Convent of the Holy Name, Morley Road

 

In the autumn of 2018 I was saddened to learn that the Convent had been placed in the hands of an estate agent because the sisters were seeking to move to a smaller, more easily managed property. For this reason, some account of the old house and its occupants over nearly two centuries now seems timely. My first recollection of the building dates back to around the mid-1960s when it was known as The Presentation Convent Novitiate and occupied by Roman Catholic nuns. In those days the Oakwood housing development had not even been dreamt of, and so the house was still very much a part of Chaddesden. By the end of the 1980s, however, when a huge swathe of what had only a few years previously been Chaddesden fields and farms was now engulfed by the new houses of Oakwood, the property was acquired by Anglican sisters of the Community of the Holy Name who had just disposed of their previous, much larger, headquarters in Malvern, Worcestershire. Hereafter the house on Morley Road acquired a new title, The Convent of the Holy Name, and featured Oakwood in its address, rather than Chaddesden (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: East front of the Convent in 2007

 

Set back about one hundred yards from Morley Road and reached by its own drive, it is easy to go straight past the Convent without even realising it is there. This is perhaps not so surprising these days when its former road frontage is taken up by the houses of Oakwood, but I remember trying to get pictures of it from the road in the 1970s and having considerable difficulties, though the problem then was the sheer number of trees obstructing any potential viewpoint (Fig. 2). Fortunately the Community of the Holy Name has held several open days at the Convent in recent years, enabling me to take the colour photographs reproduced here.

Fig. 2: Convent viewed from Morley Road, c.1974

 

Thanks to its comparative seclusion, the architecture of the Convent has not been studied to any great degree and yet it is an interesting building [Note 1]. It is shown on the First Edition one-inch Ordnance Survey map of 1836-9; and on later maps such as the 25-inch map of 1882 (Fig. 3) the main house is readily apparent, along with two other nearby properties, one to the north (The Cottage) and one to the east (Lodge Cottage); in addition another building, Moor Farm, is marked on the opposite side of Morley Road, however, none of these properties appear on the Chaddesden Enclosure Map of 1792, or Greenwood's 1825 map of Derbyshire [Note 2].

Fig. 3: Ordnance Survey map of 1882

 

After studying the evidence provided by the maps, the inevitable conclusion is that the house must date back to the period between the end of George IV's reign and the beginning of William IV's reign, in other words from approximately 1825 to 1835. Certainly the main east front of the house as seen today presents a typical Georgian appearance (‘Regency Style’) and has a recessed porch with two pilasters and a simple triangular pediment (Fig.4).

Fig. 4: Convent - the entrance porch, 2012

 

By c.1914 when staff from the Inland Revenue's Valuation Office visited Chaddesden to assess each property in the village, the house and nearby properties all seemingly belonged to the Wilmot family of Chaddesden Hall, but were they necessarily the original owners of the Convent? Unfortunately, the Chaddesden Enclosure Map of 1792, which is usually such a good source of information about land ownership in the parish is singularly lacking in showing proprietary rights for anything in this immediate area, but it may be significant that the first known occupant of the house, then called Chaddesden Moor, was a member of the Wilmot family, Rev. Richard Coke Wilmot (1802-1856), Perpetual Curate of Chaddesden and the second oldest surviving son of Sir Robert Wilmot (3rd Bart, 1765-1842) of Chaddesden Hall. Rev. Wilmot had first been appointed Stipendiary Curate of Chaddesden and Spondon in 1828, and then Perpetual Curate of the same two villages in 1830, but left the area after being appointed Vicar of Youlgreave with Middleton in 1835. Many of his household furnishings from Chaddesden Moor were offered for sale by auction in September 1837 as detailed in this advertisement from the Derby Mercury of 13 September 1837 (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5: Chaddesden Moor ~ Sale Notice of 1837

 

Evidently Rev. Richard Wilmot had been using Chaddesden Moor as a vicarage, for it would not be until 1851 that a proper vicarage was built in the centre of the village on the site where Vicarage Drive stands today. Indeed, it is not beyonds the bounds of possibility that Sir Robert Wilmot had the property built specifically as the residence of his clergyman son ... he would certainly not want him to be seen living in anything that did not reflect his status as a member of one of the county's leading families! Although Rev. Richard Coke Wilmot and his wife never returned to live in Chaddesden, he was buried here on 22 November 1856, where a gravestone (no.112, now badly eroded) in St. Mary's churchyard commemorates both him and his wife.

 

Once Rev. Wilmot left, the property had a succession of well-to-do occupants, all apparently renting the house and grounds. The various Chaddesden census returns, enhanced by the occasional newspaper article, etc., provide us with details of many of its occupants. In 1841, Mary Heathcote, aged 70, of ‘independent means’, her two adult children and six servants are listed under Chaddesden Moor. Mrs. Heathcote died in August 1844 and it seems her daughter continued to live at Chaddesden for another half year at least, for it was not until March 1845 that a two day sale of furniture was held by instruction of Miss Heathcote. A new occupant for the property was soon found, for a newspaper advertisement of August 1845 gives Chaddesden Moor as the address of Thomas Osborne Bateman, and the 1851 census notes that his household simply comprised himself, aged 42, and his three servants. Bateman was a member of the well-known Derby and Hartington family, who had possessed an estate in Chaddesden ever since an advantageous marriage in the early eighteenth century. In the intervening period before the next census he had married, and in 1861 he, his wife, their infant son and six servants were still living at Chaddesden Moor [Note 3]. The Batemans were clearly appreciative employers as witnessed by a newspaper article in the Derby Mercury of 12 March 1862 (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6: Chaddesden Moor ~ Wedding reception

 

By cross-checking the servants' names from the entry for the Batemans' residence in the 1861 census with the Chaddesden marriage register, it is evident that the two servants were George Woolley, gardener, and Hannah Bardill, housemaid, who were indeed married the previous day at St. Mary's Church. The generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Bateman must have come as a surprise to the couple and would have given them a memorable day to look back upon.

 

Another newspaper article in the Derby Mercury of 18 March 1863 provides details of a complimentary dinner given to Thomas Osborne Bateman at the Wilmot Arms, Chaddesden, and adds several useful pieces of information ... namely that Mr. Bateman was about to leave the parish, where he had been an inhabitant of the village for the past 18 years as a tenant of Sir Henry Wilmot, thereby confirming 1845 as the year in which he first moved to Chaddesden as well as the fact that at this point in time, the Wilmot family were most definitely the owners of the property. On a personal note, I was amused to read that those attending this gathering at the Wilmot Arms enjoyed ‘an excellent dinner, well served and of superior quality’, which had been placed on the table by Mr. and Mrs. Cholerton, since the publican and his wife were German and Anne Cholerton, my gt-gt-gt uncle and aunt; and the article further continued to praise their arrangements ... ‘The wines were as good as the viands, a result not often achieved at our suburban hostelries.’ Thomas Bateman did not move far from his Chaddesden home, however, for his new brand-new house, Breadsall Mount, on Porter's Lane, Breadsall, had just been completed. Years later, in 1927, it became the residence of the Bishop of Derby, but by the late 1960s Breadsall Mount lay empty and a target for vandalism and was finally demolished c.1970.

 

The next recorded occupants of Chaddesden Moor House are listed in the 1871 census as Francis Nicholas Smith, Florence his wife (sister of William Drury Nathaniel Drury Lowe of Locko Park), their two daughters and no fewer than nine servants, however, by the middle of that decade they had moved on and the house was once again being advertised in local newspapers. The Derby Mercury of 12 December 1875 carried a particularly descriptive advertisement (Fig. 7), which provides a useful insight into the accommodation offered by the house at that time, a brief account of the ancillary buildings, the annual rental (£150 a year), and also re-affirms the Wilmot connection, since enquiries were to be directed to Robert C. Wilmot at Woolley, near Wakefield [Note 4].

Fig. 7: Chaddesden Moor House ~ To be Let advert

 

Evidently local maltster, Frederick George Girardot, must have seen the advertisement, inspected the property and agreed terms, since by the time of the 1881 census he, Alice his wife, their 5 month old son Charles Andre Chancourt Girardot and their three servants were residing there. The Girardot family would have known the Derby area quite well, for Frederick's ancestor had once owned Allestree Hall. Sadly, little Charles, whose third forename reflected his family's Huguenot ancestry, was to die only three years later on 20 November 1884 and his gravestone is still to be seen in St. Mary's churchyard (memorial no.136). Retired army colonel Francis Whinyates, his wife, a visitor, and five servants were all enumerated under Chaddesden Moor House in 1891, and in 1901 their place at Moor House, as it was now called, was taken by Hugh Bertie Craven, a brewery manager, Mildred Louisa Lucy his wife (nee Whitmore), their daughter and six servants.

 

In 1904, Mrs. Craven presented a ‘handsome pair of brass candlesticks’ to St. Mary's Church down in the village, for use on the altar; a newspaper article adding that they were much in keeping with the beautiful altar, reredos and screens recently dedicated to the memory of the late Sir Henry Wilmot (Derby Daily Telegraph, 24 August 1904). It would seem that Mrs. Craven gave a second set of candlesticks to the church only three years later shortly after her father, Thomas Whitmore, died on 16 February 1907, for the church still possesses a pair of candlesticks approximately 25 inches in height inscribed as follows: In Sacred Memory of Thomas Charles Douglas Whitmore Presented by M.L.L.C, 1907, A.M.D.G. [Note 5]

 

The Cravens were residing at Chaddesden in 1911, but obviously absent from their house on census day itself because only their six servants are listed. Evidently Mr. and Mrs. Craven found Moor House to their liking, for Hobson's 1921 Directory still shows them living there. Soon afterwards though, they moved to Wheathills House at Kirk Langley, and in 1922 an event occurred that would bring new occupants to the house at Chaddesden, for in that year Charles Arthur Carlin (1884–1964) married Ethel Lilian Birkin (1874–1972).

 

Ethel Lillian was the daughter of Sir Thomas Birkin, a wealthy Nottingham lace manufacturer. Shortly after her marriage to Charles Carlin the couple seem to have bought Moor House and thereafter it was variously named as Moor Grange or simply The Grange. In those days, of course, Oakwood did not exist and the Carlin's house with its pleasant walled garden and set in its own grounds amidst some attractive countryside offered relative seclusion whilst being conveniently near to Derby. Mrs. Carlin had a distinguished nursing background. Some years prior to her marriage, her training began at Nottingham Children's Hospital in the first decade of the twentieth century, and by the time of the First World War she was matron and Red Cross commandant of the Bayley Hospital at Nottingham. Here it was that she met her future husband, Charles Carlin, when he was admitted for treatment (Catholic Herald, 2 February 1940). Originally a London artist, Mr. Carlin served with the R.A.M.C during the First World War (Derby Evening Telegraph, 31 October 1939). Mrs. Carlin's nursing activities were not just confined to England, for she also spent time in Belgium caring for soldiers. In June 1917 the Order of the British Empire was added to the system of imperial honours, its five classes designed to recognise war-time service, and Mrs. Carlin (or rather Ethel Lilian Birkin as she was then) became one of the founder members when she was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), the details being recorded in the Supplement to the London Gazette, 24 August 1917 (Fig. 8). For her work in Belgium she was also awarded the Belgian War Medal, The Médaille de la Reine Elisabeth of Belgium and the 1,000th Mons Red Cross Medal.

Fig. 8: Ethel Lilian Birkin's award of the O.B.E.

 

Charles Carlin was an accomplished artist, sometimes exhibiting his work in London, and Kelly's 1925 Derbyshire Directory hints at the type of work he undertook ... ‘Moor Grange, Chaddesden - Charles Carlin, ecclesiastical decorations and children's nurseries, Telephone number Spondon 11’. Both he and his wife were Roman Catholics and together they wrote and published various books of a religious nature, under the address of St. Mary's Studio, Chaddesden ... St. Mary's in this instance being a reference to St. Mary's RC Church in Derby, and not St. Mary's Church, Chaddesden. When a temporary hut was installed on Roe Farm Lane in 1948 as the forerunner to St. Alban's RC Church (itself not completed until 1955), Mr. Carlin embellished its somewhat austere interior by stencilling the sacred monogram ‘I.H.S’ (the abbreviation of the name Jesus in Greek) above an alpha-omega-crown emblem on the walls to both sides side of the altar [Note 6]; he was also responsible for carving three figures on the rood-beam of Our Lady & St. Thomas of Hereford Church, Nottingham Road, Ilkeston (Derby Daily Telegraph, 15 May 1930). The Carlins' own residence was permitted a private chapel, dedicated to St. Francis, where priests from Derby regularly celebrated Mass ... Mr. Carlin not only designed its altar, but also painted the picture of Our Lady displayed above it (Catholic Herald, 2 February 1940). When not engaged in his artistic work, Mr. Carlin was also a beekeeper of some standing, and even the wax candles used in his home chapel were made from wax supplied by his own bees; he also regularly gave demonstrations of this craft at Chaddesden.

 

The Carlins played an important role in the local community too. In 1928 the Chaddesden Hospital Fund was created to help raise money for Derby hospitals in those pre-NHS days, and Mr. Carlin was appointed President, with his wife as Vice-President (Derby Daily Telegraph, 22 May 1928). In the 1930s they regularly welcomed groups of convalescent children to their house, who would stay for two or three weeks; the doors, cupboards and walls of the children's dormitories being decorated with scenes painted by Mr. Carlin (Derby Daily Telegraph, 19 September 1936). With the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, a splash of colour in those drab, wartime years was provided by a small, primrose coloured ambulance (licence plate DNU 379) which Mr. and Mrs. Carlin had equipped for the use of the 56th Detachment of the Derbyshire Red Cross, working from Chaddesden. Despite its limited size, the vehicle could still hold one stretcher and four sitting cases at any one time, whilst providing ‘the maximum amount of comfort in the minimum of space’ (Derby Evening Telegraph, 31 October 1939). Given Mrs. Carlin's nursing background, it is probably not surprising to learn that the Carlins would shortly take things one stage further and transform their Chaddesden home into a temporary Red Cross Hospital (Catholic Herald, 2 February 1940).

 

Mrs Carlin's connections in the Nottingham area probably explain how she and her husband became acquainted with Prince Alexander Obolensky (1916–1940), who studied first at the Ashe Preparatory School, Etwall, and then Trent College, Long Eaton. After the 1917 revolution his parents fled Russia, where his father had been an officer in the Czar's Imperial Horse Guard, and settled in London. From the ago of eight, Prince Alexander spent a significant amount of time each year living with the Carlins, no doubt because of the relative proximity of their Chaddesden house to his schools, and he developed into a fine athlete, playing cricket, swimming, boxing, and rifle shooting, although it was his prowess at the game of Rugby that he was best known for ... whilst at Oxford University he was capped for England and his tries helped his adopted country beat the All Blacks for the first time on English soil (Derby Evening Telegraph, 30 March 1940). After becoming a naturalised Englishman in 1936, Prince Alexander joined the R.A.F., but was tragically killed when his Hawker Hurricane plane crashed at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk in 1940. In 2009 a memorial to Obolensky was unveiled in Cromwell Square, Ipswich, only a few miles from where he met his death.

 

By the 1950s Mr. and Mrs. Carlin must have been finding their Chaddesden home far too large for them and in 1957 generously gave it to the Sisters of the Presentation for their novitiates, and before long the Sisters were moving from Cressbrook Hall to their new premises [Note 7]. The Carlins meanwhile moved to their much smaller property, The Cottage, only a few yards away. The Grange now had a new name, The Presentation Convent Novitiate, and only a few years later, seemingly in 1961, a spacious chapel (Fig. 9) was added on the west side of the house [Note 8].

Fig. 9: The Convent chapel, August 2007

 

Changing circumstances meant that by the 1980s the Sisters of the Presentation began to think of selling their novitiate house here; this was extremely fortuitous for the Community of the Holy Name, based in Malvern, who had been searching for new premises for some time. In August 1987 the Community unanimously agreed to proceed with the purchase of the house at Oakwood and preparations for the move got underway. The Community's architect, Mr. O'Neill advised that the chapel and the cottage should be retained, and that the main portion of the original house be refurbished as offices, teaching rooms and common rooms. Further work would involve the demolition of various outbuildings and previous extensions, thus providing the space for a new building to house the kitchen, refectory, library, etc. The first project undertaken was the renovation of The Cottage, enabling three or four sisters to move in so that the Community would have a presence on-site whilst the work to the main building was underway [Note 9].

 

In the February 1990 edition of St. Mary's Parish Magazine, the Vicar of Chaddesden, Rev. Ian Jarvis, was able to note, ‘We have known for a long time that the former Roman Catholic Convent at Oakwood has now been bought by an Anglican order, the Community of the Holy Name of Jesus, to give them their full title. We have already benefited from their ministry since the “advance party” arrived over a year ago. Now the whole community has arrived, or is in the process of arriving.’ He also commented on the fact that the sisters were giving the hospitality of their chapel on Sunday mornings to the new church on Oakwood, which was currently without a building to use for worship. The same issue of the magazine also advertised the special service to be held in Derby Cathedral on Saturday 3 March 1990 ‘to welcome the Community of the Holy Name upon their arrival from Malvern.’ Now in 2018 and over a quarter of a century later, the wheel of time has turned full circle and it seems likely that the Community of the Holy Name will be departing before too long, leaving this interesting old house and its delightful gardens to face an uncertain future.

 

Perhaps it is fitting that the final paragraphs in my article should refer back to Charles and Lilian Carlin, who were the last people to use Moor Grange (as they called it) as a private home. A sunny open day in September 2012 provided the ideal opportunity for me to wander around the Convent's extensive (4.4 acre) gardens [Note 10]. After examining the ha-ha designed to keep cattle and sheep away from the house without the need for hedges to obstruct the view, I came upon a charming wooden shrine and was immediately struck by its obvious similarity to one of Charles Carlin's illustrations that he had used back in 1934 to illustrate his wife's book, Legends about our Blessed Lord and His Little Servants (Fig. 10).

Fig. 10: The Wayside Shrine: Left ~ Charles Carlin's illustration of 1934; Right ~ A shrine in the Convent garden, Sept. 2012

 

Lilian Carlin's book was published by St. Mary's Studio, Chaddesden, Derbyshire, which of course was the business name the Carlins used for their various enterprises. I couldn't help but wonder which came first, the shrine in the Convent garden or the book illustration? If the Convent shrine really dates back to the 1930s then it has withstood the elements well down the years, don't you think?

 

© Peter Cholerton, 2018

 

 

NOTES:

 

1. Although not statutorily listed by Historic England, the Convent is featured in Derby City Council's list of buildings of local architectural and/or historical importance.

 

2. The Cottage was apparently once a barn as this extract from the Derby Daily Telegraph of 19 September 1936 indicates ... ‘Another little building near the fields was formerly a barn, but it is now a very pretty cottage. When Mrs. Carlin is tired of living in her big house, and wishes to recapture the joys of doing her own cooking, she and her husband retire to this cottage for quiet and a rest.’ Unfortunately the article leaves us wondering exactly when it was converted, and by whom. The second property, Lodge Cottage was sold in 1995 and swiftly demolished, and today nos. 227 and 229 Morley Road, Oakwood, occupy its site. In August 2000, Erewash Borough Council approved the application to build Derby County's new Football Academy on the site of Moor Farm, and by April 2002 all trace of the old farmhouse and its ancillary buildings had been obliterated.

 

3. Given the connection between Chaddesden and the Bateman family, it is worth noting that Rev. Richard Coke Wilmot's appointment as Vicar of Youlgreave with Middleton in 1835 was to another area where the Bateman family was of especial prominence.

 

4. Robert Charles Wilmot was a Land Agent and nephew of Sir Henry Sacheverel Wilmot of Chaddesden Hall.

 

5. M.L.L.C. ... Mildred Louisa Lucy Craven; A.M.D.G. ... Initial letters of Ad Majorem dei Gloriam (To the Greater Glory of God).

 

6. Picture in St. Alban's, Chaddesden, Silver Jubilee, 1956-1981, Chaddesden, 1981, p.5.

 

7. Nottingham Diocesan Yearbook Index, 1959 (Diocesan Yearbook Indices, Vol.1, available as a download from the Diocesan website).

 

8. Nottingham Diocesan Yearbook Index, 1962, lists ‘Sisters of the Presentation (Chaddesden), New Chapel, 1961’ (Diocesan Yearbook Indices, Vol.1, available as a download from the Diocesan website).

 

9. The details about the work done to the building prior to the Community moving in is based on pp.23 & 25 in the Sisters' own book, Celebrating 150 Years of the Community of the Mission Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus, Oakwood, 2015.

 

10: The grounds of the Convent are an important relic of what was once the agricultural land of Chaddesden Common. On page 23 of their 1989 book, The Flora of Derby, Keith Futter and Peter Raynes noted that ‘ ... particularly rich hay meadows were located ... around the Presentation Convent, Oakwood (SK 391385), which supported an outstanding community with many uncommon species to Derby including, Betony, Great Burnet, Quaking Grass and Devilsbit Scabious and was the only site within the City where Common Sedge was found.’

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