The community of sisters who still reside at The Bar Convent belong to the Congregation of Jesus, which was founded by Mary Ward.

We were established in 1686 by Frances Bedingfield, an early member of Mary Ward’s institute. The £450 it took to build was donated by Sir Thomas Gascoigne, who said, "We must have a school for our daughters."

At this time of religious turbulence, the early sisters were careful to conceal their identity. They wore slate-coloured gowns in the fashion of the day to avoid arousing suspicion. When Mother Aspinal’s new Chapel was built in 1769, it was designed with eight separate exits to allow the congregation to escape in the event of a raid by authorities. Its magnificent neoclassical dome is still concealed beneath our pitched slate roof.

During the First World War, Belgian nuns and refugee children were given a home in the convent, while the Concert Hall was converted into a hospital ward for wounded soldiers. In the Second World War, the convent was bombed during the Baedeker Raids. Five sisters lost their lives in the blast.

The community ran the school for 299 years, until in 1985 it was transferred to the Diocese of Middlesbrough.

Today, The Bar Convent is still home to sisters of Mary Ward's religious order, the Congregation of Jesus. The Grade I Listed buildings are open to the public, welcoming those of all faiths and none.

You can discover more of our story in the Exhibition.

Our thanks to Sr Patricia Harriss CJ for her invaluable contribution to this page.

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