Oulton Abbey

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St Mary's Abbey, Oulton is a Benedictine abbey located in the village of Oulton near Stone in the County of Staffordshire, England. The Abbey church is Grade 2* listed,


The community was founded in 1624 at Ghent, Brussels. In 1794 as a result of the French Revolution they were forced to flee to England, settling initially at Preston, moving in 1811 to Caverswall Castle, Stoke on Trent.[1]

In 1853 the sisters purchased Oulton House, which at the time was in use as a private asylum. They then commissioned Edward Welby Pugin to remodel the house and build a church. A chapter house, presbytery and sacristy were added in 1892. In 1925 a chapel to St Benedict was built between the chapter house and the sanctuary, on the south side [2].

The sisters operated a small boarding school at the Abbey until 1969, after which the school building was converted into a retreat centre for up to twenty-four retreatants, this continued until 1989 when the building was converted again, this time for nursing care.

In 2002 the Benedictine community from Fernham Priory, Oxfordshire closed their house and many members moved into Oulton Abbey.

Community governance[edit]

The Abbey community is under the charge of an Abbess who is elected by the members and holds the position for life, since 1624 twenty-two Lady Abbesses have held the post, those in recent history are listed below:

17. Dame Juliana Forster (1837-1869) - Bought the community to Oulton and oversaw the building of the church

18. Dame Mary Catherine Beech (1869-1899) - Oversaw the extensions and remodelling of Oulton House

19. Dame Laurentia Ward (1900-1921) - The daughter of William George Ward

20. Dame Gertrude Beech (1921-1944) - Extended the church with the new chapel

21. Dame Mary Agnes Spray (1944-1988) - Oversaw the closure of the school and the opening of the retreat house

22. Dame Mary Benedicta Scott (1988-2019) - Oversaw the opening of the nursing home

The Abbey today[edit]

A new nursing home was built for the Abbey in 2017.[3]. A nursery school is also operated from the Abbey. As of 2019 there were just three nuns remaining in the community.