Care home run by Catholic order of nuns
For over thirty years a large number of children were cared for by a Catholic order of nuns, The Poor Servants of the Mother of God, in a residential home in Lansdowne Road, Hove. The order had been founded in 1872 by Frances Margaret Taylor (Mother Magdalen Taylor), primarily to do social work with the poor. The nuns moved to Hove in 1948 after their former premises, also known as St Anne’s Home, at 49 Buckingham Place, Brighton, had suffered serious war damage. Back in those early days there were also sister houses at Manor House, Portslade, and Magdala House, Carlton Terrace, Brighton
Development of the properties
The post-war location of the children’s home had originally been a Victorian domestic property known as Wick Lodge, which later became St Michael’s Hall School, an educational establishment for boys. During the war the place was taken over by the military. In 1945 the religious order was able to purchase the main building, known as Claremont. An adjoining property, Woodside, at 3 Lansdowne Road, was acquired in 1948 to be used as a kindergarten for the under-fives at the request of the local authority who used to subsidise the work.
St Ann’s Well Gardens
Although St Ann’s Well Gardens was nearby, the name of the home was in fact coincidental, St Anne being venerated as the mother of the Virgin Mary, for whom the nuns had great devotion. The water source in the nearby public gardens just happened to be dedicated to St Ann in common with several other holy wells in various parts of the country.
Change of direction in care policy
Both girls and boys were cared for at St Anne’s Home for Children, which was for them more like a big family unit from which they used to attend nearby schools just as any other local child. This use of the premises continued until there was a change of County Council policy in 1983 in favour of relocating such children with foster families. Despite this, St Anne’s Home did not close down. From the mid-1980s it was used for residential care for people with learning difficulties, and work with the homeless.
Continued work until 1994
For a period the unit called Marina (3a Lansdowne Road), along with Woodside, was leased to East Sussex County Council to provide day care facilities for mothers and young children, and residential accommodation for young girls. The order also operated a soup-kitchen and clothing store. This work continued until 1994 when the nuns moved out into nearby Woodside, re-naming it St Anne’s Convent, where they remain to this day.
Home is now Buddhist Centre
The former St Anne’s Home (Claremont) was placed on the market, while Marina continued to be used for the care of persons with learning difficulties. While unoccupied, the old buildings were taken over by squatters who caused a great amount of damage before they left after being served with an eviction notice in 1995. However, in 1997 the premises were once again restored to good order when they were purchased for their current use as the Bodhisattva Kadampa Meditation Centre.
Many children – many memories
Many children passed through the doors of the home during the thirty-five years of its operation. There are many memories. One that stands out is the time that they were invited in as extras during the making of the film Oh! What a Lovely War, a musical about WW1 filmed in 1968 in many locations around Brighton and starring all the leading British actors of the day. There was also an earlier film called The Secret, which was actually filmed partly in St Anne’s Home, featuring the children and some of the nuns, and also at the Brighton Film Studios in Centurion Road.
I would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Judy Middleton’s Encyclopaedia of Hove, Paul Shaw, the Archivist for The Poor Servants of the Mother of God, the Archivist for the Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton and David Fisher, in providing information for this article.