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Entrance arch, walled garden and glasshouse to former All Hallows Convent

A Grade II Listed Building in Ditchingham, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.4795 / 52°28'46"N

Longitude: 1.4361 / 1°26'10"E

OS Eastings: 633430

OS Northings: 292391

OS Grid: TM334923

Mapcode National: GBR WKP.HX7

Mapcode Global: VHM68.VY23

Plus Code: 9F43FCHP+QC

Entry Name: Entrance arch, walled garden and glasshouse to former All Hallows Convent

Listing Date: 28 February 2022

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1480056

ID on this website: 101480056

Location: South Norfolk, NR35

County: Norfolk

District: South Norfolk

Civil Parish: Ditchingham

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk


Entrance arch, walled garden and glasshouse, associated with the House of Mercy, built in 1859 to the designs of Henry Woodyer.


Entrance arch, walled garden and glasshouse, associated with the House of Mercy, built in 1859 to the designs of Henry Woodyer.

MATERIALS: the entrance arch and walled garden are constructed of red brick, the former in Flemish bond and the latter in Monk bond. The glasshouse is constructed of red brick with a glass roof.

PLAN: the arch forms the entrance to the convent on Belsey Bridge Road. Adjoining its east side is the wall surrounding the north and east sides of the kitchen garden, and the attached glasshouse is situated at right angles to the east wall.

EXTERIOR: the tall Gothic entrance arch of two orders is set within a section of high wall with tiled saddleback coping and a dentilled cornice. To the right is a plank and batten door with a grille and strap hinge, set under a pointed brick arch and hoodmould. To the left of the archway, the wall has tumbled in brickwork where it steeply declines to the lower height of the wall that encloses the garden on the north and east sides.

The north wall, which faces the road, has a brick plinth and the same prominent coping and cornice already described. The longer east wall has saddleback coping and regularly spaced buttresses, and is stepped towards the south end as it extends up a slope. It terminates in a substantial brick pier with a pyramidal brick cap.

Approximately halfway along the east wall, and at right angles to it, is a lean-to glasshouse, possibly a forcing house. The rear wall, gable ends and plinth are of red brick, and the glazed roof has large rectangular panes set in vertical glazing bars. The rear wall is heated by two flues, the brick stacks of which rise slightly above the ridge. The glasshouse is entered on the west side by a plank and batten door with strap hinges and latch handle. Internally, the floor is laid in square clay tiles and a raised bed runs across the long south side. It is ventilated by two openings on the rear wall which retain their wooden sliding covers.


All Hallows Convent was designed by Henry Woodyer and opened in 1859 as a House of Mercy – an institution to reclaim young women. It was the initiative of the Norwich Penitentiary Association and was strongly promoted by two local landed families, the Sucklings and the Crosses. The founder of the community was one of the Crosse daughters, Lavinia Crosse. A house had initially been established nearby at Shipmeadow on the Norfolk/ Suffolk border in 1854, but the location proved to be unhealthy and a new site was acquired at Ditchingham on the main Norwich to Bungay road.

Homes to care for and rehabilitate fallen or unfortunate women - prostitutes, unmarried mothers, victims of incest and rape, and others - had existed since the C18. The first was the Magdalen Hospital in London which opened in 1758, and by the 1830s establishments existed in Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and other provincial cities. In the 1840s a movement arose in the Anglican Church to provide for such unfortunate/ penitent women but with the additional feature of attached orders of nuns who would run the establishments and provide Christian care. It was spearheaded from 1848 by the Reverend John Armstrong and was supported by the parallel movement for Anglican religious sisterhoods - the first was established in London in 1845 in a convent designed by Butterfield.

Henry Woodyer (1816-1896) was a Victorian architect of power and originality, working largely on churches or other religious buildings. His early training is not clear: he may have been a pupil of Butterfield, and he may have worked with Pugin, whose writings inspired him. He set up his own office in 1845 and quickly attracted commissions, particularly from High Church Anglicans inspired by the recent Oxford Movement and the architectural developments of the Gothic Revival. Woodyer himself had Anglican High Church sympathies. Unusually for an architect he was also a person of private means and thus could choose his commissions. A search on the National Heritage List for England (the List) shows that he designed or worked on over 90 listed buildings, including the Grade I listed Holy Innocents at Highnam, Gloucestershire.

Woodyer was possibly approached for the Ditchingham commission on the strength of his House of Mercy at Clewer in Windsor (1854-1858) which he had designed for his friend the rector there. In effect, Woodyer created a new building type: an asylum for women combined with a convent, requiring both integration and separation for the two functions. He was successful in his endeavour at Clewer, and after Ditchingham, Woodyer designed a further four Houses of Mercy: St Peter's Convent in Horbury, Yorkshire (1862-1864); the Devon House of Mercy in Bovey Tracey (1865-1868); Great Maplestead House of Mercy (1866-8; demolished 1964); and St Thomas House, Basingstoke (1884-1885). All the surviving sites are listed at Grade II with the chapels at Clewer and Basingstoke listed at Grade II*.

At Ditchingham, Woodyer designed a House of Mercy and integrated chapel for thirty penitents (Grade II listed), along with a gatehouse, Gothic entrance arch, walled garden and glasshouse. An orphanage and school for parentless girls of the middle classes was built in 1862, also by Woodyer, and a separate house, known as Community House (Grade II listed), was built for the Sisters of Mercy in 1876. It is not known if Woodyer was asked to design this building or if another architect was responsible. The Sisters provided work for women who would have otherwise gone to prison or the workhouse, establishing a laundry facility for a large area in the Waveney Valley and an embroidery school. Women came in from the surrounding villages to be taught 'white work' and ecclesiastical embroidery which was sold throughout the country and even as far as Canada.

The first map to show the site is the first edition Ordnance Survey (OS) map of 1885. It depicts the gatehouse on Belsey Bridge Road and to the east a walled garden divided into four sections with a glasshouse. Behind the walled garden to the south is the House of Mercy (Female Reformatory) with a small outbuilding to the north-west and a garden to the south. To the east is Community House, the convent building occupied by the Sisters of Mercy, and further to the north-east is the Female Orphanage with gardens to the south.

In 1965 All Hallows became a community home for young people until government funding was withdrawn in 1980. In 2018 the remaining seven sisters left the Ditchingham site to become a dispersed community, and the buildings are now occupied by different charities (2022).

Reasons for Listing

The entrance arch, walled garden and glasshouse, associated with the House of Mercy, built in 1859 to the designs of Henry Woodyer, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* the Gothic arch and passenger door are an impressive entrance to the former convent, whilst the substantial wall along the road forms a suitable enclosure, ensuring its privacy;

* the glasshouse in the walled garden, which has a simple, lean-to design, retains its original door, tiled floor and evidence of how it was heated and ventilated.

Historic interest:

* the buildings survive in a form that directly illustrates and preserves their original function, providing important evidence of how the convent was run;

* they have historic significance as part of a group of buildings bearing testimony to religious and female emancipation in the C19.

Group value:

* they have strong group value with the House of Mercy and Community House which are both listed at Grade II.

External Links

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