Sunday, 13 December 2009

Notre Dame Convent - Whalley New Road / Cob Wall

Some images (and an old flyer) of Notre Dame Convent, which used to stand on land between Whalley New Rd and Whalley Old Rd.  
Originally built as Brookhouse Lodge, it was the home of William Kenworthy, one time co-owner of (Hornby's) Brookhouse Mills.
Formed by joining together the Convent Higher Grade School and its pupil teacher centre, it opened as the Convent Of Notre Dame School in 1908 and served to educate young Catholic girls, mainly with a view to them becoming Catholic schoolmistresses, of which there was a national shortage at the time. The Franciscan Sisters also had a convent/boarding school/orphanage, Staneleigh, which was on East Park Road. Staneleigh is still there, as far as I'm aware, but now just a convent for elderly sisters.
 The convent on Whalley New Rd closed its doors in approximately 1986 -7 and was demolished a few years later. The site is now a housing estate.

Update 15 / 03 / 2011. In 2010 an ex pupil/student of Notre Dame put together a DVD about the convent. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, please e-mail  for more details. Please note, any transaction is between yourself and Eileen and is no concern of the site or its administrator. I have only been asked to supply the contact e-mail address.

George Hull was a poet from Blackburn. I found the following on the 'net'


For a brief, happy space—

Yet not too brief for grace

To come to me through your devoted prayer—

I dwelt beneath your care.

Within that lowly school,

Remote from earthly strife,

I and my little comrades learnt the rule

Of faithful Christian life.

Then did we all rejoice,

As at the sound of Gabriel's own blest voice,

When, innocent and fresh, we knelt to say

The Angelus each day.

Now that a tyrant world

Bids us abide where Sin

Struts boldly in the noonday, we begin

To feel how precious was that golden time—

By innocence impearled—

Spent at your feet in Virtue's nursing clime.

And you, I have no doubt,

When day is done, all weary oft look out

Upon that world—by you long since forsaken—

Where we our place have taken,

And wonder how all fare

Who dwelt beneath your care

In those bright days gone by.

True, some have wandered far

From the clear light of Bethlehem's glad star;

But unto others faith, hope, love, and truth

Are dear as in their youth.

Yet even for these last

As toilsome years have passed

You may have heaved a sigh,

Thinking you seldom heard

A grateful heart give utterance to a kindly word.

For me, I know—

Fond memory keeps so green the long-ago—

That when I late was told

How you were still at work within the Fold,

It almost seemed that old times had returned:

And as I mused I yearned

To shape the message I have penned to-day

To cheer you on your way.

And if you think these humble words of praise

Have been delayed too long

Among the careless throng

On the world's highways,

Bethink you that your lot—

To seem so long forgot—

Is but the common fate of Mary's daughters,

Who, amid anxious tears,

Do cast the bread of Faith upon life's waters,

Yet find it, gladly, after many years.



  1. Thank you for the posting. Didn't actually know any history. It's a crying shame about what happened to the lovely building.

  2. I've now added a link to Deborah's site about Notre Dame Convent (below the posting) if you're interested.

  3. My mum and one of my brothers and two of my sisters attended Notre Dam, so this is a great article for me! It's interesting to see how Deborah's link has an article from the Telegraph (june 1990) which states "work starts this month on conversion of the former mansion into 37 deluxe flats, and 65 new two and three bedroom houses and bungalows will be built in the grounds"'s a shame it was never converted - I wonder when the developers changed their minds/ plans and decided to just demolish it all. It doesn't make the case for the Royals development of the old infirmary look particularly promising...I wonder if the remnants of the infirmary are listed?

  4. Hi Lorcan,

    I had a phone call the other evening from a lady that is putting the finishing touches to a DVD about Notre Dame Convent, so keep your eyes peeled for that one. It might be of interest to your family.

    It is a shame the mansion wasn't retained and developed into flats. Maybe they found problems with the structure / fabric of the building as time moved on. I believe there was a lovely chapel within the grounds as well.

    Just this afternoon I drove down Park Lee Rd and Infirmary Rd and was looking at the old Infirmary building. It's in a sad state. I can't see anyone ever spending money on it to be honest. I think its days are numbered (but what do I know;-)

    There's a web-site which names all the listed buildings in the UK. Just google ''listed buildings'' and you should find it.

  5. I found this very interesting as a former pupil at Notre Dame when it was still a girls only school and the nuns were still there. I left in 1971. The chapel inside was beautiful - cant believe it was demolished - and I well remember in one of the ground floor classrooms a beautiful statue of Mary - donated by the parents of a former pupil who had died. I'd love to know where all the statues went. Susan

    1. Hello.Did you attend St.Alban's prior to 'the Convent'?I did,left in 1964,and went on to St.Mary's College.Get in touch,if you can....Michael Haworth,Manchester.

  6. Hi Susan - Glad you enjoyed it, brief as it is. I was contacted a short while before Christmas by a lady that was putting together a DVD about Notre Dame, there could be some info on there as to where the statues went. Long shot, but you never know.

    I don't have a name or any contact details, as I never heard from her again, but if you go onto Facebook, there's a group (or a couple of groups) put together by ex Notre Dame pupils, someone on there might have some info about the DVD.

    I think there's a photo or two on the Facebook groups as well, possibly one of the chapel.

  7. Wow I am so glad to find this site. i was privaliged to have my sisnging lessons in the chapel with my best friend from school Nancy. Sister Gabriel was our singing teacher. So sad that nothing could have been saved.

  8. If you haven't done so already Tracey, check out Deborah's link (above). There might be something of interest to you on there.

  9. I'm glad you found it and hope you enjoyed it. Cheers !

  10. I was a mere 4th year pupil in the last academic year that Notre Dame existed (1986-1987). My 5th and last academic year (1987-1988) was spent in the newly formed Our Lady (Notre Dame) and St John (St John Rigby) RC High School. The stories we could tell! It was a terrible tragedy to lose Notre Dame. To be one of the last pupils is a real honour. One day somebody will reveal the 'real reason' why Notre Dame had to close (and no, it was not because the Order depleted but yes it may have been because of a fall in income). I have often heard it said that in the late 1970s / early 1980s the number of Catholic Primary Schoolchildren to walk through those Old Convent gates in that distinctive green uniform fell off dramatically. Back in 1983 I was 1 of only 2 out of c 30 pupils from my primary school to 'go green'. The last Headteacher from the Order was Sister Julie Barbara. Remember her? Apparently, she left to take up a position with the Order in Botswana! It must have been heartbreaking for her! Remember the class names that rotated every year? I mean of course: Campion, Fisher (mine), More and Southworth. Remember La Salle? How about Fr O'Carroll? Remember Marilyn who seemed to spend every lunch break bellowing at us to "get over the bridge"! One of your contributors asked about statues. All I know is that some items from the Chapel (e.g. the internal doors and the marble / mosiac Stations of the Cross went to Holy Souls RC Church in Brownhill, where they remain still). As for the statue of Our Lady Queen of Heaven(?), sadly I don't know. I do know, however, that the statute of St Anthony of Padua in the Chapel corridor (pictured above) was accidentally smashed when a girl slipped and fell into it as she was running down the corridor. Remember the paintings hanging along the Chapel corridor wall? Remember the sweet nun with the pink spectacles who ran the 'tuck shop' near the Chapel? Remember the marbel messages of thanks in the back chapel to Sister Julie Billiard (Founder)? So sad to think that heartfelt (and no doubt expensive) messages to God for a safe return from the Great War were smashed to pieces to make way for semi-detached housing. Remember stalwarts like Miss Byrne, Miss Easton, Mrs Compton, Mrs Clark, Mrs Gilmartin and of course the inimitable Miss Moss? Where are they now? Still with us hopefully! Oh what a trip down memory lane! Thank you Blackburnlad! I hope the DVD is still available? Perhaps we should push for a permanent display about Notre Dame in Blackburn's Central Museum - when again could Blackburn ever boast such educational history lost? Best wishes, M

    1. Thanks for that walk down memory lane.I was only at Notre Dame for two years, in the early 70s, but I remember my time there very fondly.
      When the powers that be allowed the destruction of this historic place there was an outcry.The Citizen newspaper,in the late 80s, ran week after week letters from horrified ex pupils protesting about the desecration of Notre Dame.To no avail sadly.The school was prepared for destruction. Word then got around that a friendly security guard on duty there was escorting visitors around the site.I was one.It was sweetly poignant, evidently ladies in their 70s made the pilgramage too.The guard was really helpful and told me that he had found a cupboard full of old school record cards dating from the 30s to the early 70s.I found mine,some friends too and some aunts from the 1950s. Boy were they surprised when I passed these on!
      One bit of good news to come out of my visit; the same helpful guard had recognised that the marble plaques, mentioned in a previous post, were too precious to be destroyed.He carefully prised them off the chapel wall and anyone who he showed around was able to take one as a reminder of that very special unforgettable place.I often look at mine and wonder about the story behind it.The beautiful statue of Our Lady, also previously mentioned, is now up at Our Lady and St Johns school I think I saw it on a visit there.Some artifacts have survived the destruction thanks be to God.
      They call it progress...make your own minds up.

    2. Thank you for your input Julie. Nice to be able to get hold of your record card. Thoughtful security guard too. Many guards these days, wouldn't allow anyone onto a site due for demolition.

    3. I was also one of the last pupils to attend before it closed and spent my last year at Our Lady & St. John's. I remember the teachers you mention, especially Faz O'Caz, as we used to call him, always stank off aftershave. There's loads of stories I could tell about Notre Dame, we even had a murder, a lab assistant who worked at the school was murdered. I remember getting the pump and the cane on the odd occasion as it was still allowed back then, the sadists, haha. We used to go looking for hidden tunnels and secret dorms at break and lunchtimes, which was fun as it was such an old building. Ah, the memories, it wasn't such a bad place I suppose, but the uniform was horrid, green with yellow trim. Our Lady's was a shock when we got up there, in comparison it was like a soulless, ugly greenhouse with no character what soever.

  11. What an interesting and passionate comment. Thank you.

    I attended John Rigby (Our Lady & St John), but I was there a long time before you. I left in 1974. We had a Miss Byrne up there. I didn't have any dealings with her myself, she just stood in for other teachers from time to time, but I remember all the girls feared her and were always very obedient when she was around.

    1. Hi, I also attended John Rigby and left 75. I looked on this site to try and trace a girl who left JR and went to ND. She was called Helen Levicki and, to both our amazement, she turned up as a midwife to my sons birth in Perth Australia, I have never seen hewr since.

  12. PS M, I couldn't advise on whether or not the DVD is still available. Just e-mail Eileen mentioned in my post.


  13. Many thanks Colin - it's amazing isn't it how an old photograph can unlock a memory or two? My most abiding memory of Notre Dame, however, is listening to Miss Easton (geography) talk to a number of us one day about a very eery experience that she had allegedly the night before when she walked from a kitchen area to the dorm in which she was allowed to live in the school. Miss Easton recalled how she rose from her dorm one night to investigate a distant noise in the building (she was the only person who lived in the old dorms). She recoiled in horror (so the story went) to see the flicker of a lit candle stream across a window on the other side of a courtyard. As quick as a flash Miss Easton retreated to the relative safety of her room to spend a sleepness night listening out for any thumps or bumps above her own heartbeat! Personally I think this was Miss Easton's way of making sure that urchins like us kept away from disturbing her in her dorm!! Happy days! M

  14. It is amazing M. Music has that power too.

    I had a dream the other week and I must have been about 6 years old in it. When I woke, I was thinking about it, as in one part of my dream I walked up quite a narrow pathway beside St Alban's school (which I attended from about the age of 4).

    I must have completely erased that little pathway from my memory for at least 50 years or so and couldn't actually remember if there was such a pathway ever even existed by the school.

    My curiosity got the better of me as the day wore on and I checked out the old OS map from 1910 and on close inspection, the path was there running up the left of the main school building, turning right at the top into a small courtyard (which I could also recall in my mind after seeing it on the map). Like you say, these things are in our heads / minds somewhere and just need to be unlocked.

    Nice story by the way.

  15. Just to clarify, the school buildings of St Alban's were relatively unchanged in the 1960's when I attended, they were much as they were when the 1910 map was commissioned.

    That's just in case anyone reading this thinks I had some vision of an earlier (Edwardian) existence :-)

  16. MESSAGE FROM ADMIN - Can I just say to all you ex Notre Dame folks, please feel free to download any / all of the photos from this post for your own archives. (I think there is only the aerial shot that is copyrighted to

  17. Can anyone help me. I am trying to locate anyone who might have known my mother born in blackburn in 1935 and attended and looked afterand educated by the nuns. her full name was Ann Davina Joy Proctor. her brother was Richard E proctor who attended Arnold school.My contact

  18. Hi Richard

    Good luck with your quest. I hope someone connected to the convent / school can help in some way. I'm assuming you've tried the Facebook page(s) for Notre Dame too? If not, that may also be an avenue.



  19. I was one of the last pupils to attend before moving upto the jhon rigby school and notre dame was the best I remember the hall what we all called the sall fond memorys

  20. Is there any chance that the "last of Mohicans" (1986/7) could come together for one last re-union? Long shot I know but what a great opportunity it would be, eh?
    M - happy to provide contact details if there is enough interest

  21. I was at Notre Dame 1970-77. There is no reason why we could not have a reunion and invite teachers too. I remember Ms Byrne, Ms Easton sister Ann and the greatest biology teacher I could ever have hoped for. I now work in medicine in USA as a result. I would love to know of any attempt at reunions ....

    1. I was at NDGS 1969-76 and Mrs Clark and Mrs Cook almost persuaded me to do science A-levels, I enjoyed their teaching so much. I did Latin, English, and History instead. Strangely, though, I too have ended up in the US, in Los Angeles of all places—a long way from Blackburn.

  22. I was there 1969 - 75. I also remember spending breaks in the cellar and attic.
    Sister Ann used to take the guides on Friday night. We used to get chips and go back to school to eat them. I remember standing on the cockroaches.
    I saw Miss Moss in Preston a few years ago. She was with her mother and remembered me.

    1. I remember guides on a Friday evening and also went on the camping trips happy times 😄

    2. I remember guides with Sister Ann and Sister Margaret. Also went on the camping trips

  23. Hi,
    I was a pupil there from 1965 to 1970 remember standing on the cockroaches in form 1C.
    I have one of those long photos with all the school on around 1968/9. We had some lovely teachers- Mrs Carter- the best maths teacher ever. Mot of all loved cookery- my offerings never made it home unfortunately - we used to eat them walking down Penny St...happy days if only I had studied more.....

    1. Just looking up Notre Dame. I attended there between 1965/70. Now live in Australia. I remember Mrs Carter and yes she was great. Would love to see the photo as I have none. I realise that you put this post on a couple of years ago, but hoping and regards.

    2. I Haven't been on this site for ages but I posted the above.
      Dare I ask your name and then I could check if you are on the photo?

  24. Hi I started at Notre Dame in 1943. We were on the bottom corridor in the Montessori. This was a method of teaching where we didnt sit in rows but at pink and blue painted tables in circles, surrounding a smaller table with a row of china penguins on!!! We had Sister Loreta who used to tell us she had eyes at the back of her head and then Sister Mary Alphonsus where we sat in rows in the usual way. The chapel was beautiful and when I went to look round before I started, Sister Josephine the head, took us to the chapel and told me to say a prayer that I could come to this "beautiful school" as I didn't realise at the time that I had to be paid for! I then went into Sister Josephine's class where there was a beautiful painting on the wall of Jesus with little girls round him. I have tried to locate a copy of this but had no luck. We used to have to cross over the road and over a little bridge over the Blakewater to Begleys ( previously a shop ) where we had our dinner. Sometimes we put this in our handkerchief and tipped into the River on our way back as they were'nt very enjoyable. I often wonder where my classmates are now
    Julie Brooks (a boarder from Chorley) Margaret Barnes from Darwen and many others. There was a lot of discipline and Sister Mary Brendan stood at the Lodge gate every night to check that we all had gloves and hats on. We were not allowed to eat in the street but all of it was teaching good manners and to be "little ladies". Happy days!

    1. yes remember St Mary Brendan and Sister St James in the meedlework room near Sister Josephines office The tin tacks Angele Square Loved my time there My older sister alco went ND left 1953

  25. I remember Sr Mary Brendan and Sr Clare Antony and Sr St John. But I can't remember the name of the nun who taught the Choir. I was there from 1950 to 1955. ended up in 5 Latin. Anybody else out there?

  26. Missed the boat into ND. Ended up in modern comprehensive. However my older siblings attended. Any one remember them? Monica sharples, Ann sharples, Christine sharples. think our mary Mary elsie didn't attend.

  27. In investigating a pupil teacher connection, I found this website. It has been interesting reading its history via these comments and sad to hear what happened to Notre Dame. Thankyou for sharing

    1. You're welcome and I'm glad you found something of interest.


  28. After 30 years of not giving my High School - Notre Dame even a second thought, I am unable to sleep after having had a school reunion this evening, where much discussion was given to the tragic demolition of this historical building. How could such an unforgivable crime have taken place? How could the demolition of such a remarkable building and beautiful chapel have ben allowed? Who gave this permission? If anyone can shed any light, I would be most grateful . I think those responsible should be severely brought to justice. Does anyone have any other photos or information?

  29. Loved reading and looking at your blog. Please could you tell me where I might buy a DVD of the history of Blackburn say from 1950 to 1960. My email is Most grateful. G.Fergie

  30. Sorry Gillian, I don't know of any DVD's about Blackburn. I'm sure there may be one or two. Google it or have a look on Amazon or eBay.



  31. Really enjoyed looking at this website, the lovely old photos evoked such memories, I had forgotten until I saw them. Wonderful. Anyone remember Sister Julie sitting over us all in the dining room ( not the refectory, that was for the older girls!) , I was scared of her and she was only 4 feet nothing! Sister Monica was headteacher when I was there. Sister Ann (RE) and Sister Katherine (History) were the young nuns. Sister St Paul was form teacher to 3Y, scary lady! Miss Smith (Winnie) took English in the juniors, another scary lady, but I am still affected by the teaching I received, thanks to All of Them! The beautiful statue of Our Lady of Studies which used to be at the bottom of 5th form corridor with the child Jesus on her knee, sat on a throne, was taken to Oakhill College (Independent Catholic School) at Whalley, When I saw it last. Great to see many people are still moved by how lucky we were to go to Notre Dame. God bless you all. Susan

    1. Lovely to hear so many happy memories of Notre Dame . I was there from 1964 to 1971 and well remeber sister Julie in the dining room. Sister Marie Immaculate presided over us at needlework - lovely italian nun. Thanks to the great education I received there, I made it to University and had a great career. I remember the nuns often - and the excellent lay teachers - in my case Mr Livesy, Mrs Fort and others. Finally, does anyone know where the beautiful statue of Our Lady, which in my day stood in one of the 5th or 6th form classrooms is now? It was I think donated by the parents of a pupil who died many years before. I would love to see it again.