By Fr Edmund Eggleston
The Woodbridge Society has recently unveiled a new blue plaque on Church Street, Woodbridge, to commemorate Carmelite nun, Margaret Agnes Rope. She lived and worked there in the 1920s and 1930s.
Sister Margaret of the Mother of God was a notable stained-glass artist from the Arts and Crafts Movement. Her stained-glass windows are present in several Suffolk locations, including the Church of the Holy Family & Saint Michael at Kesgrave, a memorial to her brother, Michael Rope, and Saint Peter’s Church at Blaxhall. In Norfolk, her designs grace the windows of the convent at Quidenham. She also received numerous commissions from other parts of the U.K., including Shrewsbury Cathedral and Tyburn Convent, and internationally from Australia, Italy, and South Africa.
A community of Carmelite nuns, originating from the convent at Notting Hill, was established in Woodbridge. Nine nuns and two extern sisters arrived from London on September 6, 1921. On September 8, Cardinal Bourne, the Archbishop of Westminster, blessed the grounds and the convent, which was named the Convent of the Magnificat. By 1925, the number of nuns at Woodbridge Carmel had risen to twenty.
The convent buildings on Church Street quickly became too small to accommodate the growing community. The increasing noise of the town also disrupted the nuns’ contemplative life. Consequently, the Bishop of Northampton closed Woodbridge Carmel and the nuns relocated to Rushmere village, near Ipswich, on November 9, 1938. Ten years later, in 1948, they moved to their current residence at Quidenham Hall, Norfolk.
In Woodbridge, the former convent site on Church Street has been renamed “Carmelite Place”. Several of the windows that Sister Margaret created for the Convent of the Magnificat at Woodbridge can now be found at Quidenham.
Above image of Margaret Agnes Rope taken from Carmelite Monastery Quidenham