In 1833, a Sisters of Saint Joseph community was founded in Annecy. The new Congregation grew and developed, and in 1849 established its first mission in India. From there, thanks to the initiative and generosity of Captain Dewell, who had witnessed the wonderful work done by the nuns, plans were set in motion to establish a mission of the nuns in his home county of Wiltshire.
On May 24th 1864, two nuns - Mother Athanase Novel and Sr Stanislaus Bryan - left India for England. After a hazardous journey and a two-month period of rest at the Mother House in Annecy they continued their journey on August 16th 1864, together with an English novice, Sr Josephine Twomey, and set up the first community in England at Devizes. On September 1st 1864, the three nuns opened a school in Monday Market Street for poor children, starting with twelve pupils who each paid one penny a week.
The three original nuns were joined by others and at its height the convent housed ten or so nuns. Some of them worked in the Convent School and in the other St Joseph's Schools.
In 1964, the nuns celebrated the centenary of their arrival in Devizes. The Bishop of Clifton, The Right Reverend Joseph Rudderham, presided at the celebration Mass.
The three nuns lived in Wyndham Villas, which by then had been vacated by the priests. They were warned that they may be the subject of insults and petty persecutions, which they were. Indeed a speaker at a local function warned his audience of the "necessity of avoiding the follies of Catholicism and of shunning the nuns who dappled [sic] in witchcraft".
On Sundays the nuns walked to Chippenham to play the harmonium for Mass and to teach the Catechism.
In addition to the school in Monday Market Street the nuns opened a school for "middle and upper class children" in Wyndham Villas which became St Joseph's Convent School. In 1943 the house at the far end of St Joseph's Walk was purchased and this became the convent, leaving the whole of Wyndham Villas for the school. Subsequently the convent was sold and a further house was built beyond it.
Sisters of St Joseph who have served in Devizes
Mother Athanase Novel
Sr Berchmans Josephine
Sr David Lewis
If any parishioners, or others, can help by adding the names of other nuns,
please contact the Parish Archivist using the email address at the bottom of the page.
Sr Dominic Savio
Sr Francis Mary
Sr Jane Francis
Sr Josephine Twomey
Sr Mary Jane
Sr Mary of Lourdes
Sr Mary Paul
Sr Mary Thomas
Sr Maureen McCarthy
Sr Patricia Joseph
Sr Stanislaus Bryan
Sr St Michael
Other photographs will be added. Please visit again.
In 2008 Sr David Lewis and Sr Genevieve were each granted an Apostolic Blessing by Pope Benedict XVI.
In the adjacent photograph they are with, left to right, Fathers Francis Steven, Philip Baptiste, Sean Fleury, Terry McGrath and Saji Mathew.
In 2020 the Mother House at Lantarnam Abbey recalled Sr Anne and Sr Genevieve to the Abbey. The house in Park View was sold and on March 3rd 2021 Srs Anne and Genevieve left Devizes, marking the end of almost 157 years of service given to Devizes by the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy.
Text adapted from the Sisters of St Joseph website
By 2002 the number of nuns had dwindled to three. The convent was sold and the nuns moved to a house in Park View.