Saturday, October 31, The Beacon, 4pm: When 15-year-old Eleanor Stewart arrived at Wantage’s Icknield School (now King Alfred’s) in 1959 – few people would have guessed her future career path.
But three years after she moved to Childrey, the teenager announced to the consternation of her family – and unbridled hilarity of her mates – she intended to become a nun.
Now a grandmother and mother-of-two, Stewart is returning to Wantage on October 31 to explain how a desperate craving for a baby of her own forced her to quit holy orders.
Her incredible story from nun to mum is detailed in her book, New Habits, which tells how Sister Eleanor moved to Liverpool in the 1960s – at the height of Beatlemania – to work as a midwife in one of the most deprived areas of the city.
She draws back the curtain on the hidden life of the convent and the remarkable diversity of the women who have felt themselves called to God.
From learning the art of turkey plucking, to attending births in appalling poverty-stricken conditions, to being reprimanded for her use of tampons – seen as ‘not appropriate’ for a nun – Stewart gives an engaging account of life behind her long white habit and veil.
With many similarities to the TV series, Call the Midwife, Stewart tells how being surrounded by fertility and watching umpteen babies being born, she started to yearn to be a mother herself.
After nearly eight years as a nun, she left the convent, got married and adopted two children.
Eleanor Stewart has fond memories of moving to Childrey in 1959, after she and her family returned from Hong Kong.
She spent one term at Icknield School, where poet laureate John Betjeman’s wife Penelope gave RE lessons to all the Catholic pupils.
Stewart recalls: “I had a very good friend called Sue who lived first in Childrey and then in Wantage, where her parents ran a sort of deli opposite The Bear, which I think was called Harris’s.
Saturday 31 October. The Beacon, Wantage. 4pm. Tickets:£6
Click here to book online via Tickets Oxford.
Online sales close on October 30.
Listen to Eleanor Stewart’s interview on BBC Radio Oxford’s Kat Orman show here.