Mother Superior Marian Rebecca HUGHES (1817–1912)
Sister Julia Ellen Brown (1836–1909)
Sister Sarah HILL (1838–1910)
Novice Amelia Anne COLE (1841–1867)
* * *
Plus sixteen Sisters listed only by their first name:
Louisa, Amelia, Margaret, Constance, Anne, Marian, Gertrude, Rosa, Augusta Mary,
Margaret Isobel, Julia, Emma, Sarah, Mary, Theodora, Anna Mary, Teresa, and Isabel Angela

St Giles section: Row 13, Graves B30–32 and Row 14, Graves B30–32

This is a composite grave for the Sisters of the Society of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, comprising six plots.

Sisters of Mercy

See the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for the full biography
of Marian Rebecca Hughes, Anglican nun

Marian Rebecca Hughes was born on 14 January 1817 at Shenington, Gloucestershire, the youngest child of Robert Edward Hughes (then Rector of Shenington) and Martha Pyner (born in Epwell, Oxfordshire in 1786). She had a brother, Robert Edward Hughes junior, and a sister, Fanny.

Marian’s cousin, the Revd Thomas Chamberlain, Vicar of St Thomas’s, Oxford, was the friend of the Revd Charles Seager. At the time of the 1841 census Marian (24) was staying with the Revd Seager, his wife Ann, and their three-month-old baby Marian (possibly named after her) in St John Street, Oxford (the household is listed between Nos. 27 and 28). At Seager’s house a couple of months later, on 6 June 1841, she became the first woman to take religious vows in communion with the Anglican Province of Canterbury since the Reformation, making them privately to E. B. Pusey.

Marian’s father Robert Edward Hughes senior died at Shenington on 1 June 1846, and her brother of the same name succeeded him as Rector there. Marian initially kept house for her brother, but following his marriage to Laura Lloyd in the Banbury district in 1849, she and her mother came down to live in St Thomas’s parish, Oxford. On 10 December 1849 Bishop Samuel Wilberforce formally sanctioned the foundation of a sisterhood, but as yet it had no premises.

24 St John Street

By the time of the 1851 census Martha Hughes (63) and Marian (34) were living with a cook and a house/parlour servant at 24 St John Street (left). This house is just to the north of Pusey Street, and thus in St Giles’s parish.

During the great cholera epidemic of October 1854, Mother Marian, as she was now known, and her sisters nursed families in tents on Port Meadow under the guidance of Dr Acland.

In July 1857 Mother Marian started up Holy Trinity Convent School, a senior school for the daughters of professional families, in her mother’s house at 24 St John Street, and another school for the children of college servants and tradesmen in St Giles’s.

Although Mrs Martha Hughes was still the head of the household at 24 St John Street at the time of the 1861 census, her daughter Marian had by then turned her house into a convent as well as a school. There were six Sisters of Mercy living there (Marian herself, Julia Ellen Brown, Alice Vinell, Emilia Henrietta D. Young, Caroline Buckland, and Sarah Hill) as well as a schoolmistress, two pupil teachers, and four schoolgirls aged between ten and sixteen. Their only servant was a cook.

In December 1864 Marian Hughes applied to St John’s College for land in north Oxford to build a convent. She purchased the leasehold of a large site in the Woodstock Road, and from her own means commissioned Charles Buckeridge to build between 1866 and 1868 a large convent for the Sisters of Mercy on the Woodstock Road (now St Antony’s College): it cost £8,000 to build. It was opened in March 1868, and the orphanage and the senior school from their house in St John Street moved straight in.

Convent, Woodstock Road

Convent

Marian’s mother Martha Hughes died at the age of 82 near the end of 1868, the year the convent opened, and is probably buried with her husband in Shenington. Her brother Robert Edward Hughes died on 4 January 1869 at Shenington, and it was probably Marian who placed an announcement of his death in Jackson's Oxford Journal.

In 1876 a building was erected on the corner of Winchester Road to house the other school. (The latter was later renamed St Denys’s School. and closed in 1963.)

At the time of the 1871 census Marian Hughes, the Mother Superior, was settled in her new convent with thirteen other sisters (Caroline Buckland, Emma Cookson, Augusta James, Isabel Marryat, Jane Hyde, Julia Tooge, Julia Brown, Anne Lucas, Sarah Hill, Mary Newman, Charlotte Stein, Mary Chipperfield, and Eleanor Warburton). The school was much bigger than before: there were two teachers, and 31 pupils aged between 5 and 21 (including Marian’s niece Frances M. Hughes) . The domestic staff comprised a laundress, needlewoman, and cook.

In 1881 there were sixteen Sisters of Mercy under Marian Hughes (Augusta Thurlow, Constance Michell, Gertrude Maill, Julia Brown, Caroline Buckland, Isabel Marryat, Mary Newman, Mary Hutchinson, Jane Chipperfield, Sarah Glanville, Sarah Hill, Catherine Spiesler, Emma Corbold, Mary French, Mabel Foweler, and Jane Hyde), and one novice (Rose Matthews). There were 32 female pupils, and no servants were listed.

In 1891 there were fifteen Sisters of Mercy under Marian Hughes (Julia Brown, Emma Cookson, Augusta Thurlow James, Isabel Marryat, Jane Hyde, Isabel Fowler, Gertrude Moule, Mary French, Mary Townson, Alice Furley, Marian Buckeridge, Mary Hutchinson, Teresa Chipperfield, Rose Matthews, and Elizabeth Johnston) and one postulant (Isabella Cropton). There were seventeen orphanage pupils, and two pupils of the convent high school. The domestic staff comprised a cook, nurse, and laundress.

On 7 October 1891 the Bishop of Lincoln laid the foundation stone for the new chapel of the convent. Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 10 October reported on the ceremony, and added:

The old chapel has become quite inadequate to accommodate the large number of children under the charge of the Mother Superior, and the new building is being erected at a cost of between 5000l. and 6000l, The building will be in the gothic style of architecture from the designs of Mr. J. L. Pearson, R.A. Messrs. Wyatt and Son are the Builders, and D. Ireson the clerk of the works. In the basement will be a chapter house and a crypt, which in all probability will be used as a part of the school. The chapel will be about 70 feet by 22 feet, and will be connected with the main building by a corridor. There will be a bell turret, and under the vestry will be a record room. The chapel will be some 12 feet above the level of the ground.

The chapel was completed in 1894.

In 1901 there were nineteen Sisters of Mercy (Julia Brown, Emma Cookson, Augusta Thurlow James, Isabel Fowler, Mildred Vibert, Theodora Seymour, Agnes Young, Ursula Blythman, Ella Boddington, Isabella Crofton, Alice Furley, Elizabeth Johnston, Isabel Marryat, Mary Hutchinson, Sarah Glanville, Louisa Cotton, Lydia Bowe, Jane Chipperfield, and Sarah Hill). There were also two teachers and 34 pupils or scholars, but no domestic staff.

By 1911, the elementary school at the convent had become a board school under Oxford City Council, and there was also a small secondary school. Mother Marian died in 1912:

† Marian Rebecca Hughes died at the Convent, Woodstock Road at the age of 95 on 7 May 1912 and was buried on 9 May in the large plot for the Sisters of the Society of the Holy & Undivided Trinity that was first used back in 1867 (burial recorded in parish register of St Giles’s Church).

A large number of clergy and lay people joined in the funeral procession, which was headed by girls from the orphanage carrying flowers, with twenty-four sisters following the bier. Photographs of her funeral appeared in the Oxford Journal Illustrated of 15 May 1912, and her obituary in The Times of 11 May 1912 read as follows:

On May 7 died at the Convent, Woodstock-road, Oxford, the first woman to take the religious vows in the Church of England since the Reformation. Newman in 1840 wrote of Pusey as “eager about setting up sisters of mercy,” and on June 6, 1841 (Trinity Sunday) Marian Rebecca Hughes, the youngest child of the Rev. R. E. Hughes, Rector of Shenington, Gloucestershire, and his wife, Martha Pyner, took the vows as an Anglican nun.

She was at first directed in her course by Mr. Newman, afterwards for more than 50 years by Dr. Pusey, and then by the late Bishop of Lincoln. She was a woman of great force of character, great capacity for organization and government, and remarkable energy. Beginning in a small house in St. John’s-street, Oxford, her sisterhood — with its schools for poor orphan girls, for children of Oxford tradesmen, and for girls of the upper classes, its printing office (from which issued for many years a Convent Magazine of considerable literary merit), and its work among the poor and fallen — moved into a fine building, with a simple but large and beautiful chapel and extensive grounds, on the Woodstock-road. The society was founded under the authority of Bishop Wilberforce, and all the succeeding Bishops gave it their countenance and support, Bishop Stubbs especially giving (as the Superior was fond of recalling) very wise advice in times of difficulty.

Though for many years the aged Mother was not seen outside the walls of the convent, she knew many members of the University; their children had often been taught in her school; some of them occasionally gave lectures to her higher classes; and Bishop Paget, Bishop Gore, and others who have passed away or left Oxford were among her friends. Her memory was remarkable to an advanced age. Born in 1817, she could remember the reign of George IV, and had many interesting anecdotes of her early life which it is to be hoped may be preserved. Her great work in the cholera year is not yet forgotten by the poor of Oxford. Though she was intimately acquainted with French Catholicism, and had much sympathy for foreign devotional rules, she remained a firm Anglican. Shrewd, full of humour and kindliness, entirely devoted to her self-imposed work, no one could have been better fitted to revive for English Churchwomen a career which has given happiness to very many.

Three photographs were published in the Oxford Journal Illustrated on 15 May 1912 with the following text and captions:

On Thursday afternoon the funeral took place at St. Sepulchre’s Cemetery, Walton-street, of Marian Rebecca Hughes, Sister Superior of the Convent, Woodstock-road, who passed away on the previous Tuesday at the advanced age of 95. Our photos show:— (1) The head of the procession crossing the Woodstock-road. (2) The coffin, followed by the chief mourners. (3) Well-known local clergy in the procession. (A) The Archdeacon of Oxford (The Rev. Archer Houblin, D.D., (B) the Rev. Dr C. R. Davey Biggs (Vicar of SS. Philip and James’, (C) the Rev. Dr B. J. Kidd (vicar of St. Paul’s).

There was also an obituary in the Oxford Magazine 1911–1912, p. 321.

Marian Rebecca Hughes’s wealth at death was £1,356 15s. 7d., and she left it in equal shares to the Rt Hon. Frederick Earl Beauchamp, the Hon. William Edward Sackville West of Keble College, and the Revd Henry Ramsden Bramley.

Her convent survived to the late 1940s, and is now part of St Antony's College: its former chapel is now the college library.


Sister Julia Ellen Brown

Julia Ellen Brown was born in Pimlico, London in 1836/7. At the time of the 1861 census, when she was 24, she was a Sister of Mercy at the original convent at 24 St John Street, and she moved to the new convent on the Woodstock Road and remained there until her death in 1909:

† Julia Ellen Brown died at the convent at the age of 73 in late 1909 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 4 December (burial recorded in parish register of St Giles’s Church).


Sister Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill was born in London/Middlesex in 1835/6. At the time of the 1861 census, when she was 25, she was a Sister of Mercy at the original convent at 24 St John Street, and she moved to the new convent on the Woodstock Road and remained there until her death in 1910:

† Sarah Hill died at the convent at the age of 72 near the end of 1910 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 30 December (burial recorded in parish register of St Giles’s Church).


Amelia Anne Cole, Novice

Amelia Anne Cole was born in 1840/1 and had entered the convent at 24 St John Street as a novice in the 1860s (after the 1861 census) while in her early twenties. She died at this original convent in 1867:

† Amelia Anne COLE died at the convent in St John Street at the age of 25 in April 1867, and appears to be the first of the group of nuns to be buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 15 April (burial recorded in parish register of St Giles’s Church).


Sixteen Sisters only identified by their first names in the main plot

The first eight are difficult, and some of them appear to be duplications. After that they are listed in date order of their death and are easy to identify

  • Sister Louisa: Is this Louisa COTTON, who was a sister in 1901?
  • Sister Amelia: Is this a duplication? See Amelia Anne COLE in main plot
  • Sister Margaret: ?
  • Sister Constance: This may be Sister Constance Augusta MITCHELL in separate grave, below
  • Sister Anne: This may be Sister Anne LUCAS in separate grave, below
  • Sister Marian: This may be Marion Emma BUCKERIDGE in separate grave, below
  • Sister Gertrude: This may be Gertrude Mary MOULE in separate grave, below
  • Sister Rosa: ?
  • Sister Augusta Mary is Augusta Thurlow JAMES, who died at the Convent at the age of 60 and was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 11 August 1907 (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)
  • Sister Margaret Isobel is Margaret Isobel FOWLER, who died at the Convent at the age of 62 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 24 October 1908 (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)
  • Sister Julia is Julia Ellen BROWN, who died at the Convent at the age of 73 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 4 December 1909 (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)
  • Sister Emma is Elizabeth Emma FOSTER, who died at the Convent at the age of 43 and was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 15 January 1910 (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)
  • Sister Sarah is Sarah Anna GLANVILLE, who died at the Convent at the age of 54 and was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 12 August 1914 (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)
  • Sister Mary is Mary NEWMAN, who died at the Convent at the age of 67 and was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 13 April 1912 (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)
  • Sister Teresa is Jane Teresa CHIPPERFIELD, who died at the Convent at the age of 67 and was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 2 September 1921 (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)
  • Sister Isabel Angela is Isabel Angela MARRYAT, who died at the Convent at the age of 87 and was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 15 June 1929 (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)

 

Nine other separate Convent graves

There are also nine more individual graves of Sisters from the Convent in Row 51, Graves K37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, and 43–5 (triple plot). Biographies have not yet been done for these women:

Sister Emily COOKSON (K37) died at the Convent at the age of 70 (after being a Sister for 53 years) in 1901 and was buried in St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 23 March 1901 (burial recorded in the parish registers of both St Giles’s and Ss Philip & James’s Church)

Sister Gertrude MOULE (K38) died at the Convent at the age of 63 in 1898 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 14 March (burial recorded in the parish registers of both St Giles’s and Ss Philip & James’s Church)

Sister Emma BUCKERIDGE (K39) is probably Marion Emma BUCKERIDGE, who died at the Convent at the age of 34 in 1897 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 22 December (burial recorded in the parish registers of both St Giles’s and Ss Philip & James’s Church)

Sister Frances Maria MILMAN (K40) died at Winchester Road at the age of 66 in 1888. She was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 22 December (burial recorded in the parish registers of both St Giles’s and Ss Philip & James’s Church)

Sister Anne (K41) is probably Sister Anne LUCAS, who died at the Convent at the age of 65 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 18 June 1885 (burial recorded in the parish registers of both St Giles’s and Ss Philip & James’s Church)

Sister Catherine SPIESLER (K42), born in Alsace, died at the Convent at the age of 39 in 1885 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 4 May, with the funeral conducted by E. King, D.D., Lord Bishop of Lincoln (burial recorded in the parish registers of both St Giles’s and Ss Philip & James’s Church). Her funeral was reported thus in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 9 May 1895:

FUNERAL OF A SISTER OF THE CONVENT OF THE HOLY TRINITY. — The funeral of Sister Catherine Speisler, who died on the previous Thursday, at the Convent, St. Giles., in the 40th year of her age, took place in St. Sepulchre’s Cemetery on Monday last. The procession, which was formed by the ladies and orphans residing in the Convent, and the children belonging to the day school, left the building shortly before twelve o’clock, the coffin following on a wheeled bier, two of the Sisters walking at the head and two at the foot. Miss Hughes, the Mother Superior, was chief mourner. At the gateway of the Cemetery the body was met by the Bishop of Lincoln and the Revds. H. R. Bramley, H. Spencer, W. J. Wyon, and Goldenburg, and on being placed in the Chapel the coffin was literally covered with wreaths and other floral mementoes. The first part of the service was said by the Rev. W. J. Wyon, the lesson was read by the Rev. H. R. Bramley, and the Bishop of Lincoln said the remaining portion of the service at the grave. The coffin was of polished oak, of 11th century pattern, and on each side of the sloping lid ran the simple inscription, in old English letters, “Catherine, Sister of the Holy Trinity.” The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. J. Horseman, St. John’s-road.

Sister Constance Augusta MITCHELL (K43) died at the Convent at the age of 26 or 27 in 1882 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 31 August (burial recorded in the parish registers of both St Giles’s and Ss Philip & James’s Church)

Sister Margaret Isabel FOWLER (K44) died at the Convent at the age of 62 in 1908 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 24 October (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)

Sister Isabella Charlotte CROFTON (K45), 18 years a sister, died at the Convent the age of 75 in 1910 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 28 September (burial recorded in the parish register of St Giles’s Church)

One novice who died at the Convent is not listed on the graves:

  • Beatrice Sophia WINTERBORNE, who died at the Convent at the age of 15 and was buried (presumably at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery) on 28 January 1885 (burial recorded in the parish register of Ss Philip & James’s Church)

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