McMaster House and its neighbour, St Luke’s Hospital, are the fruits of an inspiration by Mary Neville, (later Mrs. McMaster), in the early 1950s.
Mary brought together a number of like-minded people to create a Christian ecumenical community with the aim of providing help to those who were “sick, elderly and disabled”. Her specialty was physiotherapy and this continues at St Luke’s Hospital today.
In her book The Vision, the Quest and the Goal Mary McMaster writes about how faith and love enabled the founding of the two St Luke’s entities.
Mary was born on 15th March 1914 at Chatham. At the end of the Great War the family moved to Oxford where she continued her education, prior to attending finishing schools. Mary trained as a physiotherapist at the Middlesex Hospital and there discovered her passion and vocation for this work. After a spell at Stoke Mandeville, she came to the Wingfield-Morris Orthopedic Hospital (now the Nuffield) and stayed ten years.
In 1952 Mary had a vision, which she believed was a call from God ‘to collect a band of people and start a community’. She took the leasehold of a house in North Oxford and by July 1956 had opened a facility capable of nursing up to twenty patients. This capacity was doubled when she and her husband acquired the house next door in 1963. But it became clear St John’s College would not be
Mary McMaster and The Bishop of Oxford at the official opening of McMaster House
11th June 1985.
renewing the lease. So Mary began the tough search for a freehold site where she could design and build a nursing home with sheltered accommodation alongside. The present site in Headington was purchased with her personal money in 1971. There was still a long way to go.
By 1982 all patients in the old nursing home had been successfully re-installed in the newly completed St Luke’s Hospital. Hard on the heels of this McMaster House was taking shape, and the first tenants moved in on 22nd June 1984. Thirty years later, on 22nd May 2013, the House celebrated this great moment in fine style
The full story of this remarkable initiative can be found in Mary McMaster’s book, The Vision, the Quest and the Goal.