Construction work on a new welcome and reception area at St Mary’s Convent has begun.

The plans envisage a new glass-fronted entrance and reception area to the main building between two wings of the existing Convent buildings. 

The work also includes the refurbishment of space in the North Wing of the building as offices. This will be completed in the summer of 2019 and will provide additional space for the staff of the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST) as they support their 33 schools across Oxfordshire and Berkshire. 

A second phase of the project will start in the summer of 2019. This will regenerate the Guest Wing accommodation, develop conference facilities and see the construction of a new stair and lift tower. This phase will be completed in spring 2020.

The Victorian building has been home to Sisters of the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) since its foundation in the middle of the nineteenth century. The major renewal of parts of the property will be the first in many years. Although different parts of the building will be closed for periods during this work, the Convent will remain open and the Sisters will continue to welcome groups and individual guests for quiet days and retreats.

Sister Stella, the Sister-in-Charge, said: “By sharing parts of the Convent buildings with other organisations which share our ethos and objectives, the Sisters are finding exciting new ways to reach out into the local community.” 

This initiative follows two other recently completed projects on the Convent site, supporting local schools.  St Mary’s Lodge on Challow Road has been converted into six flats for newly qualified teachers, helping local schools to attract new staff. The flats are now all let. Another building on the Convent site, known as the Studio, has been converted into offices for the Vale Academy Trust, a multi-academy trust with eight schools in Wantage and Abingdon.  

“Supporting education in local communities was one of the founding objectives of the Community,” says Alastair Hunter, chair of the CSMV trustees. “We are delighted to be putting the resources of the charity to use to meet this objective in the 21st century.”