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St Mary's Catholic High School

St Mary's School celebrates its 170th Anniversary

On Thursday, 2nd September 2021, St Mary’s celebrates the 170th anniversary of its foundation, making it one of the longest established schools in Croydon and one of the oldest Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Southwark.

The first St Mary's School - Broad GreenOn Tuesday, 2nd September 1851, under the guidance of Fr. Vesque, St Mary’s School was started in the old church presbytery at 8 Broad Green, Croydon (now 247 London Road) with just eight pupils. The very first ‘Headteacher’ (Chatelaine) being Mdlle. Rose Hauvelle from Honfleur, France.

Fr. McLaughlin observed, in his 1938 history of the parish, that the opening of the school was interesting: “…in the light of the fact that never since that day has its doors been closed. The number of children with which it opened doubled in a week, had increased six-fold in a month, and was destined to grow a hundred-fold in time”

St Mary's School 1864 - 1955As with many similar schools at that time, St Mary’s was not recognised by the state until 1862 and didn’t receive any funding until 1863 when the number of pupils had grown to 63. A school inspector reported “Premises small, temporary. Furniture provisional. Discipline fair. Instruction, the mere elements of primary education.” Another report, the following year, stated: “The present premises are not suitable, but a new building will shortly be erected.

On 3rd July 1864, St Mary’s transferred from Broad Green to its present site, adjacent to the newly constructed Parish Church of St Mary’s (Our Lady of Reparation) – a landmark date in the school’s history.

St Mary's Catholic High School - 2021In 1955, the present High School buildings were opened, with the Infant and Junior schools subsequently moving to locations in nearby Sydenham Road.



What else happened in 1851?

  • Queen Victoria had been on the throne for 14 years
  • Lord John Russell (Whig/Liberal) was the UK Prime Minister
  • The UK population was 21 million (currently 68 million)
  • The sixth year of the Great Famine in Ireland
  • The Great Exhibition was opened on 1st May
  • The Window Tax was abolished in the UK
  • The first gold rush in Australia
  • Millard Fillmore (Whig) was President of the USA
  • Reuters News Agency was founded in London
  • Isaac Singer registered a patent for his new sewing machine
  • The Yale lock was patented
  • Herman Melville published 'Moby Dick'
  • The first America's Cup yachting competition
  • The first 1st class cricket match in Australia
  • First performance of Verdi's 'Rigoletto'
  • JMW Turner (painter) died