A brief history
The Community of St John Baptist was founded in England in 1852 by Thomas Thellusson Carter, the priest at St Andrew’s Clewer, Windsor, and Harriet Monsell (the first superior). The purpose of the order was to help marginalised, mainly young women, who found themselves homeless and drawn into the sex trade, by providing them shelter and teaching them a trade. The work of the sisters expanded to include administering and working in orphanages, schools, convalescent hospitals, soup kitchens, and women's hostels.
In 1901 there were 300 sisters and, at its height, the community had some 45 branch houses throughout the South of England.
The community's Mother House remained at their purpose-built Victorian convent in Hatch Lane, Windsor. Following a sharp decrease in membership, the community found itself using only a tiny part of the buildings and, in 2001 relocated to Oxfordshire. The original convent has since been converted into residential accommodation with a minimum of changes to the original architectural features
The Sisters lived at Begbroke, near Woodstock in Oxfordshire for several years, then moved to the newly constructed Harriet Monsell House, on the campus of Ripon College Cuddesdon in 2012. There they had the two top floors as their convent. They also endowed the Edward King Chapel for the College, which will be part of the Community's lasting legacy to the Church after it has completed its work. The Chapel has won several architectural awards since its completion.
From 1996 the remaining sisters of another Order, the Community of the Companions of Jesus the Good Shepherd lived with the CSJB sisters, and although the two Orders remain quite distinct, they shared accommodation and many other aspects of community life.
In 2020 during the pandemic, the remaining Sisters chose to move to St Mary's Convent and Nursing Home in Chiswick where they could have better access to company and medical care. The College deeply misses their presence and keeps in close touch with them.
Revd Peter Viney
Community of St John Baptist
Ripon College Cuddesdon
Oxford OX44 9EX