The History of Our School

September 1851- September 2011

As we celebrate the 160 years of education at St. Mary's, we can look back at the history of the school in Croydon.

It is known that from 1837 efforts were made by the Parish Priest, Father Patrick O'Moore, to educate catholic children in the area. The first St. Mary's School was established at 8 Broad Green on Tuesday
2nd September 1851. The Parish Priest at this time, Father Desiré Michel Vesque had gained the help of Malle. Rose Hauvelle, a friend of his parents, to be the chatelaine of the re-established St. Mary's School. At this time Croydon is described as a town of about 15, 000 inhabitants. From 1852 the school was under the control of a certificated teacher with one or two non certificated ones and pupil teachers. The premises are described as small and temporary.

From its inception until 1862, the school was voluntary and received no State Aid until 1863. As the number of pupils increased the school room was moved into one of the neighbouring cottages and, by 1863, overcrowding had become a serious problem as reported “The present premises are not suitable, but a new building will be shortly erected” – in fact while the average attendance was 88 children the school room only had room for 63.

In 1864 the school was transferred to its next location behind St. Mary's Church in Wellesley Road . On 3 rd July 1864, at 4pm, the new school room was opened and blessed by Bishop Thomas Grant.

In 1864 the school was transferred to its next location behind St. Mary's Church in Wellesley Road.
On 3rd July 1864, at 4pm, the new school room was opened and blessed by Bishop Thomas Grant.

In 1870, as now, more classrooms were being added and it is recorded that, when the school re-opened after the summer holidays on Wednesday 17th September 1870, lessons were held in the playground and under the sacristy ‘workmen still being in the school room'.

On the 9th of January 1888, the school was re-opened by the Sisters
of Mary, who took over the education of the children,
who prospered under their care for many years.
Sister Mary Winifred was the Headmistress that year being succeeded by Sister Mary Raymond and Sister Margaret Mary. From March 1894 Sister Mary Evangelist was headmistress until she resigned in August 1903. Also to be included in this short history is Sister Mary Dominic who taught at St. Mary's for 40 years together with 30 years service given by Sister Mary Philomena. Sister Mary Bega and Sister Mary Joseph were also, with others, responsible for the flourishing of St. Mary's school for many years.

The school buildings again needed expansion and on the 9th April 1910, a new wing was opened and as the report from the Diocesan Inspector records – “A good school. Great interest is taken by both managers. Attendance at Mass and Sacraments very carefully watched. I was well pleased with all the work done.
Signed G.A Whereat D. D. ”

During the First WorlWar the school was not affected to any great extent. The staff was entirely composed of women teachers and there was no depletion for military service. Nor did air raids, small and few as they were, together with the temporary admission of Belgian refugee children interfere seriously with the life of the school.

During the Second World War the children were evacuated in September 1939 initially to Patcham near Brighton, to Addlestone in Surrey, and also to Cornwall .

In 1948 two fabricated classrooms were added because of the raising of the school leaving age to 15.

Once again, numbers grew and it became necessary to implement the 1944 Education Act it was decided to divide the school. The children aged 5-11 remained in the old school buildings which now housed a Junior and Infants, and the older children moved into the new school in Woburn Road which had taken eight years of undaunted efforts by Canon McLaughlin and other promoters, to be built and became today's St. Mary's High School in September 1955.

The school population continued to grow and it was necessary to split the school. The time the school was moved from behind the Church and divided into a Junior and Infant school. The new site was bounded by Sydenham Road and Bedford Park and the two new schools were opened on September 1968, under the Headship of Mr J. P. Finigan and Mrs A. Bilski.

In July 1971 the indoor heated swimming pool, a tangible result of the efforts of the Parents Association, was opened by Canon North. Again the school numbers rose and, in September 1973 three prefabricated classrooms were added. In 1977 after many years of visits to the municipal camp site in Dieppe by the older children a site was bought, on which to build a school camp site.

1989 saw the retirement of Mr. Finigan, after 25 years service as Head. This was followed by the introduction in 1992 of the National Curriculum. From this time until 2013, Provost Collins has helped steer the school through many changes. He was part of the Governing Body and was Chair of Governors for many years. His leadership as Parish Priest, Chair of Governors and as chaplain to the school has ensured the solid foundations on which future successes are based. Mrs Smith was the Headteacher at that time. She was followed by
Mr John Parr who steered the school from 1992 until December 2001.

Mrs Anne Pendry became Headteacher and together with the Governing body set about planning the enlargement of the main building with extra classrooms to eventually replace the prefabricated classrooms – the first part of which is now complete with two new classrooms, in operation from September 2008.

Following a decision taken by the Infant School to reduce from three classes per year group to two, the Junior School has followed suit and this process concluded in September 2012. These space generated has meant that the school has been able to refurbish and reassign classrooms. A new room for Group Activities was opened in 2011, and the school's Computer Suite was move to a permanent indoor classroom in January 2012. The renovation of a temporary classroom created a dedicated music room. The next stage was organised which involved the conversion of the final classroom to a library.