To the eastern edge of the site was a large, beautifully kept convent garden. Within it could be found a significant Lourdes grotto, highly decorative log cabin, gazebo, hot-house and numerous religious statues.
According to several survivors, this garden was off limits to all but the nuns and those Magdalene women who had been in the laundry for many years, and were likely to spend the rest of their lives in the care of the Sisters of Charity.
The other ‘penitents’ instead had the use of a much more basic outdoor cloister on the western edge of the complex. [See it here]
“…there was a big huge garden and a big circle around it and the nuns used to walk around the circle…”
O’Donnell, K., S. Pembroke and C. McGettrick. (2013) “Oral History of Lucy”. Magdalene Institutions: Recording an Oral and Archival History. Government of Ireland Collaborative Research Project, Irish Research Council, p.18.
This part of the site features heavily in the 1930s film by Father Jack Delany entitled ‘Magdalene Laundry’. In it, he depicts numerous religious processions and ceremonies taking place in and around the nuns’ garden over several years.
It provides some of the best documentary evidence for this part of the site still available to researchers.
In 1905, a ‘spacious recreation ground’ was provided for the women on the site of 105 Gloucester St, a lime yards and shed occupied by a Mr Michael Flood, on the opposite side of the convent to the chapel…the old yard ‘now transformed into a garden, with handsome garden plots, concrete walls and a fountain in the centre’: Here and there through the grass plots are pedestals, on whicha re very fine statues of the Sacred Heart, Our Blessed Lady, and St Mary Magdalen; they add much to the surroundings. The garden is seperated from the drying yard by a wire fence.’
Jacinta Prunty, The Monasteries, Magdalene Asylums and Reformatory Schools of Our Lady of Charity in Ireland 1853-1973, Dublin: Columba Press (2017) p. 294)
The Nuns’ Garden is also clearly visible and drawn in some detail in the survey carried out by William H. Byrne & Son Architects, dated 1954.
It seems that this garden was expanded in 1959, 5 years after the completion of the above drawing. Historian Jacinta Prunty writes:
‘In 1959, an extra piece of space was acquired, ‘an old mill and other old buildings attached to it’ and was immediately converted into an additional recreation ground for the women. This is the site labelled ‘Scotts Church’ in 1847 and, by 1935, ‘corn mill”
Prunty (2017): 503
This part of the site has been demolished and built over. The curved yellow building (completed prior to 2005) now sits on the spot once occupied by the Nun’s Garden.
If you have any further information on the Nun’s garden or any other part of the site, please get in touch.