Background History of the West Wickham Site
In 1869, the Daughters of Mary and Joseph, a community of religious sisters, established a school in Croydon called Coloma. In 1906 they opened a teacher-training college there, also called Coloma. Eventually there was a need to expand the college, so Wickham Court Manor and some surrounding land was acquired for the purpose in 1952. It is this old Manor House that forms an impressive backdrop to the view from the rose garden and the residents’ rooms that overlook the grounds.
New Coloma Court Care Home
Wickham Court Manor as a building has a very interesting history. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book, compiled by the Norman invaders of 1066.
In the middle of the 15th century the Heyden family acquired the property. The Heydens were lesser gentry but ambitious. John Heyden made a good match for his son Henry with Anne, a daughter of Sir Geoffrey Bullen, who was mayor of London in 1457. (This Anne was the great-aunt of the famous Anne Bullen or Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII). The Bullen family were well established in Kent. Their house, Hever Castle, is only forty minutes drive from West Wickham. John Heyden advised his son to rebuild the old manor house. This he did, together with the adjoining church. Both buildings have been altered and extended over the years but are still in use today. Henry Heyden's great grandson, Sir William Heyden, sold the manor house and the entire estate to the Lennard family in 1580.
The Lennard family and their descendants owned Wickham Court until 1935, when it was sold and became an hotel. During the Second World War the property was requisitioned by the military and was used successively by the Canadian Air Force and the ATS. After the war it reverted to being an hotel for a few years, until the Daughters of Mary and Joseph bought the property from its then owner, a Mr Anderson.
The College, which at that time consisted of 50 students plus tutors, moved in on the feast of Corpus Christi 1952. The stables were used as lecture rooms and Wickham Court Manor served as the residence for the students.
The teaching blocks, hostels and chapel were designed and built by the architects Tomei and Maxwell in the early I960s. The chapel was consecrated and dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Angels on 5th May 1965, by which time the college had expanded to cater for 800 students.
By 1976, the decline in the national birth rate had produced a surplus of teachers in the country and many smaller colleges, including Coloma, were phased out by the Ministry of Education.
Coloma College finally closed in the summer of 1978.
The Daughters of Mary and Joseph were determined that the buildings would be put to good use and sold the teaching blocks to the Archdiocese of Southwark, to establish a comprehensive school on the site.
Wickham Court Manor House was sold to Schiller College, which has since re-let the premises to a private school.
As for the five residential hostels, the problem remained: how best to use them?
After a year of discussions and research, with both church and civic authorities, it was decided to make the hostel at the top of the drive a Retreat and Conference Centre. The Centre was officially opened by Archbishop Michael Bowen in 1979. Since then it has been extensively refurbished and is the present day Emmaus Centre.
In 1981 two more hostels were adapted to become a residential home for the elderly called St Anne's Court.
St Anne’s Court
The first matron of St Anne’s Court was the legendary Sr Sylvia DMJ. Having worked for many years in Uganda, she had to flee that country to escape arrest by Amin’s soldiers. Uganda’s loss was England’s gain, as she became the guiding force behind the design and ethos of St Anne’s Court. Until the announcement in Summer 2004 of its impending closure, St Anne’s Court was home to 54 residents. A small community of DMJ sisters also lived in the home and worked in various capacities, including that of matron/ manager.
Wickham Court Nursing Home
Following a somewhat chequered history, during which the final hostel reverted to DMJ ownership, only as the result of a timely legacy from the estate of Dr Anne Smith, the hostel nearest the lower end of the drive became a nursing home in 1994. It was named Wickham Court. A small plaque and the stained-glass window in the chapel of Wickham Court served as a memorial of Dr Smith and her bequest. Both plaque and window were transferred to the new home and can be found in the reception area.
Although still owned by the Daughters of Mary and Joseph, the nursing home was leased to another charity, Healthcare Management Trust (HMT). HMT undertook to provide the health care whilst the Daughters of Mary and Joseph provided pastoral care. Both homes shared the services of the priest chaplain who resided in St Anne’s Court, but Sr Mary Goretti was appointed specifically to organize the pastoral care in the nursing home.
Early in 2005, deteriorating plumbing and government legislation necessitated the demolition of St Anne’s Court, to enable the foundations of the new home to be established. By the end of October 2006 the former residents of Wickham Court had moved into the new building and within a few weeks the old nursing home had also been demolished.
It is fitting that where some of the buildings of Coloma College once stood, there is now Coloma Court. At the official opening on 22nd May 2007, pupils from Coloma School in Shirley, also founded by the Daughters of Mary and Joseph, made musical contributions to the celebrations.
The meaning of Coloma
People often ask why the Daughters of Mary and Joseph called their first foundation in England, ‘Coloma’. The answer is simple. The Sisters had come from Belgium where they had schools and one, in particular, in Malines, was called Coloma. So, Coloma in Croydon was named after Coloma in Belgium. But what does the word ‘coloma’ mean? It comes from Spain, as did the Count of Coloma, who originally owned the property in Malines, which was given to the Sisters. There are a number of villages in Spain called ‘Santa Coloma’, especially in Catalonia, a region of Spain where they speak Catalan. ‘Coloma’ comes from a Catalan word meaning dove. Traditionally, the dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter and Strengthener. May all who reside or work in Coloma Court always feel the comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit and be at peace.
Speech by Sr Felicé Bowker Wright DMJ (Coloma Court opening press release: 5th June 2007)