The History of Ladywell

Wonderful landscaped gardens at Ladywell Retreat
Ladywell Retreat shrine

Our rich history

Tuesley Court was purchased by the FMDM sisters in 1956, and renamed Ladywell. It then became the Motherhouse of the Sisters, who are a Roman Catholic Religious Congregation.  It was here that young women from all over the world came for their Novitiate Formation and it was from here that sisters were missioned to Africa, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, USA and many other places.  As the number of sisters grew, extensions were added but always keeping the original character of the property in mind and it is these extensions which are now used by the Retreat and Spirituality Centre.  The main chapel was opened in 1959. 

Ladywell is home to all our sisters from around the world and our missionaries return here from time to time for well deserved rest and spiritual renewal.  At Ladywell you meet sisters from all five continents.

There are three separate communities resident in the Ladywell Complex – St. Clare’s community which looks after  the main house and retreat centre, La Verna community where our elderly members are cared for and St. Francis community which is the central leadership team for the Congregation.

Site of Minster Church

Deep in the soil in this enclosure, which lies within the grounds of Ladywell Convent,  are the partially excavated foundations of the 1st church ever built in Godalming. This 7th century church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is mentioned in the Domesday Book as the Mother Church or Minster.

In 1957, it seemed fitting to the Franciscan Sisters of Ladywell Convent, who own the site, to erect this present shrine to perpetuate the memory of the years of worship of Almighty God and devotion to Mary offered in this hallowed place by the people of Godalming and pilgrims en route to Canterbury  in bygone days. 

Prayer and quiet reflection suggest themselves as one gazes on the tranquil face of Mary tending her infant, Jesus.

On Easter Sunday morning, an ecumenical dawn service is held here, at this shrine, with a different denomination leading it each year. All are welcome to attend.

Our visitors tell us that once they step through the gates of Ladywell they experience a peace and tranquility far removed from their own lives encompassed by the beauty of the grounds, the rich wildlife including a great variety of birds and the tasteful buildings. But much more than that,  they join a community who have spent their lives in the service of God.