Horowhenua, NZ, Sept 2012:  There’s not a lot of information freely available about Marycrest, a former catholic girls’ “rehabilitation” school at Te Horo on the Kapiti Coast. From what I can ascertain, it was founded in 1953 by Sister Mary Teresa Kennedy and Mary St Finton of the French based Good Shepherd Sisters.

According to researcher Roscoe Turner, “the girls who came into the care of the sisters often had problems that could not be resolved in their normal environment and needed the loving care of others to restore their sense of self-worth.”

Originally, the first sisters and girls stayed in the manor that was built by the previous owner. However, soon after the religious order constructed a training and working block for clothes making and cooking skills, plus a 20-30 girl dormitory. More constructions for the growing number of girls were built in the 1960’s and 1970’s, including another dormitory and sports facilities such as a gymnasium, tennis courts and a swimming pool.

Apparently the last building built at Marycrest was the large convent near the entrance (first two images), for the growing number of sisters at the facility, whose numbers allegedly reached up to fifty. At its peak in the 1970’s, Marycrest allegedly housed up to 70 girls. The borstal finally shut it’s doors around 1983, due to changes regarding institutional counselling and care and the declining number of sisters.

I managed to contact the owner of the property in Australia, in the vague hope of gaining permission to document the site. He was unsurprisingly very hostile to my idea- probably because the site is an absolute disgrace- and gave me his answer as a definitive no.


39 thoughts on “Marycrest

  1. Interesting photos – I heard a few years ago that the owner was trying to market the property as a type of conference centre/resort (!) but it was so run down at that stage (it has been closed since 1980) no-one made any offers, not surprisingly! I have seen pics of the inside on a now defunct urbex website back about 3 years ago and it was falling to bits – water pooling everywhere, pigeons roosting in the rooms, cracked glass everywhere – a real disgrace. They may as well just demolish it as it certainly is an eyesore.

  2. There are many ex Mary Crest girls on the old friends site on trademe. It was basically a home for girls who were not criminals but had conflicts with parents. The Catholic church used the girls as free labour in a sewing factory there.

  3. I was at the school in 1957 and left in 1959 so the school was open way before 1970. The sisters of the Good Sheperd were the Nuns that founded the school and we had been transfered from Christchurch School to Te Horo.

      1. I no a bit about this place. Its fucken scarey! The care taker still lives there.. I drive pass that old school alot a took alot of confidence to check out the dorms after feeding a friends pet calf. All i no is that everyone who has been there felt sick what the care takdr said too me was rely crazzy 🙂 not to mention related to heim wanting to kilme

  4. This is amazing. I was a girl in this convent. I was born November 1946 and was in the Convent from age 12 – 16. Yes we used to sew St. Marks Pajamas in the sewing Factory. There was also a School on site that we attended. Mother Loretto was Head Mistress and Mother Agnes was the Music Teacher.

    1. I remember Mother Agnes !! And Loretto from the Phippines.Love it i remember riding the horses from there through the farms to the beach.Amazing and beautiful.Such a shame it is wrecked.It was so lovely the grounds immaculate.

  5. Why did it shut down? Were the girls treated there properly ? Has anyone actually been there? could somebody who use to go here give us some information? How did you find out who the owner was?

    1. I was put into Marycrest at the age of 14 – I wasn’t sent by the courts but my father wasn’t a very nice person and just wanted to get rid of me like he had done all my life. I was the only girl in there that was a ward of the courts. This was 1969

      1. The paragraph was meant to read – I was the only girl in there that wasn’t a State Ward!

    2. I was placed in there in 1969 because my boyfriend and I tried to run away, my boyfriend killed himself a few weeks later – I was not sent to by the courts, my father just wanted to get rid of me. He was an asshole and it’s because of his treatment and abuse that my boyfriend killed himself. I was allowed home 3 months later – it was a place that I didn’t want to be but Sister Bartholomew was the head nun and a heard she was fired because of her bad treatment of girls. I’m not sure if this is true but we all slept in the dooms and went to the main building as your come up the driveway and we sewed all day. there was a school for the younger girls – I think they youngest was 12.. I would love to find some of the girls that were in there when I was. My name at the time was Yvonne Merlo aged 14years

    3. Hi. I was there from 1964 to 1966 put there by my parents! I learned things a 14 yr old should not know. It was a terrible place and has affected me to this day. Just yesterday I went in to look to put some sense into the memories. . Shocking !! I probably shouldn’t have as it was eerie did no good at all. The place should be bulldozed!

  6. It would take me a whole book to tell you about my life there. I was at Marycrest from 1959 – 1963, it was a Convent for girls that had differences with their Parents. It was not a Borstal. The Nuns did their very best and they were very strict and had very high standards. If you proved that you were being a very good girl and conforming to expectations then you had the privilege of cleaning and cooking breakfast for the Nuns up at their Convent where they lived with Mother Superior. The Nuns Convent is the very tall building that looks like a Convent. On site was the Convent, a Chapel, Sewing factory, School, the Virgina Block where the girls lived and another building across from there also where the girls lived, and a hall down the back. It was all situated on a farm.
    The night Nun who was on duty always stood outside our dormitories saying her rosary until we fell asleep.
    Life was a lot tougher in those days and we had nothing, anything that we strived for we had to work very hard to get.
    No work, no money no hope, that’s where we came from.
    Only one very bad and evil nasty Nun lived there. Mother Aidin all the girls hated her, she kind of emotionally tortured you very slyly so the other Nuns didn’t catch her and she was good at it.
    I am still close friends with another girl that I became friends with at Marycrest. we have both just turned 67.
    Frances Lorrigan

    1. Hi I was in Marycrest around the early 70s I remember Mother Aidin and yes she was mean. I loved riding the horses the, Mr Engles took care of things around the place, I am still very close to one of the girls who made friends with me while in there. Although it was tuff in there we did have some good time with each other.
      Lorraine Wood ( Howell/Robinson

      1. how funny I was there about 1968 I think.I have good memories of being there we used to sew for professional uniforms and the horse riding was fantastic.I also worked in the convent there the new one had just been built but the old one was so much better.Remember Phyllis Mr Inglis and Father (cant remember his name)I couldnt believe about Mother B

      2. yes I remember Mother Aidin she was nice and her shoes were always really shiny all the nuns were nice to all of us and treated us all with respect and love I was in the school and then in the sewing room it taught me a trade and set me up for life. as for slave labour how do you think you lived they fed us and tried to look after us as best as they could I went there when I was 12 and ran away when I was 15 they did their best for all of us

      3. yes I remember Mother Aiden she always had really shiny shoes. her and Mother Andre were the two nuns that slept at Pelletier house. they were all nice to us and treated us as well as they could. as for slave labour how do you think we lived we were well fed and cared for educated and loved. I was at school and also in the sewing room which set me up with a trade for life. I went there when I was 12 and ran away when I was 15

    2. That was Mother Aquinus.Mother Agnes was my Fav she was just so lovely.Left there and went to Melbourne.Its so sad such a beautiful property is looking like it is now.

      1. I was there from 1962 to 1964. I don’t believe the bad things said about Mother Aiden; she was strict, as were all the others. As an aside, Mother Aiden always had VERY shiny brown shoes, almost as if they were just out of the shop! My favourite was Mother Agnes, the school teacher. She and I had many clashes! It didn’t matter what I did, it was always the wrong thing as far as Mother Agnes was concerned.

    3. Hi Frances, would you be interested in talking with me or corresponding regarding your experiences at Marycrest? I’ve just started looking at the prospect of making a film. The site has been just sold and new owners are looking to renovate and develop something positive that will keep the place intact, while moving on from its history. My email address is Phone 04 9733769. You can look me up here:

    1. But there was the swimming in that cool pool.The horseriding and good outdoors.Beautiful rural property.

  7. Some friends and I checked out one of the buildings in 2000. It was up for rent we just went for a nosy. I think it would have been where the nuns lived, or were there priests there too? a big brick or stone building. It had rooms with really high ceilings and was really big. the roof was caving in and badly water damaged in lots of rooms. the owner wasnt gunna put any money in to it if we lived there would have to fix it ourselves. Was really cheap to rent for the size. It wasnt liveable. It was the creepiest building I’ve ever been in. really bad vibes.

  8. My parents had nine children, they used to pay the convent 3 quid a week for me to stay there, (a real sacrifice in those days) and they thought I was doing school Certificate. They were horrified when I came home to learn I been working for no wages in the sewing factory.

  9. Yeah I dont understand what was meant to be happening BUT!!! No school I feel deprived although the memories of there are positive,didnt mind the sewing loved riding the horses. Dont think it was meant to be a holiday LOL

  10. Thank you everyone for your thoughts/comments about your experiences at MC. Please keep them coming. Nb. I’m using ‘MC’ or “The Farm” to avoid internet trolls and the possibility of more vandalism to MC. If anyone wants to talk about their time at MC directly (or anonymously)- feel free to email me via the ‘contact’ link. From what I’ve read and your comments- MC seems almost like a NZ version of the Irish Magadalene Laundries. More comments welcome. A new recent post from inside MC is here….

  11. I used to stay there in about 1985. I was 9yo and lived next door. There was a German family staying there as caretakers for a new owner and they had a daughter about my age called Bergit (unsure about the spelling). We would stay in different rooms and roamed all over, swam in the pool. It was really fun but we always thought it was haunted. I always wished I could find Bergit but didn’t know her last name I just remember that she could really sing. Such a waste of a beautiful place.

  12. Hi there was jst wondering if u could tell me if this place marycrest also was a boardin plce for boys bck in the 1970 as i remember livin wif my sis in the wellington region of porirua. My half brother use to gt drop off to us in a van that was driven by staff frm Marycrest. If u could share any information concerning this matter I would be most grateful.

  13. Hi i was jst wondering if u could tell me if mary crest had ever been a boys boarding school, or boys hme bck in the 1970. As my brother use to gt drop off to my sister hse in a van that was driven by a marycrest staff member. Would very mch appreciate any information u may know thanks.

    1. Hi Hanna, thanks for your question. Marycrest was always only a girls school/facility as far as I can ascertain. Sorry I can’t be of help. Fergus

      An update on this Hanna. Apparently for a couple of years in the early 1980’s Marycrest was co-ed. Hope this helps.

      1. I was there from 1965 until June 1967. I never saw anyone slaving at any sewing machines. I met girls who have become my friends then and it is now the year 2017 and these friendships I have I worship. Marycrest helped me

  14. Hi Fergus – We are interested in speaking to you about MC – what you know of the place, the history etc. Are you available to discuss it. Regards Drew and Ant

  15. Pingback: The Deadpool |

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