The Sisters of Notre Dame

We were delighted to recently welcome back four former Sisters of Notre Dame, who lived at Ashdown Park for Afternoon Tea and a show round with our General Manager Ben Booker. 

The Catholic Church owned Ashdown Park between 1919 - 1971 with the first Sisters of Notre Dame, together with 33 novices arriving to Ashdown Park in the spring of 1920.

The sister who joined the church as novices would be required to spend 12 months within the confinements of their property, not too hard at Ashdown Park with the grand building and at the time, over 186 acres. Every Sister was responsible for their part in the general upkeep of the building and grounds. Novices wore White veils and Nuns wore black Veils. The Sister in habit


A Brief History of Ashdown Park:

1693 - Ashdown Park was enclosed under the decree of 1693 and originally the estate comprised of 3,563 acres and included Pippingford Park, Old Lodge and the Army Training Ground.

1800's - Ashdown Park Mansion house was built

1867 - The main mansion house was demolished and rebuilt after 1867, at the same time they began some of the landscaping we still have today. 

1886 - The little Church of St Richard de Wych and a schoolroom was built to the east of the present estate. Sadly the church fell into disrepair and was demolished in the 1970’s.)

1970 to 1919 - Ashdown Park was a family home, a Hospital and Convalescent Home for Belgian Army Officers and a vast amount of the mature trees were felled for pit props. 

1919 - In June the Estate was once more put up for sale, and in July, Sister Marie Saints Anges of the Order of the Notre Dame visited Ashdown Park and considered it ideal for Convent purposes. Sister Marie had been born into the wealthy Towneley family of Burnley and baptised Mary Elizabeth. She entered the Order of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur in Belgium in 1872 and stayed in Namur until 1915 when she returned to England. In 1919 she was requested by the Mother General to find a property suitable for a training establishment for the novices and was able to purchase Ashdown Park for the Order quite cheaply as most of the trees had been felled.

1920 - In the spring the first Sisters of Notre Dame, together with 33 novices arrived at Ashdown Park. The House on its own was too small for Convent purposes, extensions to the building were planned and the stone was quarried from the grounds. The money for this venture was forthcoming from the Townley Estates (which were bequeathed to Sister Marie when her elder brother Richard died) and from the Honourable Mrs Edward Petre (formerly The Honourable Laura Stafford-Jerningham, the daughter of Lord Stafford) who on the early demise of her husband, joined the Order and gave her large fortune to furtherance of Catholic education.

1922 - The West Wing was completed

1924 - The Church of Our Lady and St Richard (so called in honour of Richard Towneley) in 1924 was completed but not consecrated in 1927. It was particularly beautiful with marble from Italy, Switzerland and Sweden. The Stations of the Cross were sculpted in Bruges. Harry Clarke of Dublin designed and manufactured the Sanctuary Windows where 35 Shades of blue were used in addition to other colours. Geoffrey Webb, of East Grinstead, executed the stained glass windows in the Lady Chapel.

1938 - The In East Wing was completed 

1971 -  The Chapel was deconsecrated and Ashdown Park was sold by The Roman Catholic Church to The United States International University.

1974 - Barclays Bank purchased Ashdown Park as a Management Training Centre

1993 - 1st February Elite Hotels purchased Ashdown Park