In around 1206 a group of penitent pilgrims from Europe settled as hermits in the Holy Land on Mount Carmel, ‘near the fountain of Elijah’, looking to his life for inspiration.

They requested a Rule of Life from St Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem. This Rule, one of the shortest and simplest Rules for Religious Life, is still observed today by Friars and Nuns all over the world, and here in our own Carmel. At the heart of the Rule is the exhortation to “meditate day and night on God’s Word and to watch in prayer unless otherwise lawfully occupied.”

These early hermits migrated to Europe for safety and eventually spread far and wide. Communities of Carmelite nuns first appeared around 1452.

In the 16th century St Teresa of Avila, (born 1515), began her great work of reforming the Carmelite Order to its original vision and fervour. From her first monastery, founded in 1562 in Spain, the Discalced Carmelite Order spread rapidly all over the world.

From Spain foundations of the Nuns spread to the Lowlands and to France. Carmel spread to England from 1794 onwards. Among the many Carmels founded from Notting Hill, London, was Exmouth in 1926.This Carmel relocated to York in 1955.

From there our own Carmel was founded by Mother Mary of the Blessed Trinity, Prioress of York, on the Feast of St Joseph, March 19th 1969 at the request of Bishop Wheeler. Wood Hall, where a new Diocesan Pastoral Centre had been opened, was chosen as the site. The new monastery would be attached to the large chapel up on the hill, which was in the process of being built. So we came to this beautiful valley…

“Meditate day and night on God’s Word and to watch in prayer unless otherwise lawfully occupied.”

By March 18th the new Carmel was ready and eight sisters arrived to establish a new “praying presence” in the diocese. Bishop Wheeler celebrated the opening Mass on March 19th 1969, the Feast of St Joseph with Mgr. Michael Buckley, Fr. Michael Grace, the Sisters and just a few friends present.

As Carmelite Sisters we stand in our own time and place, but we also stand on a continuum that stretches back to myth and history. We are the spiritual descendants of the prophet Elijah who encountered the Living God on the mountain in the “still small voice”; of the pilgrims who remained in the Holy Land after the Crusades (1095 – 1291) and found their way to Mount Carmel.

We are daughters of St Teresa of Jesus, the great reformer of Carmel, who, with the help of Our Lord, fired others to live totally dedicated to Christ, in solitude and silence, for the sake of His Church. We are sisters, too, of the many Carmelite Saints who have lived this same life as ours.