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St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School

Great Hadham Road, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire CM23 2NL

School History

Our School's History

When the Sisters of St Mary of Namur arrived here from Belgium in 1896, their intention was to start a school for Bishop's Stortford's Catholic community. That same year they acquired Windhill Lodge at the top of Windhill, renamed it St Mary's Convent and opened their school in the same building. There were just nine pupils at the start. The original building still stands but has since undergone a great deal of alteration. Helped by funding from the Catholic Church, the much larger school house that stands alongside the old convent was built in the early 1900s. This opened as a fee-paying school.

But not every Catholic family in Bishop's Stortford could afford to pay for their children's education, so in 1909 a mixed school for elementary pupils began at St Mary's for the less well off. Named St Joseph's, it first accommodated pupils in two classrooms in what is now the music block, but by 1914 the school had grown so rapidly that a staff of three were teaching 57 children.

During the First World War, soldiers were billeted in St Mary's at night and many child evacuees from London were taught here during World War II.

As Stortford's Catholic community grew, space was at a premium and for a brief spell some children were taught at St Joseph's Church Hall in Apton Road. After World War II additional classrooms were used at the Secondary school in the Causeway, and later many more pupils were housed in the Evening Institute at Church Street. They remained there until a new St Joseph's school was built at Great Hadham Road in 1960.

When built in 1960 this new school had just three classrooms, making it necessary for many pupils still to be taught at St Mary's School. A further three classrooms were built in time for St Joseph's official opening in 1966, but even they proved insufficient for Bishop's Stortford's rapidly growing population. With finances already stretched to the limit a fund was set up into which parents contributed at least one penny per week, eventually raising enough money to build the extra classrooms needed. Currently the school accommodates in excess of 300 pupils.

(local history information reproduced from with the kind permission of Paul Ailey the site's author)