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St Mary's Hare Park

School History

The connection to Gidea Park or rather Romford began back in 1908 when the Sisters of Mercy from Brentwood wished to begin a Boarding School and a house was rented on Western Road.  The School was named St Mary’s Convent High School.  The school continued to expand, and the Sisters moved out of the house to allow for its expansion.  Around 1912 the Sisters were able to purchase the house next door to The Laurels and finally had a Chapel built with the first Mass being said on 25th March 1913. 


24 Western Road, Romford with some of the first pupils in 1909

In 1918 the new Parish Priest, Fr J van Meenan asked for two Sisters to teach in St Edward’s Parish School and during the years that followed both schools flourished.  Boarder accommodation was eventually given up in 1937 and the space released was used for extra classrooms.  The outbreak of World War II brought great disruption in both schools and the Convent, many pupils and teachers were evacuated.   

After the War, the Upper School was phased out and finally closed in 1952.  It was difficult to plan ahead in view of the proposed development of the highway system in the Western Road area, in connection with which a Compulsory Purchase Order was expected.  Eventually in 1961, building of Hare Park Independent School began and ten years later, when St Mary’s High School closed, its remaining pupils moved to the new school which then assumed the title St Mary’s Hare Park School. 

Lack of Sisters to replace those who were retiring forced the transfer of responsibility for the school to a Parents’ Trust (1987) which undertook to maintain its Christian ethos.  The Sisters continued to teach in the Parish Schools until 1992. 


Adapted from “Trees of Mercy – Sisters of Mercy of Great Britain from 1839” 


At the request of Rev. Fr. Tilley he announced that a suitable property had been secured and

that The Sisters of Mercy from Chelsea would take over the ‘The Laurels’ 26 Western Road,

and established what became known as St. Mary’s Convent High School. The first Superior

and head teacher was Sr. M Francs McCARTHY (1909-1927). The extension of the school

was rapid. In 1911 the house adjacent to the Laurels No. 24 was purchased and became the



The Boarding School was added to the building. March 25th was taken as the new Foundation

with the blessing of the new Pugin Altar.


In 1917 the new Diocese of Brentwood was formed from Westminster and by 1919 Bishop

Doubleday now consented to the Sister’s request to the Romford house becoming a branch

house of the Mercury Convent Brentwood.


The school continued to increase in numbers and by 1930 there was 180 pupils. Between

1947-52 the Upper School (Seniors) was phased out to allow for the new intake of the War

years. Sr. M. Bernard Lauterbach was head teacher and was succeeded by Sr. Mary Xavier

Murphy in 1960. By this time the number of pupils was over two hundred.


Plans for an inner Ring Road in Romford were due to take place with possibility of a

compulsory purchase order being placed on the property. This was the time for a move to

be put in place and in August 1964 the purchase was made of Hare Park Independent School

(which opened three years previously) took place. Three Sisters from Brentwood came to

teach at Hare Park. Sr. M. Francis Boyden Sr. M. Teresa Connolly and Sr. M. Scholastica

O’Reilly. In 1965 Sr. M. Francis Boyden became head teacher.


Between 1968-71 the extension was added and the new hall was opened on 1st November

1971. The new Junior School was built and opened in September 1971. With the

amalgamation the former school became known as St. Mary’s Hare Park. Sr. M. Xavier

Murphy head teacher from 1960-71, and oversaw the transfer with Sr. M. Aidan Rafferty,

both joined the teaching staff.


The newly combined school, with a two formed entry provided for the extended number

of pupils. Sr. M. Frances Boyden continued as Head teacher until 1980. She was succeeded

by Sr. Margaret Mary Blackwell from September 1980-87.


A Parents’ Trust took over responsibility for the school and Mrs. Joyce Guilford was

appointed the Acting Head teacher and head teacher from 1988-97. She was succeeded

by Mrs. Katrina Karwacinski who transferred from our former St. Patrick’s School in

Collier Row.


In 1988 a sixteen year lease was signed to formalise the new arrangement 


Sr. M. Aidan Rafferty