School 1883 - 1983
The following article was written when the parish school was celebrating its centenary in 1983.
Mr Hancock was headmaster at that time.
It is important to remember this date when reading expressions like: "at present"; "today"; and "now".
Much of the article is based on Wilf Drum's "History of Catholicism in Bridgwater" and on the "Memories of Frank & Emily Loxston". Both histories can be seen on other pages of this website. They were first published in St Joseph's parish magazine, VOX POPULI, edited by J.C.D. Smith (Colin), which came out at two monthly intervals from Easter 1966 until Christmas 1972.
(Apologies for the poor quality of the pictures, which, in the absence of original photographs, were copied from R.I. Hancock's duplicated version of this article.)
When the present school was opened at Park Avenue, in September 1963, it replaced the old school, which was built in 1883 beside St Joseph's Church. Because of this, the year 1983 can be considered as the centenary year of St Joseph's School, but the school could, in fact, claim to have originated one hundred and thirty-seven years ago.
After the Reformation, the organised practice of the Catholic religion did not return to Bridgwater until 1845, when a small group of people began to assemble each Sunday for mass to be celebrated in a private house in the town by the priest of Holy Name Catholic Mission, Cannington. Bishop Bains was so impressed by their zeal and enthusiasm that he approved their request for a fund to be opened to enable a Catholic mission to be erected in Bridgwater. Within twelve months the money was raised to purchase a 1½ acre site and erect a building, fifty feet long by twenty-five feet wide, to provide a schoolroom, which could also be used as a chapel until a larger church was built. The site was then known as St John's Close, and was part of the land belonging to the Monastery and Hospice of St John, which was destroyed at the time of the Reformation. The building is still in existence and is now used as a welding shop at Gordon Terrace, off Cranleigh Gardens.
The mission was given the name of St Joseph’s and the building was ready for the official opening on 17th February, 1846 AD. High mass was celebrated by the Bishop’s M.C. for special functions, the Rev. J. Bonomi, with three other priests and a choir from Prior Park Seminary. Two months later, two cottages nearby were purchased and became known as "School Cottages". In those days very little provision was made for the free education of children, although there were several schools in the town where a fee was charged, and also a number of small private schools with facilities for boarders.
During the early days of the mission there was no resident priest and the priest from Cannington visited for mass. However, in 1850 some Dominican nuns from Bristol attempted to establish a foundation in Bridgwater and a house in St John Street was rented for them, whilst they tried to purchase a suitable residence in the town. The “School Cottages” were not available because one was being used as a school and the other had been fitted out as a presbytery where a visiting priest could stay overnight. It would seem that the mission building was kept for use as a chapel. The nuns left Bridgwater the following year, but the mission received financial assistance from them regularly for the next fourteen years.
In 1852 a resident priest was appointed. He was Thomas Francis Rooker, who shortly afterwards became a canon in the newly formed Diocese of Clifton. He remained here until his death sixteen years later, and is buried near the old mission building. Sometime, possibly before his time, St Joseph’s School must have become officially recognised, because, in 1859, Canon Rooker, as manager, applied to the Catholic Poor School Committee for a grant and was awarded £15.
When the Education Act of 1870 was passed, it was reported that only half the children in the country received even an elementary education. The Act established, for the first time in England, a standard system for elementary education and provided for the setting up of School Boards for every district with costs to be met partly by rates and partly by the Treasury. With regard to teaching religion, it was decided, at the time, that this must be non-denominational.
In 1871 the priest at St Joseph’s was Fr Joseph Bouvier, who came from France as a St Francis de Sales Missionary, but left the society to work as a parish priest. Fr Bouvier was very zealous, and, during his five years stay in Bridgwater, he was responsible for the setting up of a Catholic mission at Highbridge, known as "Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Joseph". It was served by him and his successors from Bridgwater for seventeen years. He also made arrangements for the Catholic children in Highbridge to travel daily by train to attend the little Catholic school in Bridgwater. The cost to transport these children amounted to £25 per year and was raised by an appeal supported by Bishop Clifford. As a result, eight children were able to travel daily. The fare was 3d. return, and each child paid fares for three days, and for the other two days the fares were paid from the appeal fund. It was most unusual for children in those days to make a journey to school, and the Bishop called it "a travelling school".
In 1878, the Education Authorities complained of overcrowding at the Mission School and set a limit for the number of children to be accommodated. This resulted in the Highbridge children leaving to attend a National School in their own district. There were sixty communicants at the Easter masses in Bridgwater that year. Discussions took place for developing the mission by extending the building, probably with the possibility of using the extension as a schoolroom, but Bishop Clifford decided that there should be a new church and school nearer the centre of the town. The site was purchased at Binford Place for this purpose. The present St Joseph's Church was opened in 1882 but the old buildings were not sold immediately and were used as a school until the following year.
The Bishop approved plans to build a school on part of the land purchased and he also approved the purchase of more land in Binford Place, then occupied by stables, for further school development, to accommodate two hundred pupils. That never materialised and the extra site was eventually re-sold.
The building of St Joseph's School by contractor, Mr Kitch, who built the church, commenced on 16th January, 1883. It was completed two months later, at a cost of £212. Donations to cover the cost came, not only from local people, but also from London and Bath, as well as from Mr Phillip Hewitt, the founder of St Joseph's Church. The school was designed by the parish priest, Fr Scoles, who was also the diocesan architect. It was described as "consisting of a school and classroom with the necessary conveniences" and stood on land between King Street and the presbytery. Actually it consisted of a two-roomed building with cloakrooms attached. Each room had its own entrance from outside and there was no inter-connecting door between them. One room, the schoolroom, was lofty and lighted by windows on three sides. The classroom had a gallery in it. Both had "iron tongued" floors. The lower part of the walls was polished cement surrounded by a stained and varnished moulding, whilst the upper part was plastered. The school had to be used for children of all ages up to school leaving age (thirteen years) and was to accommodate seventy pupils. One room was known as St Francis and the other as St Joseph.
On Easter Sunday, 1883, parents and children of the parish assembled in church for a short service of prayers with Fr Scoles. They then went in procession, via the old porch, from the church, through the door leading to the school playground, where there was a swing and tossing boat, and across to the school building. The procession was led by a cross bearer, two acolytes, remaining altar boys and Fr Scoles, whilst a hymn to St Joseph was sung. After the ceremony of blessing the school, Fr Scoles stressed the need for every child to receive a good education.
Two days later the school was opened for pupils on Tuesday. 27th March, 1883. The fee of 6d per week was rather high, especially for parents with several children of school age.
Three such families were the Ryders, the O’Briens and the Dorans. Eighteen children attended on the first day, but within a few days there were twenty-seven registered as pupils. They were:-
Mary Banks, John, Josephine, Deborah and
Charles Doran, Bessie Elson, Eliza Hobbs,
Annie Hembury, Frank Loxton, Lucy, Kate
and Ethel Musgrave, Walter, Joseph, Edward,
John, Richard, Rose, Celia and Margaret
O’Brien, Robert Potter, Ann Parsons, Frank,
Bernard and Ada Ryder, and George and Harry
One of the pupils mentioned above, Frank Loxston, was a non-Catholic at the time, and was at the school until the age of nearly thirteen, whilst still a boy he was received into the Church and later became an outstanding member of the parish.
The first school headmistress or governess was Mrs Burman, who left after five months and she was succeeded by Miss Hunt. The assistant teacher was Miss Cheadle, who was also the priest’s housekeeper. School governors were appointed with Fr Scoles as manager and the school came under Government inspection from the start.
St. Joseph’s School quickly attained a high standard of scholarship, and reports by His Majesty’s Inspectors gave favourable reports. This resulted in parents transferring children from other schools, which brought complaints of poaching from the other head teachers. The matter was eventually settled, after Fr Scoles met and discussed the matter with heads of all schools in the town.
The first of many social events to be held in the old school was a tea party for children of the parish in September 1883, when "a plentiful supply of tea, cake, fruit, marmalade, etc. was partaken by upwards of forty children". After tea the evening was given up to games and amusements provided by singing and recitations from some of the parents. Mr Yorke provided lantern slides shown on a screen by means of a gas illuminated projector.
In September 1884, Fr Scoles made the first move to obtain the services of the Sisters of Mercy in Bristol to send four of their congregation to provide the teaching staff in the school. He purchased a house and garden along with two cottages in King Street, at a cost of £400 from Mr Biddis and converted them for use as a convent. The gallery upstairs in St Francis schoolroom was also made into a living room for the sisters. The arrangements were approved by Bishop Clifford before they took up residence at the convent in King Street on 17th August, 1885.
Mother Angela, along with Sisters Margaret Mary, Mary Bernard, Mary Elizabeth and another teacher, Miss Agnes Barrett, were welcomed by children who attended the day school or Sunday school, at a tea party in the schoolroom. The event concluded with benediction in the church. Mother Angela became headmistress with Miss Barrett as assistant teacher.
Eventually, the use of the schoolroom was found to be too small to accommodate the people wishing to attend social events, and in 1888 modifications were made. A large opening was made in the dividing wall between the two rooms of the school and folding doors erected. This enabled the two rooms to be used separately for school purposes and to be converted into a parish hall for social occasions.
The Corpus Christi celebrations of 1890, described in the local press, named several children taking special parts in the procession. Twelve little girls, spreading flowers, were Ada Wilcox, Lily Baker, Flossie and Minnie Ellis, Eliza and Emmy Thomas, Alice, Emma and Jennie Redman, Minnie O’Brien, Harriet Fox and Dorothy Ling. Twelve boys, following with lighted candles were Philip, Cecil and Sebastian Burchell, George and Henry Williams, Thomas Ryden and Bertie and Charlie Doran.
Fr Scoles was transferred to Yeovil at the end of June 1891, to build a church, and at the same time the Sisters of Mercy and Miss Barrett also left Bridgwater. This was an extraordinary thing to happen and it left a desperate situation facing Fr O’Meara, the new parish priest at St Joseph’s. Not only did he follow an outstanding organiser, but there was a school with approximately fifty or sixty pupils and no teachers. During the next eight months three headmistresses were appointed. The first was dismissed after four months, the second stayed three months and the third lasted only a week! Fr O’Meara took charge of the school himself for ten days, until a certificated teacher, Miss Mary McDonald, became headmistress at St Joseph’s School on 22nd February 1892.
Sadly, the number of pupils fell to twenty-four. The school summer holiday was increased that year from two weeks in August to three weeks. Holy Days of Obligation were treated as half-day holidays, but the children arrived at the usual time in the morning for assembly at school, before going into church for mass and returning to school until mid-day. Miss McDonald proved to be an excellent headmistress, and in 1893 the school had forty-one pupils attending. They were:-
John Angling, Lily Baker, Florence,
Lily and Edward Bradford,
Isabel and Samuel Burgess,
Lily, Alice, Ethel and Agnes Dyment,
Gladys and Leslie Newbury,
John and Francis O’Brien,
Alice, Bessie and Ernest Parham,
Austin and Frank Parsons,
Florence and Lily Patten,
Jessie and Phylis Wood.
However, another setback occurred that year, when Fr O'Meara was recalled to Ireland at the end of his loan period. The Bishop was unable to find another parish priest for twelve months, during which time mass was said each Sunday by a visiting priest, Miss McDonald kept the school going and maintained a high standard of scholarship, but the buildings were in a poor state. Her Majesty's Inspector complained about the condition of the lavatories and the use of a room 11’ 8" x 10’ 8" for infants. He insisted that this room be used as intended, viz, a cloakroom. On 23rd June, 1894, Miss McDonald resigned. The school appears to have closed down with her departure and there are no school records for the next twenty years.
In 1894 there were still only one thousand five-hundred and sixty-three Catholic churches or religious houses in the whole country, and the Catholic population was a small minority. There were no more than one hundred Catholics out of the thirteen thousand people in Bridgwater. The old School Board’s responsibility for education was taken over by Municipal and County Council Education Authorities. These bodies were compelled, not only to maintain a suitable standard for elementary education, but to provide facilities with a standard leading to University entrance. They were also made responsible for the cost of upkeep of denominational schools. St Joseph’s School, at that time not in use, did not benefit. Canon Wadman died at in 1914 and Dr Browne, his successor, spent the years of World War I almost to the day as parish priest. Immediately he had work carried out on the old school buildings to make them habitable with the hope of re-opening them as the parish school. He had gas heaters fitted and the rooms decorated. This was fortunate because many Belgians were fleeing to England because of the German invasion and some, mostly Catholics, reached Bridgwater. Dr Browne spoke their language and was able to help them find accommodation. The school was re-opened for twenty-seven children with one Belgian teacher from amongst the refugees and continued for the next four years.
Under the direction of Dr Browne, whist drives, concerts and other social gatherings were organised in the school. Unfortunately Dr Browne fell victim of an influenza epidemic and died four days after the armistice in 1918, aged 41 years. He was very popular in Bridgwater and the school children contributed to purchase a large framed photograph of Dr Browne and this was placed in the schoolroom.
The school was not functioning when the new young parish priest, Fr Iles, was appointed, but he showed a great interest and desire to re-establish it. The cost of re-fitting the schoolroom and re-opening it without any outside financial help made this impossible. Fr Iles took a great interest in the Sunday School classes and arranged many day outings for children of the Parish. Annual examinations were held by the Diocesan Examiner and prizes were given for the best pupils. Fr Iles also encouraged social events to keep the parishioners actively engaged in fund raising. One item purchased was an American organ for use with the children instead of using the large organ in the church. On 29th September, 1919, Fr Iles purchased a garage and cattle yard, thirty-nine feet long, in King Street, as a site for a school building alongside the old school. The land, leased to Mr G. Unite, butcher, was purchased from Mrs Mary Squibbs for £275 but with no parish fund available, Fr Iles loaned £150 himself and borrowed £125 from Stuckey’ Bank to pay for it. The parish worked hard to re-pay these loans and to build the new school, but the plan never materialised. The site was eventually used-as a school playground twenty years later.
Shortly after World War I, the new coalition government compelled children to remain at school up to the age of fourteen years, and abolished fees for elementary schools. The employment of children under twelve years of age was forbidden.
The old school was still used for Sunday school and small social events and on 15th January 1920 it was used for a welcome home party for ex-servicemen of the parish returning home from World War I. Some men, unable to attend, sent apologies, but twenty were present and one of the highlights of the evening was the entertainment given by children of the parish, trained by Miss Millwright.
The next twenty years brought no improvement in the parish elementary school situation, but throughout these years each parish priest ensured that the children were given a sound religious education by taking a personal activity in the organisation and teaching at Sunday school classes.
Canon Davey reserved the front rows of the church for the children and by way of instruction he adopted the method of asking questions and allowed the children to put up their hands if they knew the answer. Some of the answers caused great amusement for the adult members of the congregation, but the talks were very instructional to both children and adults. Canon Davey accompanied his specially trained children’s choir on the American organ. The carol singing at Christmas was a great joy to all who heard them.
The priests were, fortunately, able to find some parishioners capable of teaching successfully and one, outstanding for the amount of time given, was Mrs Emily Loxston, wife of Mr Frank Loxston. She taught for thirty-two years. During this period a new school was proposed and the congregation worked hard with concerts, whist drives and socials to augment the fund.
The parish school building was used solely as a parish hall until after the commencement of World War II.
About the middle of 1939, shortly after the arrival of Fr Byrne as parish priest, Bishop Lee visited for the administration of Confirmation and announced his intention to open a convent in Bridgwater for the Sisters of the Holy Rosary, a missionary order from Killeshandra in Ireland. Later he purchased a large house, which had remained unoccupied for several years, for use as a convent and private school. The lawns and gardens were overgrown and the house had suffered damage from the weather and by young intruders. While the war was threatening, two young men, popularly known as John and Jim, arrived from Ireland to clear the grounds and to assist in the preparation of the house for habitation by the Sisters. Three weeks after the declaration of World War II the first Sisters of the Holy Rosary visited Bridgwater on 23rd September, 1939. Rev. Mother Mary Augustine, the first Mother General of Holy Rosary Order, came with Sisters Mary John the Baptist, Mary Benignus and Mary Philip. One week later Mother Mary Xavier took up residence as the first Rev. Mother of the Holy Rosary Convent, Bridgwater, accompanied by Sisters Mary Ignatius and Mary Christopher.
On 11th October, 1939, the Holy Rosary Convent School opened with Sister Mary Christopher as the first principal of the school. The sisters also took over the Sunday school classes and began an evening religious class at St Joseph's. Encouraged by Bishop Lee, Fr Byrne agreed to consider the prospect of re-opening the old parish school although he realised the parish would have great difficulty in maintaining a voluntary school. The building of a new school was out of the question in wartime, even if money had been available, but with an increase in the number of catholic children in the town, some as refugees from large cities, the need was great. The Bishop gave permission to Fr Byrne to prepare the old school building for re-opening. Fr Byrne and the two young Irishmen who worked at the convent carried out the necessary maintenance and modifications to convert the old school building and the old convent house in King Street into a large parish school.
A passageway from the schoolroom to the old convent house was opened up and a large window was fitted in the main classroom. The Education Authorities approved the modified buildings for use as a school, but not up to the standard required as "fully recognised". This meant the cost of running the school had to be borne by the parish. The parishioners accepted the burden and carried it for the next twenty-three years. After the school had been redecorated and the yard tarmac-ed Bishop Lee provided the school with desks and all the other school furnishings demanded by the Education Authorities. The Sisters of the Holy Rosary accepted responsibility for providing the teaching staff, and parents in the parish were requested to transfer their children from other schools they were attending.
THE SCHOOL IN THE EARLY 1940's
The school re-opened on 8th January, 1940, with Sister Mary Rosari as headmistress and Sister Mary Ignatius Dalton and Sister Mary Philip O’Connell as assistant teachers. When registration finished that day fifty-seven pupils were on roll and most were from other schools in Bridgwater. Heads of the schools concerned complained of poaching, just as other head teachers had done when the school opened originally. Some questioned the ability of the sisters to teach, but they were all fully qualified and the matter resolved itself. Eight months after the re-opening there were one hundred and fifteen pupils attending.
The names of some of the first pupils often have a familiar ring in the modern classroom, names like George and Mary Blake, John and Bridie Taylor, Betty and Jean Long, David Grey, Cynthia Sparks, Cecilia and Michael Pakenham, Barbara and Margaret Norman, John and Sheila Stagg, June Palmer, Peter Rainey, Joan and Teresa Apperley, Barbara Unite, Pat Lewis, Maria, Brian and Colin Selway, Jean McKenna and Gerry Salt. Many of the first pupils now live away from Bridgwater. Betty Long, now better known as Sister Aquinas, is headmistress of St Winifred’s Primary School, Heaton Mersey, Stockport, remembers St Joseph’s School was like an oasis of peace for the children whose country had just been plunged into war with Germany. There was a strong family atmosphere in the school and the sisters, who were well respected, knew all the families connected with the school intimately. Religious instruction played a prominent part-in the curriculum of the school and the feasts of the Holy Rosary and St Joseph were looked forward to with great excitement.
Before the end of 1940, Sister Mary Philip O’Connell left Bridgwater for mission work and her place was taken by Sister Mary Consilia O’Donovan, who was destined to spend many years working for the children of St Joseph’s School. The war years were difficult for everyone and before long Sister Mary Ignatius Dalton’s health deteriorated and she spent much time in hospital before she died in 1944 and was replaced by Sister Mary Michael 0’Regan.
Prior to the end of World War II the Government passed an Education Act which promised action to enable children, over the age of eleven, to have secondary modern, technical or grammar school education, though, at that time, there were insufficient schools for this to function. St Joseph’s old school continued to take pupils up to the age of fourteen for many more years.
Towards the end of World War II Fr O’Connell, who had served some years as army chaplain during World War I, became parish priest. He took a great interest in the maintenance and condition of the school buildings. He encouraged all groups in the parish to hold functions to raise money to cover these costs, but, after every social gathering held in the school, he used to make a personal check around to ensure that everything was in order. After a social held by the Legion of Mary in September 1948 he made his usual check, but, on his return to the presbytery, he was severely shocked and staggering. It is thought that he had tripped and fallen, but he did not regain consciousness to explain what had happened. Despite an immediate visit by the doctor and his removal to the hospital, he died within two days of the accident.
Sister Mary Rosari returned to the mission at the end of the War in 1945 and Sister Mary Consilia became headmistress until 1949, supported by Sister Mary Perpetua Walsh and Sister Mary Alberta O'Neill. Sister Mary Basil McNutty and Sister Mary Malachy Black also taught at St Joseph's for some time. When Sister Mary Consilia left to return to the missions Sister Mary Malachy Black became headmistress, and in 1949 Sister Mercedes Ryan and Sister Mary Giovanni Gilmartin became members of the teaching staff.
The school was still functioning, staffed by the Sisters, when Fr Ryan became parish priest in 1949. He immediately showed a great interest in the welfare and education of the children in the parish. To avoid using the school hall for every parish event, he arranged for the cottage to be converted for use as a parish room. Mr R. Cudbill, who did a good deal of maintenance work for the parish, made the ground floor into a single room, by knocking down the internal dividing walls. Eventually this building was used occasionally as a temporary classroom.
After the summer holiday in 1951, the school re-opened with ninety-six pupils in three groups. Senior, Middle and Junior Divisions. Sister Mary Malachy was replaced by Sister Mary Camillus as headmistress and teacher of the Senior Division. Sister Mary Mercedes and Sister Mary Giovanni continued teaching the Middle and Junior Divisions. Mrs Murry, Mrs Thefaut, Mrs Reeves and Mrs Dodden also assisted at the school. Fr Ryan introduced a special midweek mass for the school children each Wednesday at 9.00 a.m. A children's choir was formed and sometimes sang at a Sunday mass. An annual Christmas party was arranged for the children in the school and in 1951 the Father Christmas was Mr Walter Till, who was the handyman and gardener at the convent.
At the end of the Christmas term, Fr Ryan presided over the distribution of prizes to the children with the highest marks gained for school tests, good conduct and attendance at Sunday school. Prizes for each of these were given to winners in Senior Division, Middle Division and Junior Division. His great ambition was to have a completely new school for the parish and his immediate task was to ensure that the parishioners worked towards achieving it. By Fr Ryan's efforts the Annual Sale of Work or Bazaar was transferred from the Co-operative Hall in West Quay to Bridgwater Town Hall and the profit went from £120, the previous year, to £308. He also arranged for a garden fete to be held annually in the Holy Rosary Convent grounds to raise money for the parish and the convent. The Sisters of the Holy Rosary ensured that the children of both schools, and they themselves, took an active part, by producing things for sale, manning stalls, helping with preparations, etc. At the first, which was opened by the Mayor of Bridgwater, two children from St Joseph's School, Kenneth McGhee and Christine Thefaut, presented gifts to the Mayor and his wife.
As with the Sale of Work, the Garden Fete became an annual event, and both still play an important part in meeting the parish expenses and in the social activity of the parishioners. Mr Bernard White and Mr Jack Nation were the first secretary and treasurer respectively for the fete and Sale of Work, and they continued in these offices for about ten years. Mr Brian Wills was secretary for five years, during the early Sixties, but in later years Mr Bob Cornell and Mr John Sellick organised both events on at least fifteen occasions.
In 1952, Fr Aherne, parish priest at the time of producing this booklet, came to Bridgwater as curate. He showed a great interest in school activities and sometimes took a group of children to Cranleigh Gardens for sports training.
In January 1952 Sister Mary Giovanni was replaced by Sister Mary Fergus and the Junior Division was divided to have the very young children in a kindergarten. Sister Mary Fergus took the Kindergarten children and Mrs Tucker (a parishioner and qualified teacher) took the Junior Division until Miss Foulie (a trainee teacher from Notre Dame, London) was appointed in the autumn. Sister Mary Fergus returned to Ireland after nine months to complete her teacher training and Sister Mary Redemptoris came to Bridgwater to take charge of the kindergarten.
Each Division was given the title of a patron saint. Seniors "St Mary"; Middle "St Theresa"; Junior "St John Bosco"; Kindergarten "Holy Angels and St Gabriel". In March 1952, Sister Mary Camillus introduced school uniform for St Joseph's School. Boys: White shirt with red tie, navy blue blazer and cap, each with St Joseph's badge, short trousers of dark colour and navy blue pullover and raincoat as necessary. Girls: Winter - white blouse, with red bow, navy blue gymslip with red sash or belt, navy blue cardigan and coat, as necessary, navy blue beret with school badge and red tassel. Summer - red and white checked frock, white straw hat with red band and badge and navy blue blazer with badge.
The dining room and kitchen of the school were converted so that one could be used for Holy Angels Group and the other could be a playroom for the tiny tots "St Gabriel's" Group. Dining facilities for the school children were provided by converting the upper storey of the cottage, known as the Parish Room, into two dining rooms and a kitchenette. New floor boards were fitted and a new staircase installed. All this work was carried out by Messrs R. Cudbill and F, Palmer, who also redecorated the schoolroom.
Children up to the age of fourteen attended the school and Sister Mary Camillus provided the opportunity for some of them to have lessons in subjects outside the usual curriculum. Mrs Dodden and later Mrs Blake took a needlework class each week. Miss Gumming of Highbridge took an art class and Miss Yvonne Nicholls gave some pupils piano lessons. Later Sister Mary Assumpta, a fine musician, gave piano lessons for children from the school and others at the convent. Some attended the convent for shorthand and typing lessons from Sister Mary Gerard.
In 1953 Sister Mary Mercedes was appointed as principal at the Convent School, but she still continued to take a great interest in all the children of the parish and in every activity. Sister Mary Ligouri took her place as teacher of the Senior Division at St Joseph's. In 1953 Sister Mary Camillus entered the school, for the first time, at the Annual Music Festival in Highbridge.
The picture below shows Sister Mary Camillus with some of the successful children holding certificates after the Highbridge Music Festival. Note the new school uniform introduced in 1952. The school won certificates in every section entered and was very successful again when taking part in the Festival the following year. Certificates, during the Festival, were won by the following pupils:- Jennifer Rodman, Maureen Cudbill, Ann Pullen, Kenneth McGhee, David Blacklock, Deirdre Bentley, Michael Bollan, Marian Hill, Bernard Drum, Kenneth Treanor, Teresa Nurton, Jennifer Lilley, Valerie O'Duyer, Rose Ede, Rosemary Bernard, Beryl White, Joyce Slocombe and John McElthalton. Certificates were also won by the senior school 21 group: Mr T. Bale and Mrs D. A. Burt assisted as accompanists on the violin and piano respectively.
ST JOSEPH'S PUPILS AFTER THE HIGHBRIDGE FESTIVAL - 1953
Others who took part in the festival were Patrick Apperley, Leander Difford, Christine Cudbill, Patricia Eckerley, David Hobbs, Stephen Green, Francois Irwin, Michael Long, Daniel Murray, Michael O'Reilly, Patrick and Margaret Walsh and Alan Williams.
In 1952, Patricia Eckerley (second prize) and Maureen Cudbill (first prize) took part in the Bridgwater Literary Competition and were awarded their prize at the Odeon Cinema by the Mayor. That year, Sister Mary Ligouri was replaced by Sister Mary Veronica, and a temporary trainee teacher, Miss Rita Young of Glastonbury, was appointed to the staff due to the increase in the number of pupils on roll, which now stood at one hundred and forty-five. This was further increased to one hundred and sixty-four in 1954.
That year the children of St Joseph's School gave a concert in the Town Hall for the first time. It was performed on St Patrick's Night and was so successful that it was repeated again at the Cranleigh Centre. The Mayor congratulated the sisters and children on the fine performance. Shortly after that the Red Cross and St John's Ambulance Brigade hired the Arts Centre for the concert to be repeated before an audience from the Bridgwater Over Sixty's Club, In 1954 Fr Aherne left the parish and the new assistant priest was Fr O'Brien. There were also changes in the school staff. Sister Mary Veronica was replaced by Sister Mary Dominic, who had to suddenly vacate the post due to ill health, and Sister Mary Ambrose replaced her as teacher of the Senior Division. Because of the increase in pupils it was necessary to form an additional class for children between the ages of seven and nine years, to be named St Sartoe with Miss Foulie as teacher. Miss Thomas of Burnham-on-Sea was engaged to take over the St John Bosco class and Miss Young, trainee teacher, left. A room at Unity House, Dampiet Street, was hired to serve as a classroom for Miss Foulie and the St John Bosco Class.
Sister Mary Redemptoris then left and was replaced as teacher of Holy Angels by Miss Ann Pullen, an ex-pupil of the school.
The majority of the sisters who left St Joseph's School went to serve in the foreign missions of Africa.
The school was affected to some extent in December 1954 by changes made to accommodate people on Sundays when the church was full. The wall between the old porch and the old parish room was partially removed to fit folding doors which could be opened when necessary, in order to allow people to sit in the parish room and have a view of the altar in church. Unfortunately, this modification made the parish room less suitable for use as a temporary classroom.
The number of pupils was still increasing, and in September 1955, Miss Maureen Cudbill, an ex-pupil, was appointed as the first school secretary of St Joseph's School. It was decided to try and win more scholarships from the school for pupils to gain admission to the local grammar schools and a special scholarship division was formed of pupils chosen from St Sartoe's and St Teresa's classes. This new class became known as St Patrick's. A room at the Y.M.C.A. building (which then stood on the corner of Eastover and Salmon Parade) was rented at £100 per year to serve as a classroom. St Mary Theresita took charge of the scholarship class.
Throughout 1955, socials, bring and buy sales, etc. were held in the Co-operative Hall, Parish Room and Sydenham Community Centre, mostly organised by the Catholic Women's League, Knights of St Columba and Legion of Mary, and dances were held at the Town Hall on St Patrick's Night and St George's Night. Prayers were offered continuously for success with the new school project, and by 1956, a parish social committee, with representatives from every parish organisation, was arranging most of the fund raising events. It was known that Fr Ryan was trying to acquire a plot of land at Park Avenue for the site for a new school and at Easter he announced that he had succeeded in purchasing this site for £1,511. There was no money available, however, for building such a school, and St Joseph's was only one of a long list of parishes hoping to receive cash from the Diocesan Development Fund and paying an annual contribution to it. The land ceased to be used for allotments and then had to be frequently cleared of long grass by volunteers. That year there were two hundred and five pupils registered at the old school and classes were being held at Unity House, the Y.M.C.A. building and occasionally at the Cranleigh Community Centre, in addition to the school building. Holy Rosary Convent were informed that more sisters were being made available for Bridgwater, because only fully qualified members of staff could be retained, St Joseph's School regretted losing Miss Foulie, Miss Thomas and Miss Cudbill (Secretary) after giving very satisfactory service.
In 1957, Fr Ryan also had to announce that the school could only retain pupils up to the age of twelve years. From then all Catholic children in Bridgwater over the age of eleven-plus had to attend one of the local secondary schools, unless their parents were prepared to pay the fees for private education. Some parents sent their sons away to Catholic boarding schools and their daughters attended a convent school at either Burnham-on-Sea or Taunton. It was also understood that the proposed new Catholic school would be able to cater only for children up to eleven-plus, but this did not lessen the determination of the parishioners to proceed with the project. Fr Ryan was transferred to Bedminster in March 1958 and, during his last twelve months as parish priest, the income of the parish was £4,844. Out of that, nearly £2,000 had to be found to pay for the upkeep of the school, and the contribution to the Diocesan Development Fund.
In addition to the need to build a new school there was a necessity for more accommodation at the church. Fr Morrissey, the new parish priest, purchased land at Fairfax Road, Sydenham, in 1959 for £1,002 with a view to building a second Catholic church. This left only £1,112 in the building fund, and in view of the fact that a new school was so urgently needed. Bishop Rudderham insisted that building consent would not be given to build a £15,000 church unless there was at least £10,000 in the parish building fund. This was wise, because there was no sign of money being received from the Diocesan Fund to build the new school and it seemed that the parish would eventually have to obtain the money for it by borrowing.
In 1961, Fr Morrissey asked the Bishop to allow the parish to cease contributing to the Diocesan Fund, in order to use the money to pay interest on a loan from the bank to build the school. The Bishop agreed that the levy to the fund would be lifted if the parish accepted the financing of building and he wanted positive evidence that they could raise a regular income sufficient to meet the extra burden of paying interest on £50,000. A parish meeting was held in the old school, and Fr Morrissey explained the situation and the need to increase the parish income. The parishioners reacted enthusiastically and the parish income for 1962 rose to £7,055. By May 1962, the Bishop had been convinced that they would be able to take on the task of building a new school and he gave his permission.
When the Diocese gave approval for building the school, the Ministry of Education, the County Education Authority and the Local Authorities were informed and their consent obtained. The new building was not replacing a "fully recognised" school and was therefore, not eligible for a grant, but, when complete, it had to be up to "fully recognised" standard. A grant of £7,858 for furniture and fittings was made later. The Authorities were, therefore, entitled to give their views on all decisions, e.g. plans, building contractors, building standards, appointment of teachers, etc. A school management committee was formed and the first meeting of managers was held at the Presbytery on 14th February, 1962. The first managers were Fr Morrissey (elected chairman), three parishioners - the Hon. Miss M. Acland-Hood, Mr J. Nation and Dr B. Martin, with Councillor F. Phillips representing the local Council and Mrs Hannam representing the Somerset County Council. The Divisional Education Officer, Mr Robert Hawkins, attended most meetings throughout the planning and building stages, as did a representative from the Somerset Education Committee. Mr J. Nation acted as correspondent when the committee was first formed, but later in the year Mrs Elizabeth Hamrozy was appointed correspondent and held the post for four years.
Fr Morrissey successfully negotiated a loan from the bank, and Messrs Hicks of Highbridge were given the contract to build St Joseph's Primary School at Park Avenue.
BUILDING SITE FOR NEW SCHOOL
Work started within weeks, and throughout the digging of the foundations and the whole building project, Fr Morrissey made a photographic record. The foundation stone was laid on Wednesday, 3rd October, 1962, by Mgr Provost Canon Iles, representing Bishop Rudderham, who was attending the Vatican II Council in Rome. Representatives of the Diocesan Schools Commission, clergy of Taunton Deanery, sisters of the Holy Rosary and several hundred parishioners, amongst whom was a large number of school children, including the Brownies.
Mgr Iles praised Fr Morrissey and the parishioners for their courage and generosity in building the school at their own expense. He expressed his personal pleasure, as a former parish priest at St Joseph's, to see at last a start on the realisation of this long awaited ambition. The choir sang the "Te Deum" and the parishioners joined with them in the singing of the hymn "Come Holy Ghost".
THE LAYING OF THE FOUNDATION STONE 1962
Mr V. A. H. Barton, L.R.I.B.A., of Bridgwater, was the architect for the new school. The accommodation in the classroom wing comprised six classrooms, each with cloakroom and toilet facilities. The wing had a paved terrace overlooking the playing field. The assembly hall had a full stage, for the production of plays, and there was a small chapel set off the flank of the hall. This was fitted with glazed doors which, when opened, allowed people in the hall a direct view of the chapel. Behind the stage, which serves as a dining area on schooldays, was constructed a well equipped kitchen. The stage could also be brought into use as a classroom if required. Much of the high standard mahogany furniture and fittings throughout the school were built by Mr Hamrozy, a parishioner.
The cost of the school, including the land (bought earlier) and the statue and chapel furnishings (donated) amounted to £60,831, as follows:-
Contractor £ 53,170- 0- 0
Architect £ 3,175-11- 6
Quantity Surveyor £ 1,862- 3- 0
Clerk of Works £ 795-11- 7
Sundries £ 19- 2- 6
Cost of Site £ 1,511- 3- 0
Statue and Chapel Furnishings £ 298- 6- 6
£ 60,831-18- 1
Unfortunately, when the building was completed, Fr Morrissey was unable to be present to acknowledge the many expressions of praise and thanks for the valuable service he had given to the parish. Though he showed no signs of fatigue to his people, the stress and workload was seriously affecting his health, and the Bishop relieved him of the burden just a few months before the school was ready for use. He left Bridgwater on 23rd April, 1963, for a complete rest before taking up the responsibility for another parish. St Joseph's School now stands as a monument to his courage and dedication.
The new St Joseph's School 2nd March 1963
The old school near the church finally closed down with one hundred and thirty-one registered pupils at the end of the summer term, nearly eighty years after it was first opened. The building was not immediately dismantled, but fitted with new heating for use by the parish youth club and for small functions until it was demolished and the site cleared for the church extension in 1982.
DEMOLITION OF THE OLD SCHOOL, 1982
The new school did not qualify for a building grant from the Education Authorities .but they supplied the fittings and furnishings. They also accepted responsibility for kitchen and dining space and repaid £ 10,504.14.9d. to the parish.
Not having to find the money for dining facilities, cost of site and chapel, etc., the debt on the parish was approximately £48,500. A refund of £2,914 by the Bishop from the Diocesan School Fund, and an anonymous donation of £1,000 helped reduce the amount borrowed. Fr McReynolds, the new parish priest, arranged for the £3,542, standing to the credit of the new church fund, to be used, which also saved interest payments. The interest on money borrowed from the bank was at a favourable rate, but the annual interest charge per annum still amounted to approximately £2,000. Fortunately, the parish was blessed by a loan of £12,000 at the very low interest rate of 2% and later by another very generous loan of £23,000 interest free. In this way, the drain on the parish by interest payments was reduced from £2,000 per annum to slightly less than £300 per annum. This enabled the loans to be gradually paid off, and by 1976 the school debt was cleared.
When the time came for the appointment of a head teacher, the choice had to be made by the managers, together with the Divisional Education Officer, Mr R. Hawkins and Miss P. M. Rolfe, the Education Committee Inspector. On 12th April, 1963, seven candidates from different parts of the county were interviewed, and Sr Mary Ligouri, head of the old school, was appointed as the first head teacher. Before her work at the old school, she had had wide experience and founded four missionary schools abroad.
The following month the managers and representatives interviewed four candidates for deputy head and appointed Mr H. Passman from Hull, who commenced his working life in industry, before studying to gain the necessary qualifications to teach.
The remaining five vacancies were difficult to fill, because there was a shortage of teachers at the time. Three applicants were chosen for interview and all proved suitable and were appointed. Sister Mary Bernadette Soubirous had taught at the Holy Rosary Convent School, and was taking her final examinations. Also appointed were Miss J. Brown, a teacher at Eastover School, Bridgwater, who was educated at La Retraite Convent, Burnham-on-Sea, and Miss T. Leser, who had taught in private schools in England and at missionary schools abroad. Later, Mrs Pearson was engaged as a supply teacher. Efforts were made to obtain another male teacher, but there were no replies to advertisements.
All other employees at the school were chosen by the managers, with a suitable representative present from the authorities. Mrs W. Hutchings was the first clerical assistant and remained until April, 1965, when Mrs T. N. Clark, the present secretary, was appointed. Other appointments when the school first opened were cook, Mrs Lindley, assistant cook, Mrs Woollan, general canteen assistants, Mrs Crossman, and Mrs Murphy. Meals supervisory assistants, Mrs Gillard, Mrs O'Hare and Mrs Giles. The first caretaker was Mr Jeffries, who was soon replaced by Mr W. B. Rowe.
St Joseph's R.C. Primary School, Park Avenue, opened for pupils on 2nd September, 1963. There was no official opening at that time because the Bishop was again in Rome on Vatican Conference duties and this ceremony was postponed for almost eight months.
The official opening was carried out during the second term of school by His Lordship the Bishop of Clifton, the Rt Rev. Joseph Rudderham, D.D., M.A., on Thursday, 30th April, 1964 at 3.00 p.m. The Order of Ceremonial was as follows:-
Blessing of new school by the Bishop.
Introduction by Rev. J. G. McReynolds
(Chairman of the Managers)
His Lordship to declare the school open,
His Worship the Mayor, Councillor G. C. Harris, J.P.
Vote of thanks Mr R. l-l. Hawkins, M.Ed., B.A.,
(Divisional Education Officer)
One of the invited guests was Mr Frank Loxston, who was one of the first pupils when the original school opened in 1883.
FRANK LOXSTON AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE NEW SCHOOL
During that term, the school entered the Area Sports (Juniors) and won the shield for the best Primary School; cup for the best girls' relay team; and cup for the best high jump.
The school had been designed for two hundred and forty pupils and all places were immediately applied for, so that it was apparent that there was a need for additional classrooms. In April 1965 the number on the school roll increased to two hundred and fifty and the managers approached the Ministry of Education, who stated that they would grant 80% of the cost of a new classroom. An extra teacher was allocated in September, and it became necessary to use the entrance hall and corridors as classrooms on occasions. Another ploy was the use of the stage as a classroom for the infants and it was not until 1973 that an additional classroom was built.
In May 1965, Mr H. Passman resigned and Mr J. Tucker was chosen from four candidates for the post of deputy head. He took up his appointment in September, 1965. Mrs J. Newcomb also joined the staff at that time and she, of course, is still at the school.
At that time primary school children were selected by the "Eleven Plus" examination, to determine which type of secondary school they would attend. St Joseph's School arranged an 'Open Evening' for parents to visit the school to enquire about their children's progress. The selection examination was slightly changed in 1966, with two "Reasoning Tests" replacing the tests in Mathematics and English. After 1972, the "Eleven Plus" examination was abolished, when the Comprehensive School system was introduced into the area. St Joseph's School managers and parishioners proposed that all children from St Joseph's should transfer to one particular comprehensive school, where the teaching of religion could be arranged. Haygrove was suggested but the authorities would not agree to the idea.
Sister Mary Ligouri resigned before the Comprehensive System was introduced. When she left in December 1969, she was the last of an unbroken sequence of Sisters of the Holy Rosary Order holding the post of head of St Joseph's School, Bridgwater, since January 1940. Mr P. A. Barnfield was appointed the next head teacher in April 1970. The school roll was then almost at its highest ever, viz. two hundred and fifty-one and it reached two hundred and sixty in June that year, because of the attendance of children of the Irish Rangers, at that time, stationed at Donniford. Official records named it as the only school in Bridgwater which was overcrowded. The Catholic authorities advised Fr McReynolds that they would approve the building of another classroom, but the Ministry still insisted on the parish finding 20 of the cost. Fr McReynolds called a meeting of parents, explained the situation, and informed them that the amount they would have to find was £1,600.
It was agreed that £250 in the school fund, donated by Sister Ligouri (the farewell present she had received from the parishioners and children) could go towards the proposed building of the additional classroom. From the meeting on 11th June, 1970, a parents' committee was formed to organise events to raise the money, with Sq. Ldr Haddon, as chairman, Mr Tucker, secretary, Mr Moffatt, treasurer, and Mr P. Nation and Mr D. Welsh. The committee was extremely successful with dances held in the school, and at hotels in the town, and a thrift club was formed.
Once again the managers appointed Mr V. A. H, Barton as architect, and the builders on this occasion were Roberts Bros of Bridgwater. The additional classroom, measuring 9.25 metres by 8 metres, together with an infant annex, including two toilets, was completed and ready for use on 6th May, 1973. The new classroom block was blessed by the parish priest, the Rev. Father McReynolds, on Wednesday, 7th February, 1973.
The Diocesan contribution of £1,600 towards the cost of building was raised in twelve months by the parents with their fund raising activities. A thanksgiving mass was offered at the school for the intentions of the people who had supported this project and the workers who had constructed the building.
In October 1971, Mr Barnfield suggested that a parent-teacher association should be formed. Ballot papers were sent to all parents and they were able to vote members on to the committee from a list of nominations received. Mr Barnfield agreed to be the first chairman and Mr Tucker the secretary. Parent representatives elected were Mr E. T. Quarrell (treasurer), Mrs W. England, Messrs R. A. Hale, P. Brown and R. V. Clarke. After three years, in 1974, the Parent-Teacher Association decided to concentrate their efforts for the purpose of raising sufficient money to build a swimming pool at the school. However, there were objections from local residents regarding the siting of the pool and a delay was caused in its construction.
The Holy Rosary Convent also sold off most of the spare land around the convent in 1971 and the venue of the annual garden fete was changed to the school. This was very appropriate as the money raised at garden fetes held in the convent grounds over the previous twenty years had done much to secure the building of the school.
Mr Barnfield encouraged staff to take the children to places of interest and various trips were arranged around Bridgwater including school camps at Greatwood, near Nether Stowey. Other excursions further afield, including Cricket St Thomas, Bristol Zoo, London, Clifton Cathedral and Doddington House were also arranged. The children also participated with other local schools in sports and recreational activities. The school had an outstanding record in chess, winning the league championship every year in the 1970's, largely due to the enthusiasm of Mr Tucker, who resigned in 1980. The Annual Christmas Concert proved to be a very popular event with parents, and Mr Barnfield introduced consultation evenings between parents and teachers.
Some of the changes in the liturgy, as a result of Vatican II Council, were also being implemented, and the first classroom mass was held in 1970. Children received First Confession and First Holy Communion annually at the school and the older children had the opportunity of being confirmed when the Bishop visited every second year. These sacraments were administered at the school due to the restrictions in accommodation at the church.
The school lost two good friends during this period. Sq. Ldr Haddon, who, as manager, had done much to secure the building of the additional classroom, died .on 16th September, 1975, and the requiem mass was attended by Mr Barnfield and six of the older children from .the school. Shortly afterwards, on 22nd April, 1976, there was another death of a manager, Mr Jack Nation, who had resigned in 1971, and presented the school with a mahogany lectern on his retirement. This matched the altar and was built by Mr Hamrozy. Through Mr Nations efforts with the garden fetes and bazaars, he had done much to realise the dreams of building a new school. A large congregation, was present at his requiem, and the school was represented by Mr Barnfield, Mr Tucker and Mrs McGuire, together with some of the children attending the school.
Mr Barnfield resigned as headmaster in the summer of 1976, to take up another appointment, and Mr Tucker became acting head until the managers appointed a permanent successor. The parents continued to raise money through varied events to build a swimming pool as planning permission had now been granted, and also supported a request from Mr Tucker for contributions to enable the school to purchase a new colour television.
On 29th October, 1976, all the school managers met, with Mr N. Widgery, County Education Officer, to interview six candidates for the post of head teacher. Mr R. I. Hancock was appointed to take up his duties on 1st January 1977 and so became the youngest head teacher in Somerset.
There were one hundred and ninety-eight children on roll with seven teachers. The birth rate in England was falling and Mr Callaghan, Prime Minister, had introduced the "Great Debate", whereby schools were becoming more accountable and money for education was restricted. It was, therefore, more important than ever before to win the trust and co-operation of parents.
Due to the delay in building the swimming pool, costs had escalated. It was agreed by Mr Hancock and the committee of the Parent-Teacher Association that, in order to make the project viable, every effort should be made to complete the swimming pool as soon as possible. The parents responded magnificently, and, during the spring and early summer of 1977, worked every weekend under the guidance of Mr Clayton (a parent and builder), laying foundations and erecting the pool and changing rooms. There was a marvellous spirit among those dads who freely gave their time and a great achievement when the project was completed in four months without the services of any outside contractor. The swimming pool was officially opened as part of the Silver Jubilee Celebrations on 2nd June, 1977. Mr Barnfield, former headmaster, was invited to officially open the pool with Mr Hancock and the school managers.
The children joined in the celebrations by entertaining parents with country and maypole dancing, A fancy dress parade was organised using the theme of the previous twenty-five years, and each child was presented with a Jubilee crown, some donated by Sedgemoor District Council and the remainder by the managers.
The Parent-Teacher Association was faced with a debt of £1,500 on the swimming pool, but, due to the success of two sponsored events, namely a sponsored spelling and a sponsored splash, £900 of this was quickly raised. Fr McReynolds, chairman of the managers, agreed to loan the Parent-Teacher Association the balance of £600 interest free, and this was n a of the pool opening.
During the last seven years, parents have been very supportive to the school and encouraged to take an active part in its activities. It is now quite common to see parents helping teachers, both inside and outside the classroom. Projects tackled have included the building of a Wendy-house and shop in the infant play area; additional shelving for storage; providing new curtains for the hall, completely repainting all the classrooms, and carrying out maintenance on the swimming pool. Numerous items have also been purchased through the Parent-Teacher Association for the benefit of the children, such as display boards, musical instruments, crib figures, radios and a video recorder. The Parent-Teacher Association has flourished, not only in fund raising, but has become an important means of educating parents in modern trends in education. Topics for educational evenings have varied from school meals to conservation, besides giving parents an insight into how religion, mathematics and reading are taught in the school. Social events have also helped to cement relationships between parents and teachers, through dances, skittle evenings and an annual summer barbecue, introduced in 1980, which has become a very popular family event.
Full use is made of the school buildings. Besides Parent-Teacher Association activities, there are several after-school clubs for the children and badminton for the parents. The parish also takes advantage of the facilities, for besides the annual fete and over 60's dinner, the St Joseph's Cub Pack meet weekly and the youth club occasionally holds dances.
The school continues to take an active part in friendly competition with other local schools with notable success in football, chess, netball, athletics and road safety competitions. The children are encouraged to take an active part in the local community including the parish, by organising a monthly Sunday mass at St Joseph's Church and inviting parishioners to events taking place at the school, such as to the second performance of the Christmas concert, introduced in 1980. The children also show their concern towards others by visiting homes or old people at harvest time and by singing carols at Christmas. Money is raised by the pupils using inventive ideas for worthy charities such as the missions, the blind, the aged, the handicapped and those less fortunate in the Third World.
Educational visits have become an important part of children's education, so that each year all children have at least one excursion. It has now become a tradition for the older children to take part in a residential camp, which has been arranged in all corners of Somerset. Also a visit was made to the Wye Valley and a more ambitious camp is being planned to the Isle of Wight in 1984.
St Josephs School has a very wide catchment area with children travelling up to six miles from their homes to school and parents often make great: sacrifices to send their children to a Catholic school. To ensure that all Catholic children in the area attend the school, Mr Hancock, with the help of parents from the Polden Villages, started a private coach, travelling from their villages each day. This was introduced in 1980, and has proved to be a great success. Fr McReynolds also agreed at this time to subsidise any Catholic parent in need, wishing to send their child to the school. Many non-Catholic parents in the area applied for their children to attend the school, and in 1978, due to falling rolls, the managers agreed to admit a limited number of non-Catholic children, after giving priority to Catholic families. The parents of non-Catholic children have become very supportive of the school and greatly appreciate the religious atmosphere and emphasis appertaining in the school, given by the teachers.
To ensure that rising fives settle well in school, preliminary visits are arranged for those children, during the summer term, prior to their being admitted to the school in the September.
At the age of 11+ the children transfer to many different schools. It was very sad to see certain options taken from parents of girls with the closing of St Joseph's Convent School, Taunton, in 1977 and La Retraite Convent School, Burnnam-on-Sea, in 1983. However, some parents have taken advantage of the new Catholic/Anglican school of St Augustine of Canterbury at Taunton. The staff at St Joseph's have tried to improve liaison between all secondary comprehensive schools by regular meetings and by taking an active interest in children after they have transferred. There is also regular contact with the Holy Rosary Convent, although the last sister to teach at the school was Sister Mary Mason, who left in 1980, thus breaking the tradition of a Holy Rosary Sister on the teaching staff for the previous forty years.
The priests take an active part in the children's religious development and attend school for masses both in the hall and classrooms. Penitential services are also arranged with first confessions in the school. Since the church has been extended first Holy Communion and Confirmation have been celebrated at the church. Parents have been made aware of their responsibilities in preparing children for the sacraments and are helped by meetings arranged at the school by clergy and teaching staff.
In 1982, the school joined in the parish celebrations of the centenary of the church in Binford Place. The schools contribution took the form of a pageant.
The new St Joseph's School 6th November 1981, 11-15am
The year before the centenary of St Joseph's Church.
After many rehearsals, two performances were given on 25th March, at 2.00 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. at St Joseph's Church, just after the extension to the church was completed. The production depicted the history of the Catholic Church in Bridgwater from the year 1200 up to the present day. Approximately one hundred and sixty children were involved in the pageant, and thanks to the hard work of the staff a most excellent standard was achieved. The church was packed for both performances and will long be remembered as an outstanding success. It must have been very satisfying for Fr McReynolds to see the completion of the church extension in its centenary year, before he announced his retirement later in that year.
St Joseph's School celebrated its own centenary a year later, in 1983, and the staff and parents were determined to make it a special year, by organising several additional events. On 5th May, 1983, the school had a special centenary day. All the children in the school were involved with Victorian projects and mounted an impressive display in the classrooms and entrance hall. A collection of photographs of the last 100 years was exhibited to help children appreciate what the old school was like and something of its history. Everyone, including the teaching and other members of staff, wore Victorian costume and celebrated a special Victorian day consisting of games, maypole dancing, physical training lesson, sing-a-long and lunch. To bring everyone back to the Twentieth Century a video film was taken recording the day's events.
Many other special events were held throughout the year, but one of the highlights must have been the special production of Oliver Twist, performed by parents and teachers, for all the children, accompanied by their parents. Two evening performances were given in May 1983 to packed houses. All the cast worked tremendously hard to ensure an excellent-evening for all those privileged enough to enjoy the talent on view and endorse the very strong relationships that exist between the staff and parents. The production was so popular that a third performance was arranged to give parishioners an opportunity to see the show. A collection was taken at the end of each performance and given towards the cost of purchasing centenary mugs for each child attending St Joseph's School during 1983. These mugs were presented by Bishop Mervyn Alexander, when he visited in October 1983 to celebrate a special centenary mass concelebrated with Fr Aherne, Fr Page and former parish priests, Canon Ryan and Fr McReynolds. The teachers and children again rose to the occasion and arranged a special mass of a very high standard, witnessed by the governors, sisters of the Holy Rosary Convent, a former St Joseph's School pupil representative from each of the secondary schools and many parents and parishioners. At the end of mass, the Bishop unveiled the portrait of the 1983 staff (dressed in Victorian costume) kindly donated by the governors of the school to commemorate the centenary year.
Looking back over the last hundred years, there have been many changes and developments in St Joseph's School. The two hundred and fifteen children who are at school in 1983 are reaping the benefit of those who made such great sacrifices in the past. Education reflects changes in society and never have they become more apparent than at this time. There are many changes taking place in all schools, including St Joseph's, to equip the pupils for modern society and make them adaptable and able to cope with change. There are, of course, visible signs of change, even in the school uniform, which is still considered to be very important and designed to be a practical and smart uniform for both summer and winter. Standards are as important in 1983 as at any time, and parents take an active interest in their children's education and are better informed by information booklets produced by schools.
St Joseph's School has enjoyed a fine reputation throughout its history and with the continued support and goodwill of parents, can look forward enthusiastically to the future. Just before the end of the centenary year members of the Parent-Teacher Association dug footings for a wall to be built around the swimming pool, to replace the original wood fencing. The timing of this work was appropriate and a good indication that the school can develop even more in the future, built on the very strong foundations of the past.
List of School Managers/Governors
Dr B. Martin 1962 - 1967
Mr J. Nation 1962 - 1971
Mrs L. Hannam 1962 - 1970
Hon. Miss M. Acland-Hood 1962 - 1973
Councillor F. Phiilips 1962 - 1973
Sq. Ldr A. S. Haddon 1967 - 1975
Mrs B. Bere 1971 - to present day
Mr P. Nation 1973 - to present day
Mrs M. Carter 1973 - to present day
Mrs Drake-Brockman 1974 - 1977
Mr J. Devlin 1976 - 1979
Mr D. Stanley 1977 - to present day
Mr J. Fieldhouse 1977 - to present day
Each Parish Priest was elected chairman during his time in the Parish of Bridgwater and these included Fr Morrissey, Fr McReynolds, Fr Dee and Fr Aherne.
Head teachers at St Joseph's new School
Sister Ligouri Sept 1963 - July 1969
Mr P. A. Barnfield April 1970 - July 1976
Mr R. I. Hancock Jan 1977 - to present
Deputy head teachers at St Joseph's new school
Mr H. Passman Sept 1963 - April 1965
Mr J. Tucker Sept 1965 - July 1980
Mr M. Fouler Sept 1981 - to present
Assistant teachers at St Joseph's new school:
Sr B. Soubirous 1963 - 1964
Miss J. Broun 1963 - 1970
Miss T. Leser 1963 - 1970
Sr M. Hyacinth 1964- 1966
Mrs J. Newcomb 1965- to present
Sr M. Alexis 1965- 1966
Miss Rowbottom 1965- 1966
Miss Rowland 1966 only
Sr Michele 1966- 1969
Mr D. Langley 1967- 1973
Mrs E. Scott (formerly Miss Toombs) 1967- 1969
Miss M. Hill 1967- 1969
Sr M. Cathy 1969- 1972
Sr Margaret 1969- 1972
Mr R. Gardner 1970- 1974
Mrs P. Bennett 1970- 1972
Sr M. John 1971- 1976
Sr M. Pauline 1972 only
Miss J. King 1972- 1973
Mrs H. Lord (formerly Miss Mooney) 1973- 1977
Mrs C. Madden 1973- 1974
Mrs C. Plowright 1973- 1982
Mrs M. S. McGuire 1973- to present
Mrs E. Poole (formerly Miss Connor) 1974- 1977
Sr Mary Mason 1976- 1980
Mrs K. Boddy 1978- 1980
Mr M. Chisnall 1978- 1980
Miss M. McCabe 1980- 1983
Mrs J. Gray (Supply) 1980- 1982
Miss A. Roberts 1980- to present
Mrs M, Weaver (formerly Miss Peat) 1982- to present
Mrs T. Mitchell 1982-to present
Miss C. Noblet 1983-to present
Mrs P. A. Fisher (part-time) 1983-to present
Mrs W. Hutchings 1963 - 1965
Mrs T. N. Clark 1965 - to present
General school assistants
Mrs M. Russ 1973
Mrs W. Puddy (formerly Mrs Hand) 1977 to present
Caretaker and Cook
At the time of producing this booklet Mrs E. M. Webber is caretaker at the school and Mrs B. Hodge