A FORMER headteacher and one of the last sisters at a convent has died.

Sister Honor Margaret, who lived at St Mary’s Convent in Wantage, died at the John Radcliffe Hospital after falling down.

The trained musician had been one of 10 sisters at the 300-bed convent – a number which has been declining for years.

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At her inquest last week at Oxford Coroner’s Court, head coroner for the county Darren Salter said her death had been an accident.

He said she had fallen on September 10 but was considered ‘too unwell’ for surgery so doctors and hospital staff at the Headington hospital kept her ‘comfortable’ until she died three days later.

A statement from the head of care at the convent, which was read out at the inquest, said Mrs Margaret had been happy going to coffee mornings, keeping in touch with people on her typewriter and reading the daily newspaper.

The residents at Wantage are called sisters, not nuns, because nuns technically live in an enclosed community, shut off from the outside world.

Oxford Mail:

Sister Elizabeth Jane, who also lives at the convent, said she was ‘active right up until the end’ and had ‘lived her life to the full’ going out and mingling at coffee mornings and leading dail worship for the group.

She said: “She was a person of good stature and integrity. She was a very wise person and a lot of people turned to her for wisdom – both sisters and her friends outside of the convent.

“She was a good friend for support and a very steadfast person.”

Sister Jane said she had been playing the organ at services until August – only weeks before her death.

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Sister Honor Margaret was born in August 1924.

In her 20s she studied music at the Royal Academy of Music in London before committing to a life as a convent sister in 1955.

In time she also became the headmistress of St Mary’s School in Wantage, which was set up by the convent, and took charge of St Katherine’s House care home in Wantage, another convent asset.

She was also ordained as a priest in 1999 and was in charge of the day-to-day running of the convent and care of the sisters.

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Sister Jane said: “Right up until the beginning of August she was still doing her duties.

“She also read poetry, she loved walking, she loved nature and bird watching.

“She will be missed enormously in the community and was a much-loved person.”

There are now nine sisters remaining at the convent, as well as one ‘novice’ sister who is ‘exploring their way of living’.

In 2014, the 14 sisters who lived at the complex announced they planned to sell the estate and move somewhere smaller more suited to their needs.

However, after spending more than a year searching for a new home, they failing to find anywhere suitable and decided instead to stay in Wantage but overhaul how the community worked.

The group started by inviting Wantage school board the Vale Academy Trust and the Church of England's Oxfordshire school board to move into bespoke new offices at the site to make better use of the space and serve the community.

The sisters also started inviting women to come and live at the convent – not necessarily as fully-fledged sisters, but as what they called ‘alongsiders’ who would join in with life and help with chores and in return get free accommodation in a peaceful, loving environment. There are now two alongsiders as well as a team of staff who help clean and do admin tasks.