SSB Timeline



Foundation of Community in Lloyd Street, Clerkenwell, London by Etheldreda Anna Benett.

Her aim was to “establish a Community primarily concerned with living the religious life in its integrity, seeking union with God through the knowledge, love and imitation of Our Lord”

The subsidiary aims being to provide women with opportunities for retreat and to offer regular prayer for the visible reunion of the Church. It was to be a Community of the “mixed life” of prayer and activity, with prayer being the main activity. Dr. Pusey and Fr. Benson S.S.J.E. gave generously of their counsel and encouragement

1868 Retreat work started for women. Being the first Community to provide retreats for women -which had hitherto been considered unnecessary! – the retreats proved very popular. The Lent retreat in 1891 had 91 participants. The Convent accomodation was regularly being extended and added to by the purchase of neighbouring houses in Lloyd Square. As numbers increased the Community responded to many requests by the Church for help in parishes. At various times Sisters have been working in Brighton, Bournemouth, Reading, Chatham, Buxton and Derby. The Sisters have run various Diocesan retreat houses – at Whitwell on the Isle of Wight, St. Ursula’s in Hendon, the Rochester Diocesan retreat house at Erith in Kent and the Winchester Diocesan retreat house at Old Alresford Place.
1872 A Convent was built at Bournemouth, and from 1872-1939 the Sisters ran an orphanage in which 100 children were educated and brought up. Many of the children stayed on with the Sisters working in the bakery and the convent.
1873 A School of Embroidery was opened for the production of vestments and church furnishings and training of embroiderers. Many exquisite designs were provided by Sir Ninian Comper. The baking of altar breads also began at this time.
1890 At the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Benson, 4 Sisters went out to Urmi in Persian Kurdistan, the headquarters of his mission to the Eastern Syrian Christians, to help in the instruction of women and girls in the Orthodox faith. The Sisters did a great work of education, evangelism, nursing and translation of text-books. They withdrew in 1898, the severity of the conditions under which they were living and working had seriously undermined the health of all the Sisters and one had died out there.
1894 Abbe Portal – the first recorded ecumenical visitor – was brought to the convent by Lord Halifax. The January Week of Prayer for Unity has been observed by the Sisters since 1921, and in 1938 the Community was visited by Abbe Courturier. Links have been established with Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Communities of the Reformed Church at home and overseas. In the early days the Community received many visitors from the Russian and Syrian Orthodox Church. The co-foundress of the Society of the Atonement, Mother Lurana, was trained by the Community to found a Franciscan Community in the U.S.A.
1899 The Rule of the Community was finalised and authorised. The Rule was adapted from the Rule and Spiritual Directory of the Order of the Visitation, which is itself based on the Rule of St. Augustine.
1913 The Bishop of Cape Town asked for Sisters to work among the lepers on Robben Island. Arrangements were under way when labour troubles in South Africa and the outbreak of war in Europe intervened. In 1915 Sisters did go to South Africa to open an orphanage and school in Plumstead, Cape Province – a work which was maintained until 1950 when a change in the educational policy of the Province necessitated its closure.
1940 The House of Bethany at Bournemouth received a direct hit as a result of which 2 Sisters died. Extensive damage was done to the Orphanage, which by then was being run down and converted into St. Gabriel’s Convalescent Home for Children
1955 St. Gabriel’s was altered and re-opened to receive elderly ladies.
1962 The Mother house in London was closed and sold to the Y.W.C.A. The House of Bethany at Bournemouth became the Mother House. In the 1970s in common with other Communities it was realised that we were no longer growing and so began a lengthy process of moving.
1977 The Sisters ran a retreat house and Convent at Hindhead, in the Guildford Diocese until 1998
1980 The Sisters ran a retreat house and Convent in Winchester until 1993
1986 House of Bethany, Bournemouth closed
1987 House of Bethany, Southsea opened

All the Sisters came together to live in the House of Bethany, Southsea, which is the present  Mother House.


1st November – House of Bethany, Norfolk established in Moulton St Mary