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Bar Convent Living Heritage Museum, York

The Convent of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin at Micklegate Bar, better known as The Bar Convent, is the oldest surviving Roman Catholic convent in England, being established in 1686 by Mary Ward (1585-1645) a pioneer of education for women. Although English law at this the time prohibited the foundation of Catholic convents, the Bar Convent was both established in secret. Today, The Bar Convent is a popular York tourist attraction and offering a gift shop, café and museum exhibition about the Convent's history, as well as bed and breakfast accommodation and meeting rooms.

Bar Convent, York

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I n 1686, a time of great danger for Catholics in England, a woman named Frances Bedingfield, an early member of Mary Ward's Institute, purchased a small parcel of land just outside York's walls and signed the deed under an alias. The ladies who then lived and worked in the convent wore slate-coloured gowns, and called themselves the 'Ladies of the Bar'. Over the three centuries that followed, the Community were no strangers to strife. Their home has been at times a school, a hospital ward, a refuge and a bomb-site, emerging into the present day in its current guise: the Living Heritage Centre.

Bar Convent, York

The present buildings include a Victorian tiled Entrance Hall, the Great Parlour, which contains portraits of the early sisters, a library of antique books, archive rooms and the stunningly beautiful neo-classical chapel, completed in secret in 1769 by the York architect Thomas Atkinson before the repeal of the Penal Laws for Catholic Chapels in 1791. The chapel is open to visitors throughout the day.

Every corner of the building has a tale to tell, the state-of-the-art Exhibition relates the story of the Bar Convent and Catholicism in the North of England..

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