The History of St. Mary's
The Society of the Holy Child Jesus
The Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) is a Catholic religious order for women that originated in England in 1846, founded by Cornelia Connelly. The order follows the rules of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuit order for men, and firmly believed that students “would always succeed the better for being happy”. In 1856, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Liverpool, The Right Reverand Alexander Goss, extended an invitation to the sisters of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus to establish a branch in Blackpool and teach at Father Bampton’s Poor School on Talbot Road. The sisters arrived with twelve girl boarders, and with accommodations secured for themselves and the students in Queen’s Square, the school flourished under their care. Despite being run by a man, the school thrived with the help of the devoted sisters.
After four years of teaching at Father Bampton’s Poor School on Talbot Road, the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) gained approval from Bishop Goss to expand their mission. In 1860, they founded St. Mary’s as a school for girls in the Raikes Hall building located in Raikes Parade, Blackpool (now a pub called Raikes Hall). The school quickly became a success, and in 1870, it moved to the Layton Hill site, where the sisters had already acquired property for their expanding mission. Today, much of the original premises still exist and are an integral part of the modern school. The SHCJ’s dedication to education, coupled with their innovative spirit, helped establish St. Mary’s as a cornerstone of the community.
In 1880, the school began admitting boys, but by 1900 they were separated from the girls and taught by lay teachers at the newly founded St. Joseph’s College, Blackpool on Park Road. There were several moves between Park Road and Whitegate Lane (now Whitegate Drive) until St. Joseph’s finally settled at Layton Mount on Newton Drive in 1918. Layton Mount was built as a residence for Yorkshire mill owner William Lumb in 1895.
In 1923, Archbishop Frederick Keating invited the Irish Christian Brothers in Liverpool to take over the running of St. Joseph’s. In November 1924, Blackpool was transferred into the new Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster. The brothers remained in charge until their departure in 1975 when a new Lancaster Diocesan rule required all Catholic schools to become co-educational. Since the constitution of the Christian Brothers forbade them to teach girls, they had to leave. St. Joseph’s merged with Layton Hill Convent that same year to form St. Mary’s Catholic High School.
Layton Hill Convent had, during this time, been flourishing as the principal Catholic girls’ grammar school in the Fylde, and it was led by Sister Maureen Grimley (SHCJ) (1932–2007), who became the first Head Teacher of the newly merged school.
St. Mary's Roman Catholic High School
In 1977, the administration of the school underwent a transition as it was taken over by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster. Sister Maureen, who had served as Head Teacher, remained in her role until 1984, and sisters of the order continued to teach at the school. In the initial stages of the transition, the school operated on two separate campuses, but eventually, the St. Joseph’s campus was closed in the early 1980s and sold for housing development.
The school experienced a period of expansion in 1982 when it was merged with All Saints RC High School, which itself was earlier formed from the merger of two Catholic secondary modern schools, St. Thomas of Canterbury’s and St. Catherine’s. Following this merger, the school was brought together onto one site in 1995 with the construction of the St. Joseph’s building located behind the convent on the Layton Hill site.
In the early 2000s, the school applied for and was granted specialist college status in the fields of Maths and Computing, highlighting the institution’s expertise and accomplishments. To reflect its new status and its ongoing commitment to providing a first-class education, the school was renamed St. Mary’s Catholic College.
Building schools for the future
The school was initially involved with the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme, and although the overall scheme was cancelled, the school received the exciting news in 2010 that it would still be going ahead with the project. The Layton Hill site underwent significant changes, with the construction of a new primary school and church adjoining the site. To make way for modern teaching and office facilities, the St. Josephs building, science block extensions, dining hall, and the 1930’s extension were all demolished. The construction began in February 2011 after a groundbreaking ceremony conducted by the Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev Michael Campbell. The construction was completed in 2014, and the newly built primary school and church were welcomed by Christ The King primary school and Christ The King Church, which had previously been located on the Grange Park estate behind St. Mary’s.
In September of the same year, it was announced that the school would be achieving academy status, with a plan to become part of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust. St. Mary’s was among the first three member schools of the Trust, along with Christ the King and St. Cuthbert’s, another local primary school. The Trust was named after the locally born Catholic Martyr, Edward Bamber.