Frances Bedingfeld

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Frances Bedingfeld, I.B.V.M. (1616–1704) led the first foundation in England of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, better known as the Sisters of Loreto, which had been founded by the Venerable Mary Ward.

Born in Norfolk, England, she came from a recusant family which had remained Roman Catholic through the Reformation. She and her 11 sisters all entered religious orders.[1] Sent to the continent for her education due to the Penal Law then in effect, Bedingfeld enrolled at the school run by the Institute in Munich, then in the Electorate of Bavaria, known there as the "English Ladies". She later entered the Institute herself and was professed in 1633.[1]

After spending a number of years teaching at the school, due to a request of Queen Catherine of Braganza in 1669 Bedingfeld was sent back to England to found a school of the Institute in London. With a group of other English Sisters, she set up a school for young women, first at St. Martin's Lane, then at Hammersmith. Once back in England, due to continued persecution, she wore a plain gray dress and used the alias of "Mrs Long".[1]

From this community, she founded Bar Convent in York in 1677, at the invitation of Sir Thomas Gascoigne. First they set up a boarding school for Catholic girls, and this was followed in 1699 by a free day school. Although the convent school has since been closed, it is the oldest surviving Roman Catholic convent in England. Both houses continued despite frequent harassment by local authorities for their ties to the Catholic Church, being suspected of harboring Catholic priests.[2] Bedingfeld supervised both communities until 1686, when she settled in York.[1]

Bedingfeld's family connections often helped her to avoid major punishment, even though the community endured repeated searches and destruction of their house. In 1692, at the age of 76, however, she and her niece, Mother Dorothy Pastor Bedingfeld, were summoned before a magistrate and briefly committed to Ouse Bridge Gaol. The community was attacked in 1695, at which time the house was almost destroyed. In 1699 she resigned as Superior in favor of her niece and moved back to Munich, where she died.[1] A house at St Mary's School, Ascot, which her successors founded in 1885, was named in honour of her.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Frances Bedingfeld". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Past and Present". The Bar Convent, York. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.