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Convent to close after more than 150 years of community work

PUBLISHED: 17:08 27 February 2018 | UPDATED: 17:11 27 February 2018

The main convent building at All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: Farrows

The main convent building at All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: Farrows

Archant

Dragons’ Den is known for its ruthless and demanding stars, who cause budding business people to quail.

The grounds of All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: FarrowsThe grounds of All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: Farrows

But a panel of “dragons” pulled together in South Norfolk is likely to be a little less terrifying.

For the group selected to hear pitches for a new use for a convent includes a bishop, a canon, two nuns and a local business leader.

The panel will decide who 
will run the All Hallows convent at the Dragons Den-style event before the current owners leave 
in May. The Ditchingham 
convent will close in May after 
160 years of being home to a community of nuns.

The sisters are taking pitches to run the complex, with applications received from religious groups, possible new communities, and those who want to continue the convent’s work with vulnerable people.

The chapel at All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: FarrowsThe chapel at All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: Farrows

All Hallows is closing because of an increasing workload 
for the community and the need 
to move three of the sisters into supported living.

The four remaining sisters are moving to a new church-bought mother house in central Bungay.

This means that the community has not been forced to sell the nine-acre All Hallows site, which includes a collection of houses, a chapel and gardens.

Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham James, Norwich Cathedral’s Canon Andrew Bryant, leaders of the community sisters Sheila and Elizabeth, and a yet-to-be-announced business leader will sit on the panel.

The gardens of All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: FarrowsThe gardens of All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: Farrows

Canon Bryant said: “Maintaining a nine-acre site with just four sisters is tough. There is a sense of relief in the letting go and a renewed focus on their mission for the sisters.

“We are looking for two things: firstly, it genuinely does continue the reaching out to vulnerable groups; and secondly, it is viable and sustainable.

“The idea is to continue that work for another 150 years.”

He added: “The community will look at all the offers and invite those that they like to come along to an event where they will meet the leaders of All Hallows and pitch their ideas to us.

The grounds of All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: FarrowsThe grounds of All Hallows convent in Ditchingham. PICTURE: Farrows

“We are very excited as 
what this allows is the site can remain a resource for the 
local church and we are really excited to see how it can be reimagined for the 21st century. What I can promise you is 
there won’t be a bishop sitting there with wads of cash and 
there will be nobody drumming their fingers.”

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