A NEW nunnery is being built at Thorganby, near York, to accommodate members of the Carmelite Sisters.

The monastery is being built in the grounds of the order’s present home at Thicket Priory and has been designed to be both environmentally-friendly and elderly-friendly.

Sister Bridget, the prioress, said the move was being made because the current nunnery was large and expensive to maintain.

She said: “We are doing it because we are looking to the future. We get fewer people coming in and although we hope to have more, we are not getting any younger.

“We are in a great big mansion; it’s too big for us and very difficult to heat. It seemed forward-thinking to do this now while we are young and strong enough to make the change.”

Sister Bridget said the current nunnery was in the former private residence of Lt Col Sir Dunnington-Jefferson and his wife. In 1955, they sold the property to the Sisters, who bought it after selling their then home in Exmouth.

At the time 14 nuns came up to Yorkshire. There are now 12 – the oldest is 89 and the youngest 32.

Currently Thicket Priory is set in 22 acres. The new monastery, which has been designed by York architects McNeil Beechey O’Neill, will be set within the grounds and retain seven acres.

It will be set around two courtyards and will all be at ground level. It will incorporate a chapel, 15 cells or bedrooms, a library and IT suite, work rooms, meditation rooms and an archive. The current nunnery has been sold to a family and will go back to its original use as a family home.

The new monastery has been designed to be as environmentally-friendly as possible.

Green features include ground-sourced heat pumps which gather stored solar heat in the ground by means of ten 100-metre deep boreholes, roof-mounted solar water heating panels and a roof covered with the plant sedum which helps conserve energy in winter and cool the building in summer.

The building is due to be finished just before Easter with the Carmelite Sisters, who spend much of their time praying for others, hoping to receive the keys in time to hold their Easter Night service in the chapel.