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The Orphanage, Central Hill, Upper Norwood


This orphanage is notable as being the first Catholic orphanage in England since the Reformation.


It was set up in 1848 by a French Order of nuns called the Congregation of our Lady of Fidelity. The congregation was itself established in 1831 by Sister St Mary (also known as St Marie) who devoted her life to the care of orphans and underprivileged children together with Father Vesque from France.


Sister St Mary and her congregation established a convent, called Virgo Fidelis (The Faithful Virgin) to which the orphanage was attached together with a school. The reason behind the establishment of the orphanage is thought to be concern about the number of orphans on the streets of London, not least because as a result of the devastating Famine in Ireland. Initially established for girls, the orphanage soon took in boys as well in response to the number of boys needing help.


There was little provision for Roman Catholic orphans int the area: "There was not a single orphanage for girls, hardly and Catholic schools, so the poor children had to enter the workhouse...where the priest had not the right of entry." (The Story of Norwood, JB Wilson)


The orphanage was bult by the nearby Effra river in a hunting lodge however, the need soon outgrew the buildings and, in 1871, a new Church and convent was built on the site.


The orphanage finally closed as an orphanage after the Second World War. However, the buildings carried on in use as a school.


The Church still stands and has on display its crowning glory, a statue of the Virgin Mary which was gifted by the orphans in 1878.


The orphanage and convent were known by various names over the years, including:

Virgo Fidelis
Convent of the Orphans
Convent of our Lady of Fidelity
Norwood Convent
Roman Catholic Orphanage of Our Lady
Monastery de la Notre Dame des Orphelines






Convent of Our Lady of Fidelity (Upper Norwood) 





We have had a message from Lucille who says she has contacted the Convent looking for records but has heard nothing. 


Does any know if there are better contact deatils for looking for records from the Norwood Orphanage?

If you have found your records from your time there, I would love to hear from you.

Many thanks!