St. Mary's

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 which was founded in England in 1846 by Cornelia Connelly. It follows the rules of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order for men) and believed that students “would always succeed the better for being happy”.  In 1856, Alexander Goss, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Liverpool (in which Diocese Blackpool then was) invited the sisters of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus to send out a branch from their house in Liverpool to teach in Father Bampton’s Poor School on Talbot Road, Blackpool. They arrived with 12 girl boarders. With accommodation in Queen’s Square acquired for themselves and for the girls, the school flourished. It was run by a man.

Layton Hill Convent 1915
Layton Hill Convent 1915
After four years of such success, Bishop Goss agreed that the sisters could be rather more adventurous than their original mandate. So, in 1860, the original St. Mary’s was founded as a school for girls. This original school was located in a building called Raikes Hall in Raikes Parade, Blackpool. It is now a pub called the Raikes Hall. Success was marked by rapid growth and in 1870 St Mary’s moved to the site which the sisters already owned at Layton Hill where were located the original premises, much of which are still extant and form part of the modern school.

St. Joseph's

The school admitted boys by 1880 but in 1900 they were separated out and St. Joseph’s College, Blackpool was founded for them in Park Road where they were taught by lay teachers. There were several moves between Park Road and Whitegate Lane (now Whitegate Drive) and back until St. Joseph’s finally moved to Layton Mount on Newton Drive in 1918. Layton Mount had been built as a residence for Yorkshire mill owner William Lumb in 1895.

In 1923 Archbishop Frederick Keating (Liverpool had become an Archdiocese in 1911) invited the Irish Christian Brothers in Liverpool to take over the running of St. Joseph’s and they did so. In November 1924, Blackpool was transferred into the new Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster. The brothers remained in charge at St. Joseph’s until their enforced departure in 1975 when a new Lancaster Diocesan rule required all Catholic schools to become co-educational. As the constitution of the order of the Christian Brothers forbade them to teach girls, they were unable to stay. In that year St. Joseph’s re-merged with Layton Hill Convent to form St. Mary’s Catholic College. Meanwhile, Layton Hill Convent had been flourishing as the principal Catholic girls’ grammar school in the Fylde and it was its Head Teacher since 1966, Sister Maureen Grimley (SHCJ) (1932–2007), who became the first Head Teacher of the re-combined school.

St. Mary's Catholic College

In 1977 the administration of the school was taken over by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster although Sister Maureen remained as Head Teacher until 1984 and sisters of the order still taught there. Initially the reunited school operated on two campuses, but the St. Joseph’s campus was shut down in the early 1980s and sold for housing development. Further expansion occurred in 1982 when the school was merged with two Catholic former secondary modern schools, St. Thomas of Canterbury’s and St. Catherine’s, which themselves had merged to form All Saints RC High School. The school merged all onto one site in 1995 with the construction of the St. Joseph’s building, located behind the convent, on the Layton Hill site.

Building schools for the future

The school was involved with the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme and, despite the scheme being cancelled, it was announced in 2010 that for this school it would go ahead. The building work saw many changes to the Layton Hill site, which would also include the construction of an adjoining new primary school and church. The St. Josephs building, science block extensions, dining hall and the 1930’s extension were all demolished to make way for more modern teaching and office facilities. Ground was broken in a ceremony on the 8th February 2011 by the Bishop of Lancaster, the Rt Rev Michael Campbell and construction was completed in 2014. Christ The King primary school and Christ The King Church, both which had been located on the Grange Park estate behind St. Mary’s, moved into the newly built primary school and church respectively.

In May of 2014 it was announced that the school would achieve academy status in September of the same year and would become part of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust. St. Mary’s, along with Christ the King and another local primary school, St. Cuthbert’s, were the first three member schools of the Trust. The Trust was named after the locally born Catholic Martyr, Edward Bamber.

Layton Hill site from the air
The completed Layton Hill site from the air 2014