Healing, spirituality and help in ‘God’s House’: How Nicholaston House can serve for the next 20 years
Healing, spirituality and help in ‘God’s House’: How Nicholaston House can serve for the next 20 years...
“I feel loved here. I feel safe. People are prepared to listen to me here and make me feel like I have worth after all.”
These heart-tugging confessions from people who are staring directly down into the abyss, or are even in that hellish space, are what make Nicholaston House a true retreat, beautiful haven and answer to prayer.
The noise, crowds and smoggy roadworks of Swansea start to fade out as you drive west towards the Gower. Suddenly you feel the bump of a cattlegrid and the scenery dramatically changes to that of Pembrokeshire or Cornwall. The roads narrow, the trees fatten until they are like arches above the car and, just like the pictures in all the tourist leaflets, the sunshine dapples against stone and stream. Already you feel this place is special. And then you arrive at Nicholaston House.
The whole place is steeped in prayer, beauty and love. It is easy to say that when the sun is shining but what makes it so apparent is the welcome from everyone you meet and the stories behind the warm smiles and kind eyes.
Nicholaston House is a place where our everyday stresses, anxieties, worries and illnesses meet calm, fourth dimensional prayerful solutions.
It is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and one of the original masterminds, who is writing a book to tell the story, tells me of its fascinating beginnings.
“We had a vision from the start and it has been an extraordinary journey,” says Derrick Hancock. “When this house came up for auction it was for sealed bids. Our trustees agreed to bid £295,251. The unusual figure arose because I had suggested adding £250 to the £295,000. Our solicitor then suggested the extra £1 in case someone else bid £295,250.
“Only two bidders turned up – us and a smartly-dressed young couple. They had bid just over £291,000. We later found out that their string of travel shops had been bought for £40 million. They had really wanted the house so I have no idea why they didn’t bid more, but it worked out perfectly for us.”
For 20 years, volunteers play a huge part in the running of Nicholaston, a place where funds are limited and the good work of the Christian community is heavily relied upon.
David and Jane Closs have been volunteering here for a number of years. One of their particular roles is in Prayer Ministry, they explain, as we stand outside a beautiful former hermitage in the grounds which looks like a really beautiful writing room, rather than a counselling suite.
“Prayer Ministry is a really important part of Nicholaston House,” says David. “Unlike counselling which, at the end of each session, directs the patient to take some sort of action, Prayer Ministry is about asking God to do His work. People come with a particular weight on their hearts but often find themselves unravelling several other layers during the session.
“They often say that they feel loved and safe here and are amazed that people are prepared to listen to them. What bigger compliment is there than that?”
Norma Gray comes one day a week to get through piles of ironing. The former cancer nurse says it is something she would never have dreamt of doing but she does it because she is a disciple of Christ, by whatever means.
“I am working to be the doorkeeper in the House of the Lord. This is a good discipline for me and I will wait to see where I am needed next.”
The stories of healing here are both intense and numerous. Helena Wilkinson, who has been running courses for more than 20 years to help people with eating disorders, has many a moving tale to tell.
“We use equine therapy because horses reflect human emotion. They give tangible help to people who have never felt love and acceptance. We had an autistic person on one course who was a bit nervous of horses and, when it came to the end of the course, the horse bowed to her, keeping a safe distance.”
One of these people who has been helped is Sarah. She is clear that, from first setting foot in Nicholaston last year, this was ‘the place for my healing.’
“I didn’t feel I had a purpose before. But, through the daily rhythm of this place, it has been amazing to discover myself and to mature my faith. I am discovering my purpose, who I am in Christ and where I belong in the world. The equine work, in particular, has helped me as my horse has been with me, beside me and holding me.”
Over the last 20 years, Nicholaston House has been privileged to help people from all walks of life with a host of different needs. But, in today’s pressurized world, where so many are in need of spiritual and mental healing, a huge re-development is desperately needed.
Trustees have launched an exciting initiative to help to raise £2million for a life-changing re-development. The aim is to be able to accommodate additional people, yet have more private ‘breakout’ spaces, as well as bedrooms with balconies and self-contained eco-pods in the garden.
For most individuals and companies, a £2million bill for the works would be a serious undertaking, but, for a charity, it is a very significant challenge. Funding will come from a number of different streams but the owners, Swansea City Mission and Educational Trust, need to raise at least 25% of the total cost.
With your help, we can do this – and achieve even more – over the next 20 years.
Residential Themed Retreats
Booking Terms and Conditions
Bookings are subject to the completion of a booking form (bookings can also be made verbally over the phone), receipt of a deposit/balance payment and acceptance of our booking terms and conditions.
Please see our terms and conditions page here: Nicholaston House - Terms and Conditions of Booking
At the discretion of the bookings team, provisional bookings may be held for a very short period of time to allow individuals and groups time to make arrangements. To avoid disappointment, bookings should be confirmed at the earliest opportunity. Provisional bookings may be superseded by other individuals or groups who wish to book. Bookings are only accepted following receipt of booking form (or same details provided over the phone), deposit/balance payment and confirmation from our booking office.
Unless otherwise stated, the check in time for 4-night retreats, commencing on Monday, is between 4-5 p.m.
Unless otherwise stated, the check out time for 4-night retreats, concluding of Friday, is 10 a.m.
Meals and Dietary/Allergies
Themed retreats are full board - please see our catering page here for details of meal times and dietary/allergy information: Catering Facilities at Nicholaston House Christian Retreat and Conference Centre
Our accommodation comprises mainly twin, with some single, double and family bedrooms, all with en-suite provision, as well as tea- and coffee-making facilities. Linen and towels are provided. All rooms are subject to availability. We endeavour to meet requests for specific rooms, however we reserve the right to alter room allocations to best accommodate guests. Priority is given to guests requiring our adapted room and rooms with walk in showers.
Please see our accommodation page here: Accommodation at Nicholaston House
Single Occupancy Charge
Unless otherwise stated or included in the rate, guests requiring guaranteed single occupancy of a non-single room will incur a single occupancy surcharge at the relevant rate.
Shared Occupancy Discount for Individuals
Please let us know if you are booking as an individual and willing to share with another person of the same gender who is also willing to share - a shared occupancy discount is available at the relevant rate when sharing a room (excludes some retreats and courses which are single occupancy only).
In line with our terms and conditions, full balance payments are due four weeks before arrival. Payment can be made by cheque or by telephoning our office to make a debit/credit card payment over the phone.
Directions and Public Transport
For directions to Nicholaston House, please see our directions page here: Contact Nicholaston House Christian Retreat and Conference Centre
The nearest bus stop is a short (5 minute) walk down a country road. For the most up to date bus and other public transport details, please visit Traveline Cymru: https://www.traveline.cymru or by calling: 0800 464 00 00
Nicholaston House facilities include a conservatory overlooking the magnificent sweep of Oxwich Bay, conference room with audio-visual equipment, games including table tennis, art and craft studio, prayer room, bookstall and lounge with TV. Generally, facilities are available on a shared use basis with other guests.
The Celtic Chapel endorses the vision of the House. Completed in March 2010, it is built in medieval style by a well-known local sculptor and is available for private and corporate prayer and worship. Guests are welcome to join with staff for guest chapel times during the week.
Programme of Events
Where possible, we will provide an outline programme for the event in advance of the event. Programme timings may vary and are subject to change.
Half Board Breaks and Personal Retreats
Other events may take place during our half-board breaks and personal retreat weeks. On occasions such events may limit the use of some facilities; we will endeavour to advise guests at the time of booking or prior to arrival.
Residential guests may be staying at the House during such events.
Subject to meeting minimum booking levels, residential conferences are normally on an exclusive use basis.
Nicholaston House was birthed in a dream/vision in the mid 1980s. Derrick and Sue Hancock had been working for a long time with a person who had suffered severe abuse. It became apparent to them, and the psychiatrist now working with them, that any healing that was going to take place could be significantly hurried up if the therapy could be more than simply sessional. Established centres were approached, but, (a) there was always a lengthy waiting time, and (b) the centre wanted to use their own staff, thus going over much of what had already been covered. The vision of a safe house was thus born.
The problem with visions is that they seldom happen overnight; that is why many God-given visions don’t materialise - people give up too soon. The vision was carried to Swansea in a quite remarkable way. A fleece was put out on a train going into Waterloo Station on a cold Monday morning in January 1990. After many months of searching as to where this vision could be realised, Swansea appeared on the screen quite out of the blue. Derrick and Sue had been in Swansea on the Sunday visiting their daughter and God spoke to them at an evening church service. The Monday morning fleece prayer was a result, and it was simply ‘if you want them to move to Swansea, they will go, but you will need to find a buyer for their house without their putting it on the market’. That was 7.50 in the morning. At 7.30 in the evening, someone called to ask if they were selling their house. The caller’s wife had that day discovered she was pregnant and they now needed a 4-bedroomed house – so they bought it.
Derrick and Sue became linked up with a charity in the city – Swansea City Mission – and soon became involved in running a residential unit for homeless men. Then three years later they were instrumental in commencing a counselling service. Many years on, this service is still operating. Well over 1,000 people have used the service, which remains donation-based. The vision, however, was for a residential place of safety and much prayer was made over many years. £75,000 had become available, and though helpful, this was by no means enough. Prayer continued and every session commenced with the reading of Habakkuk Ch. 2 v.2&3, part of which reads, ‘though the vision tarry, it will not be overdue a single day’.
In June 1998, a private hotel on the Gower peninsula came up for auction. It was withdrawn at the last minute and sealed bids were invited. The trustees decided to bid £295,000. Only one other bidder was present - the survey on the property had put many people off. The bid was opened and then the other, which was for £291,500. After the bidders had left, the estate agent said, ‘I can’t understand this – those people have an awful lot of money and really wanted it’. There was just 12 weeks between the bid and the purchase to raise £250,000. The trustees had decided in faith to purchase the property. £320,000 came in.
Three years after Nicholaston House was purchased, a lady made it known that she and her family camped at a nearby farm for a number of years in the late 1980s. They used to go to Nicholaston, which was then a hotel, for an evening drink. She said one day after her husband and children had returned to the campsite, as she sat looking out to sea, she heard God say, ‘this is My house’. Some eight years later, it was.
The original Nicholaston 'House' was built in the 1880s in a peaceful spot overlooking the sea. The building was extended in the 1960s and in 1998 Swansea City Mission purchased the House as a Christian Conference and Retreat Centre.
The vision of Nicholaston House is to create an atmosphere of love and prayer where people can find acceptance, peace, hope and healing through a Christian residential house.
The focus of Nicholaston House is to facilitate different groups for conference and away days. The primary focus, however, is as a centre for healing and restoration channelled through the various courses and retreats. In the words of a recent guest – it is a place of blessing, safety and sanctuary.
Nicholaston House is run by Swansea City Mission and Educational Trust.
There are resident staff at Nicholaston House forming a small community. This number is augmented by part-time and casual staff. The work is also supported by a host of volunteers who undertake a variety of tasks, from maintenance and gardening to counselling and prayer ministry.
Nicholaston House, standing in its own grounds overlooking Oxwich bay, is set in Britain’s first designed Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Step outside and wander onto open moorland with its purple heather and golden gorse, and view the Gower ponies grazing on the gently sloping hillside. A leisurely walk to the cliff-top takes you to a beautiful view of Three Cliffs Bay - come and see for yourself.
Nicholaston House accommodation comprises twin, double and family bedrooms, all with en-suite provision, as well as tea- and coffee-making facilities. The bedrooms are situated on the first floor and accessed by stairs or lift. One room is adapted to meet some of the needs of people with disabilities. Linen, towels and complimentary soaps are provided in all bedrooms. Guaranteed single occupancy supplement charges apply.
The Bryn Room is a self-catering studio apartment for one or two people, attached to Nicholaston House with patio doors opening onto the open moorland of Cefn Bryn. It is available to book for personal retreats and time out, with counselling or prayer ministry available if requested in advance.
Nicholaston House facilities include a conservatory overlooking the magnificent sweep of Oxwich Bay, conference room with audio-visual equipment, games including table tennis, art and craft studio, prayer room, bookstall and lounge with TV.
Nicholaston House is an ideal place for church and Christian groups to spend time together. Book one or more of our rooms for a day, evening, weekend, week or even longer periods.
Catering is available on request and we will assist you with any other requirements you may have.
The Celtic Chapel endorses the vision of the House. Completed in March 2010, it is built in medieval style by a well-known local sculptor and is available for private and corporate prayer and worship.
If you need respite from the hustle and bustle of life, then the peace of the garden may be the answer. Water cascades down to the lily pond with the flowers adding colour and beauty. Seats are strategically placed to capture the view of the garden, countryside and coast. The small ‘Hermitage’ may be used for personal prayer and quiet times.
Nicholaston House is a member of the Quiet Garden Movement and also one of the few places in Wales with a wild bird garden, having equipment for viewing from the conservatory. It includes a prayer walk and is open each day from April to October, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Please ring the House on 01792 371317 to advise of your intended visit. Bed and breakfast at the House can be arranged subject to availability.
Celtic Cross (on the roof)
Pink Jersey granite from the La Saline Quarry, near Ronez Point, on the north coast of Jersey in the parish of St John.
The quarry looks out to Guernsey, Sark and Alderney. It is a symbol of the journey of the Welsh Celtic Saint Samson, who was associated with healing, and went on to become a notable Breton Saint and is buried in Dol, Brittany, France, where there is a shrine to him. The granite was brought back by sea to Weymouth, then to Gower.
Made from reclaimed Pitch Pine timber. Original timber used in the early 19th Century dockyard building in Chatham Dockyard, Kent. Probably grown in the Baltic in the late 18th Century.
Interior East Niche
Furnished with Northumberland sandstone Celtic cross. Stone taken to Holy Island, Lindisfarne, and blessed on the high altar of St Mary's church Lindisfarne.
Metamorphic limestone from Jerusalem called Ramon Stone. Symbolic of the Holy Land itself. The name Ramon is also linked by coincidence to Brother Ramon, the late Franciscan monk, who has a dedicated Hermitage in the grounds of Nicholaston House near this chapel.
Centre Floor Slab
Of golden stone from a small quarry in Bethlehem run by a Palestinian. It symbolises the birth place of our Lord Jesus Christ. The underside of the centre stone slab is carved with the folowing inscription:
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Ceiling Centre Boss
A carved wooden pitch pine relief of the 'Star of Bethlehem'. Symbol of the 'star' over Bethlehem which guided the Magi, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, to the stable. The longer point of the star points to the north, towards the Aumbry cupboard on the wall.
A small stone niche set into the North wall fitted with a lockable wooden pitch pine door with ironwork. This is the traditional place for such a cupboard where the Communion vessels and reserved sacrament are kept.
A small stone is set into the stone band beneath the Aumbry cupboard. The stone is carved into a rudimentary cross shape. It was picked up from under the waters of the Sea of Gallilee by David Dean and given to the chapel as a gift. It was there under the water when Christ walked on that water. It is here now.
The view from the House is truly inspirational for igniting creativity, and the activities on offer provide the opportunity to develop skills and share interests.