.  My years at the Priory, and later at St Augustine’s, were very happy and I look back with gratitude for the way I was taught.  At the ripe old age of 81, I still recall those bygone
days with affection.

Our P E teacher was Sister Edith, who late became Reverend Mother.  Sister Mona taught us French; she hated our elbows in the desks and would wave her hand at us saying very firmly “Elbows!” and we would quickly fold our arms until the next time, when the same thing would happen again. Sister Benita taught us Scripture: unfortunately she suffered from sever sciatica and in the middle of a lesson would jump to her feet, clutching her leg and frightening her pupils out their wits.  Another teacher was Sister Florence, who taught us music.  She was a brilliant pianist and often played for our entertainment.  She also used to take her violin to the Priory’s holiday home at Hayling Island. 

There were some teachers who were not nuns.  One favourite was Miss Cecilia Toyer, and also her elder sister Ethel: Cecilia “took the veil” when she was twenty-one and spent the rest of her life at Ascot Priory, eventually becoming the last Reverend Mother.

Edna Huxtable, née Willey, former pupil of the school

An Annual Reunion takes place, usually in September, and the affection in which the school and the sisters were held is very evident from the stories that are exchanged.  The day customarily ends with Evensong in the Priory Church.

During the 1970’s the reduction in the number of sisters and their increasing age-profile meant that the care of the convalescent and residential home became more burdensome and difficult and eventually came to an end. 

But in order that this valuable ministry might continue the Trustees negotiated to lease first St Christopher’s as a residential home and then “the Ward” (St Raphael’s) as a nursing and care home which became known as St David’s.  For some years the sisters continued to run St Gabriel’s as a residential home for fifteen elderly ladies until this, too, closed in the early 1980’s.

A new scheme for Ascot Priory was sealed by the Charity Commissioners on 5 October 2000, to provide for the Priory’s continued service to the Church, ‘in particular in accordance with the doctrines commonly known as Anglo-Catholic, as resource for retreats and conferences and other charitable work.

The Priory is now a centre for Retreat and Spiritual Renewal; a place where in silence and peace God can be encountered, life renewed and hope rekindled. The Divine Office and Mass are celebrated daily (except Saturdays) and on Sundays Solemn Mass is at 10:00 am.

St David’s and St Christopher’s, under the management of Ascot Residential Homes, are acknowledged as among the finest in the

A sermon preached in Pusey House in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the revival of the Religious Life in the Church of England

On 26 March, 1845 [it was the Wednesday in Easter Week that year], the curiosity of the well-to-do middle-class families, living in the demure little villas  .  .  .  facing Regent’s Park, must have been aroused.  Two young ladies arrived at No.17 Park Village West with a small amount of luggage.  For several weeks, clergymen and laymen, had been seen coming and going  .  .  .  Furniture – but not much of it – had been left there.  Discreet inquiries were made, and it was ascertained that there could be no doubt about the respectability of the new occupants of No.17.  One was the daughter of country parson.  Some days later a third lady arrived, rather younger than the other two, and it was discovered that her father was the Bishop of Edinburgh.  By the time the trees were beginning to turn green,  .  .  . a middle-aged lady, obviously refined and well-bred, joined the household.  Not long after this four more young women took up their abode in this exclusively feminine establishment.

Why had these ladies come to live in Park Village?  Would it be “etiquette” to “leave cards” on them?  Awakened before five o’clock one morning, possibly by the rumble of a train  .  .  .  , one of the occupants of the other villas noticed that the blinds were already drawn up in every bedroom at No.17 – these newcomers were early risers!  By the middle of the summer people had grown accustomed to the sight of them – all uniformly dressed in black – shutting the garden gate behind them a few minutes before half-past seven, and returning home about an hour later.  It seemed that they attended Divine Service before breakfast at Christ Church, Albany Street  .  .  .  Soon after nine, two or three of the ladies were out again, and seldom back before half-past twelve.  The same thing happened every afternoon.  Very often their neighbours,  .  .  .  would notice how tired these ladies looked when they approached their villa, always coming from the direction of Albany Street, where they took part in Evening Prayer, even on weekdays.  This almost unbroken round of coming and going went on through the summer, except on certain days when a rather shabbily dressed middle-aged clergyman arrived at No.17 soon after breakfast and did not depart until the late afternoon.  What was his business with these women, most of whom were quite young?  Then he was recognised – it was none other than the notorious Dr Pusey!  There was more gossip, until somebody found out that the innocent-looking villa was nothing else but a “Puseyite Nunnery”  .  .  .  ! 1  Thus, in such a quiet and un-ostentatious way began the restoration of the Religious Life in the Church of England. 

For at least six years Dr Pusey had cherished the view that the social conditions of the industrial towns of England needed the services of dedicated women.  His profound study of the history of the Early Church had convinced him that there must be something very wrong with Anglicanism if it could not produce religious communities, such as had existed in all ages of the Catholic Church and in all parts of the world.  In 1839 he had written to John Keble:

Newman and I have separately come to think it necessary to have some Sœurs de Charité in the Anglo-Catholic Church.

And at the same time he had written Dr Hook who was then presiding over the re-organization and revival of Leeds Parish Church:

I want very much to have one or more societies of Sœurs de Charité formed: I think them desirable (1) in themselves as belonging to and fostering a high tone in the Church, (2) as giving a holy employment to many who yearn for something, (3) as directing zeal, which will otherwise go off in some irregular way, or go over to Rome.  The Romanists are making great use of them to entice over our own people; and I fear we may lose those whom one can least spare…

Four years before the beginning of that little Park Village Sisterhood, in 1841, on Trinity Sunday, Marian Rebecca Hughes had taken solemn vows in the presence of Dr Pusey that she would lead a celibate life offered to the service of God. Pusey had written to John Henry Newman, Vicar of the University Church in Oxford:

My dear Friend,
A young lady, who is very grateful for your teaching, is purposing today to take a vow of holy celibacy.  She has difficulties and anxieties in her position.  She has attended St Mary’s ever since she has been in Oxford, and hopes to receive the Holy Communion there today, as also being part of her self-devotion.  It was wished that you should know it and remember her.  You will know her by her being dressed in white and with an ivory cross  .  .  . Yours ever gratefully and affectionately,                              
E. B. Pusey.

That same morning Miss Hughes took her vows, then she made her way to St Mary’s where she knelt beside Dr Pusey’s daughter, Lucy, who was making her first Communion. We have that ivory cross in the archive of here. But, for family reasons, her profession had to be solitary and little known. Although she had made a tour of convents and religious houses in Normandy, she had remained at home with her parents until 1848, when she was able to establish her own community, the Society of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, in Oxford. Now closed, its buildings are St Anthony’s College just up the road and you can see photographs of it as a Convent in the exhibition in the chapel cloister.

But the first real beginning of the corporate religious life in the Church of England was this little community of two at No.17 Park Village, Miss Jane Ellacombe, who became known as Sister Anne, and Miss Mary Bruce, who became Sister Mary.  Neither was very strong in health, but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.6

After a few weeks these two were joined by Miss Terrot, a daughter of the Bishop of Edinburgh.  Her father told Pusey he was “very far from those tendencies which go by the name of Tractarian”, but that his daughters had “a desire for greater usefulness and for more intimate communion with persons whom they could look to as real followers of Christ” than was afforded by their northern home.  So the Bishop gave “not a reluctant consent” to their wish to enter a Sisterhood.

A few weeks later the young community had its first Superior.  The lady who was chosen to preside over it was Miss Langston.  She was ten years older than any of her companions, and seems to have been a person of “strong understanding, fervent piety, and extreme simplicity of manners.” Miss Langston’s arrival soon brought four others, which brought their number up to eight. 

But, of course, no one in the Church of England had, at that time, any experience of the requirements of such a life.  Pusey wrote about the early days of the Park Village Community:

We naturally went by experience.  Lord John Manners procured us the rules of the Sisters of Charity at Birmingham.  I had some rules by me, used by different bodies in England and on the continent.10

There is, in the library of Pusey House, a touching example of early œcumenical co-operation in the correspondence between Dr Pusey and Cardinal Wiseman about the organization and rules of Sisterhoods.

But, of course, in the spring of 1845 Pusey had other grave matters on his mind, concerning Mr Newman and Littlemore, and it is touching encouragement to the forgetfulness that we all sometimes suffer that we find Pusey forgetting to tell his great collaborator, John Keble, about the opening of the little convent.  He writes to Keble two days after that Easter Wednesday,

I am vexed that I forgot that you did not know upon what day the little Sisterhood was to commence.  Two sisters entered their home on Easter Wednesday.  They are very promising; a third we expect on Friday week.  We had a little service with them on Wednesday: they were in floods of tears, but of joy, in the prayers for them.  On Sunday at a quarter to 8 is to be their first Communion subsequent to their solemn entrance.  Will you remember them?

Now, of course, many people imagine that that powerful woman Priscilla Lydia Sellon (whose initials, PLS along with those of Dr Pusey, EBP, are engraved in the high altar reredos at Ascot Priory) was the first woman to begin a sisterhood in the Church of England, but from what I have said you will see that this is not so.  Indeed one of those early sisters at Park Village remembered Miss Sellon coming to visit them to see what a sisterhood was like. 

Miss Sellon’s Community began in 1848 in Devonport at the urgent request of the Bishop of Exeter, Dr Philpotts, who had appealed for help from gentlewomen to stem the tide of ignorance, drunkenness and vice which prevailed in Plymouth. Some of the Park Village Sisters subsequently went down to Devon to help her during the cholera epidemic in Plymouth, and it was during this period of ceaseless work for the sick and dying that the Sisters asked for the privilege of daily Mass and Communion which, until then, had not been practised in the English Church since the Reformation.

Miss Sellon’s Community began in 1848 in Devonport at the urgent request of the Bishop of Exeter, Dr Philpotts, who had appealed for help from gentlewomen to stem the tide of ignorance, drunkenness and vice which prevailed in Plymouth. Some of the Park Village Sisters subsequently went down to Devon to help her during the cholera epidemic in Plymouth, and it was during this period of ceaseless work for the sick and dying that the Sisters asked for the privilege of daily Mass and Communion which, until then, had not been practised in the English Church since the Reformation.

When Miss Florence Nightingale appealed for nurses to go with her to the Crimea, sisters from these two communities, the Park Village sisters of the Holy Cross and the Devonport sisters of the Most Holy Trinity volunteered and left England with the Park Village Superior.

It was in 1856 that the two communities amalgamated under Mother Lydia, and in 1860 (while still retaining St Dunstan’s Abbey in Plymouth) their new property at Ascot was acquired (mostly at Dr Pusey’s expense) for the erection of the first purpose-built convent in the Church of England and the convalescent home.  So by that coming together of two communities founded under the influence and encouragement of Dr Pusey, the religious life began a hundred year and fifty-four years ago.

Wonderful work followed: the nursing of the sick, the care of orphans at St Christopher’s, St Dunstan’s School in Devonport, the request from Queen Emma in 1864 for sisters to go to Honolulu to set up the school system and St Augustine’s School at Ascot. It was a pioneering and honourable history and there was always the proper tension between the active religious life and the contemplative.  Miss Nightingale could not understand why the “religious” sisters needed to go off and say their prayers and offices so regularly when her own “secular” nurses did not; large and secluded forty acres were provided at Ascot for the sisters to enjoy their contemplation and their recreation without leaving the grounds. 

Dr Pusey loved to spend time there.  He wrote some of his best theology there.  And there it was on 16th September 1882 that he died.  How appropriate, some would say, for perhaps among his many diverse and enormous achievements for English Church few can compare with the revival of the Religious Life of the communities of monks and nuns which have always been a characteristic of the catholic way of life in the Church of God. 

An excerpt from the Last Entry in the Chapter Minute Book

From 1990 Sister Alice resided in the nursing home in St David’s, but continued to attend the Mass and Offices in the Priory Church. After a brief but debilitating illness she died on 4th October 1998 just short of her 100th birthday.  Her funeral, on 14th October, on a beautifully sunny autumn day, was a moving occasion attended by a large number of her friends and friends of the Priory.

With Mother Cecilia the only member of the Community remaining, there were no further Chapter meetings. To attend to the day-to-day running of the Priory a regular “staff meeting” was held on Thursdays, when the Warden made his weekly visit from Oxford. These meetings are minuted from 6th May 1999 and were attended by the Warden (Fr Ursell), the Steward (Mr Greatrix), and the head Groundsman (Mr Berry). Mother Cecilia also attended on occasion.

After many years of legal work a new scheme for Ascot Priory was sealed by the Charity Commissioners on 5th October 2000, to provide for the Priory’s continued service to the Church, “in particular in accordance with the doctrines commonly known as Anglo-Catholic, as resource for retreats and conferences and other charitable work.”

At the end of 2002 the Warden, Fr Philip Ursell, retired after twenty-one as Principal of Pusey House and took up full-time residence at the Priory. 

An obituary in The Times on 1st April paid tribute to the life and work of the last Revd Mother and of the Society of the Most Holy Trinity. Works of charity and mercy, of education and parish care, form part of the honoured history of most communities and provided some of the few opportunities for articulate and powerful women feeling called to public service. Much of what they did has now been assumed by state agencies and recent years have seen a decline in vocations to this life. Consequently some communities closed, some amalgamated, others (like the Ascot Community) developed their ministry as centres for retreats and conferences and Christian hospitality. 

“The Moving Finger writes; and having writ Moves on . . . ” (Fitzgerald’s translation of the Omar Khayyam).  The story of the Society of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: of its foundation and achievements, is now concluded.  But the Hand that wrote it continues to record the response of men and women to a call to the service of God – meeting the same fundamental needs but in developing circumstances. Those nowadays so called and responding may be more deeply indebted than they realise to the example and the prayers of those who have preceded them, as they, in their turn, make their contribution to the fulfilment of God’s purposes in the world.

The Priory of Jesus Christ, Ascot – now the only house of the venerable Society of the Most Holy Trinity – possesses an indefinable atmosphere which makes it different from any other Anglican convent.  Perhaps this is due to the sense one gets of being in actual contact with a now very remote past  .  .  .  .  One would not be surprised to meet Dr Pusey walking beside Mother Lydia’s wheel-chair along the paths between the rhododendron bushes beneath the pine trees.

Peter Anson writes in The Call of the Cloister


For the convenience of researchers, photocopies of archival material from Ascot Priory are deposited at Pusey House, Oxford.