St Mary’s was established in 1871 as a Catholic convent boarding school for girls in the heart of Hampstead. Originally founded by the IBVM (now known as the CJ Congregation of Jesus), the School originally comprised some day-boarders and young boys to pre-preparatory level.
Although St Mary’s enjoys a rich history, since 1926 the School has flourished in a beautiful Grade II Listed house on Fitzjohn’s Avenue. We are extremely fortunate to have had a full-size Chapel since 1939 in the centre of the School. Our gardens, outdoor areas and facilities are unique in the local area.
In 1992, St Mary’s School became a new registered charity with a lay Board of Trustees, allowing the unbroken provision of a faith-based education and so continuing to be one of the leading Catholic schools in London for girls.
This Catholic independent school remains faithful to the ideals of the Venerable Mary Ward, Foundress of the CJ. She wisely said in 1617:
There is no such difference between men and women that women may not also do great things.
Her belief in the provision of a thoroughly grounded academic and spiritual education for girls as a foundation for an enriched and confident adulthood is as true today as it was in the early seventeenth century.
The History of St Mary’s School Book
The History of St Mary’s School was completed by Marion Jeffrey after years of detailed research and published in July 2016. Marion was a former parent of three children at the school and Chair of Governors 2002-2012. The hardback history book of 160 pages details how the School has developed over the last 150 years. Nevertheless, it remains true to the core principle of providing high-quality Catholic education for girls in a friendly, family environment.
The History reflects on how the St Mary’s community benefits from the Chapel and our much-loved Chaplain, Father Chris Connor. Likewise, the CJ continues to offer active support and close relations with Mary Ward’s foundation are of fundamental importance. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, who visited the School, gave his blessing to the History and provided the Preface.
The History is a window to the panoply of female characters. From Headmistresses and Superiors to lay staff who dedicated, and continue to dedicate, their lives to teaching their pupils. Their shared goal is to enable a rich, balanced and informed maturity.
With the fourth Catholic lay Head, Miss Charlotte Owen taking up her Headship from September 2023, and with an overwhelmingly high proportion of Catholic pupils, St Mary’s continues to be true to the ideal of Mary Ward in offering a strongly articulated ethos in a uniquely challenging and dynamic educational environment.