Stanbrook Abbey through the camera lens

Published: Thursday, October 26, 2017


A pop up photo exhibition showcases Stanbrook Abbey and its Benedictine nuns.

A pop up exhibition of photographs by Mike Swift of Stanbrook Abbey, a community of Benedictine nuns in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, is taking place on Thursday 26 October at St Mellitus College, London as part of the 2017 Church Architecture Awards.

Stanbrook Abbey Church, a spectacular new building designed by architects Feilden Clegg and Bradley Studios, won the Presidents’ Award for new church buildings in the 2016 Church Architecture Awards, run by the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association (EASA) and the National Churches Trust.

The full set of photographs can be viewed on an online photo gallery  and a selection can also be viewed at the bottom of this webpage. A book of the photos will be available for sale in November, with all profits going to support the work of the National Churches Trust. Orders can be made from 1 November 2017 onwards at    

Mike Swift is the Chief Photographer at Newsquest Berkshire. He has been a photographer for 25 years involved in Press, PR and Corporate. His favourite, though, is Street Photography.

Mike Swift said:

“My favourite awards ceremony of the year, and I cover a lot as a professional photographer, are the Church Architecture Awards.

Last year’s winner of the Presidents’ Award for new church buildings was Stanbrook Abbey, formerly in Worcester. The monastery there was sold and became a hotel. With the funds raised the nuns purchased Crief farm on the North Yorkshire Moors and created a new Stanbrook Abbey.”

“The building is a piece of art but it is nothing without the people that inhabit it. I approached the nuns and arranged to go up to visit them, and then spent some time with them taking photographs of how they live their lives peacefully and just about self-sufficiently.”

“They have a loom, make their own clothes, grow their own food and have the kind of routine some of us would envy. Stanbrook Abbey is a wonderful place but it is also made to come alive with some wonderful people.”

“The Abbess, Mother Andrea and all the Sisters showed me a great deal of respect and patience while I took the pictures as I wanted to get them as naturally as possible and I was very careful not to disrupt their routine. Listening to them chant their prayers in Latin gave me goose pimples and it was one of the most moving things I have witnessed.”

“To introduce myself and the idea of what I was hoping to achieve, I offered to hold a smartphone/iPad camera workshop for them and was delighted and pleasantly surprised when eight of the group turned up with phones, cameras and tablets. It was a good way to get to know them and I hope they learned a bit too!”