England

Shortage of nuns closes convent in Darlington

A shortage of nuns is forcing a County Durham convent to quit its base of 180 years and move to a smaller site.

The Carmelite Convent in Darlington was established in 1830. But numbers have dwindled over recent years, leaving just four nuns in residence.

The buildings, in Nunnery Lane, and three acres of land are now for sale with a guide price of £1.6m.

However, the graves of nuns who died at the convent will remain because of the expense of relocating the cemetery.

Sister Francis, who has been at the convent since 1984, said: "We have never been as low as we are now.

"The house is far too big for us now and we can lose each other quite easily.

'Very upset'

"People don't seem interested in religion, so it's not just us that are affected."

The convent opened after the Discalced Carmelite nuns moved from Cocken Hall, near Durham. Before that, they lived at St Helen's Hall, in St Helen Auckland, County Durham.

Sister Francis added: "At first I was very upset, but reason dictates that we cannot stay here."

Most of the contents of the convent have already been moved out of the buildings.

The Carmelite community is said to have originated in the Flanders region of what is now Belgium in 1648.

The first group moved to England in 1749.

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