The Sister of St. Augustine, Mercy of Jesus, were founded 1842 in Bruges by Canon Peter John Mayes, he was a great advocate of the mentally ill.
He travelled extensively to study their treatment and care, pioneering more human treatment for them than was the norm at that time. He believed in the value of having Sisters dedicated to the care of the sick and he took a group of Sisters from Bruges to Burgess Hill.
Whilst visiting his brother Fr. Louis Mayes in England, Canon Peter met Cardinal Wiseman and Bishop Grant of Southwark who asked him to found a house in England for the care of the sick – St. George’s Retreat.
In consequence Canon Peter arrived at Burgess Hill from Bruges on 5th October 1856 and Sr. Raphael was appointed Superioress, by this time Canon Mayes had bought an area of around 200 acres in Sussex borrowing the money from Bruges which had to be paid back over the years.
With labour and building materials being brought from Belgium the construction of St George’s retreat began in 1867. It was officially opened on the feast of St. Joseph in 1868. The name was chosen in memory of the opening in July 1848 of St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark, the first Catholic Cathedral in England since the reformation and after the restoration of the hierarchy. The first patients, men and women arrived in 1869. Canon Peter Mayes liked to call St. George’s Retreat God’s Hotel. Then building work continued until the main building was completed in 1877 in which year Canon Peter Mayes died.
Possibly owing to the distance involved in those years Burgess Hill became independent of Bruges.
In 2004 planning permission was granted for a Retirement Village to be built within the grounds of St George’s Park as an enabling project which included the building of three new state of the art Care Homes on the site. St Mary’s, St Clare’s and St Rita’s.
The Retirement Village is now complete and offers 240 beautiful independent Living Apartments see more at www.stgeorgespark.co.uk
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