THE ORDER of nuns that built St Michael's Hospital is leaving west Cornwall 110 years after the first sisters arrived to run schools and improve healthcare.
The final three nuns from the Order of the Daughters of the Cross of Liege, which moved to Penzance in 1901 and Hayle a year later, are set to leave their convent next month.
The lack of people wanting to join the religious life has caused the order to reorganise its communities.
The Daughters of the Cross founded St Michael's Hospital, St Julia's Hospice and Marie Therese House in Hayle, St Mary's Catholic School in Penzance and other schools, which have since closed down.
Nuns ran the hospital from 1914 until 1999 and Sisters Maureen McNally, Rose Marmion and Teresa Imelda have lived in the Hayle convent for decades.
Sister Maureen worked as a matron at the hospital, while Sister Rose taught at St Mary's and Sister Imelda was a minister.
Cornwall councillor for Hayle South, John Coombe grew up in the town and said he had always admired and respected the nuns.
"They were not just nuns and a closed order, they were involved in anything and anybody in town," he said. "They are three people who I owe an awful lot to ... they have been tremendous and Hayle has a lot to thank them for.
"It is going to be a terrific and great loss to the town. You can't praise them too much, they were the salt of the earth."
Sisters Imelda and Rose will move to the order's convent in North Cheam, Greater London, while Sister Maureen will go to Haslemere in Surrey.
Sister Rose said: "There are not many sisters any more. "We are not getting a lot of people coming so we are getting fewer and older so we are consolidating in our bigger houses. I think in everybody's memories in Hayle we have always been there."
The first home of the order in Cornwall was at Albert House on Alma Terrace in Penzance and later Leskinnick House, also home to St Gertrude's School.
The Penzance community left in 1947.
The order first moved to The Downes in Hayle in 1902, which is now a residential care home.
In 2002 they moved to St Mary's convent in front of the hospice on Foundry Hill.
Father Phillip Dyson, of the Penzance parish, said: "We are going to miss the three of them terribly but at least there is a legacy in the hospital.
"These three but also all the sisters since 1901 have been a great force for 110 years."