A BRIEF HISTORY
Established in 1686, when Catholicism was illegal, the Bar Convent is the oldest living convent in the UK and oldest surviving place of Catholic worship after Henry VIII closed them all down in the 1530s.
The religious order who reside here, now known as the Congregation of Jesus, was founded by Yorkshire woman Mary Ward (1585-1645). Mary made education for women one of her main missions in life because she recognised the greatness that women could achieve- if given the same education and opportunities as boys.
Sadly, Mary died before seeing her mission realised. However, her followers continued her work and opened the first schools for girls in the UK here at the Bar Convent and in London in 1669.
Today this is the main house of a global order of sisters, and there are more than 200 schools in Mary Ward’s name across the world.
Our work here aims to celebrate, raise awareness and preserve the history of this special building and the remarkable women who risked their lives to pioneer education for girls and pave the way for religious women to work as missionaries.