This amazing architectural gem was founded in 1841 after businessman, John Hardman gave the land for it to be built on. He lived in the house opposite that is now used as the presbytery to St. Francis Church. He was a businessman who worked in ecclesiastical metalwork and stained glass. The convent was designed in Gothic Revival style by Augustus Welby Pugin, who is most famous for his work in the Palace of Westminster. He also designed St. Chad’s Cathedral in the centre of Birmingham.

In 1840, Bishop Walsh wrote to Catherine McCauley in Dublin and asked her to establish a convent to administer help to the poor in the area. She did this with just four Sisters one of whom was the daughter of John Hardman. The convent developed and received many orphans into the House of Mercy, where the Sisters cared for them, providing education as well as food and shelter.

The Sisters played an active role in the Crimean War, working alongside Florence Nightingale. In 1942, the Church and House of Mercy was destroyed by bombs, parts of the convent and cloisters were badly damaged. In 2000, the convent was extensively refurbished and reopened to the public in 2005 with a heritage trail and exhibition. The Sisters welcome you to marvel at the glowing colours of the restored interior.

You can visit by prior appointment. Helen Ryan was born in Ireland and came to the UK in 1960 when she joined the Sisters of Mercy as a trainee Roman Catholic nun. She then went to train as a teacher, a professional career she pursued for many years. She became the Director for Religious Studies in Sussex and later worked as an Ofsted school inspector.

Further Information:

www.mercyhandsworth.org.uk

Tel: 0121 554 3271

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Mary%27s_Convent,_Handsworth