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St. Mary's High School

Western Road 1908, Romford
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I'm wondering if anyone remembers St. Mary's High School in Western Road. I attended the school when I was very young in 1946-9, before my family emigrated first to Canada, then to the USA. My best friends were Zena O'Shea, Rebecca Brown and Valerie Dunbar - and I can still remember clearly most things about the school - not least, Sister Bernard, the formidable headmistress, Miss Hogg, who terrified us all (but who I'm sure meant well) and Miss Dennis the piano teacher whose strictness I have to thank for the fact that I can still play my scales!
The school was run by the Sisters of Mercy. Our winter uniform was a navy blue gymslip tied around the middle by a 'girdle', its colour indicating our House (mine was 'Red'), and our odd looking little hats were round and brimless with the sides pinched together by little epaulettes which allowed them to be altered to fit. (We called them 'sick bowls', quite understandable if you could see them). In summer we wore panama hats and blue and white striped dresses, and in good weather we were allowed out to go 'down the garden' as there was no playground as such, just a very large garden with a lawn at the end. The school was housed in a large early 19th century house which had big rooms where classes were held (some interconnecting, which was not always convenient when you had to 'leave the room', i.e. go to the john) and I remember a wonderful wide polished wood bannister on the staircase, which had screws placed at intervals along its surface - presumably to stop anyone trying to slide down it! Until 25 years ago I had a school photo taken at St. Mary's (a huge print which rolled up into a tube) which sadly went missing in a house move. Nevertheless, there I can still see myself standing next to Zena, who you can just see is wearing my prized St. Christopher medal, which I'd lent her for the day. To get to school in the mornings, we used to walk through Mercury Gardens - then a narrow path through a nursery Garden with a small row of workers' cottages on one side. I find it tragic that so much of the fabric of the old market town has been destroyed, along with it all of Romford's considerable character. (Although I guess that has happened to most small towns). The worst damage being during the early 1960s, when 'heritage' was not something that people valued, nor were any laws in place to stop the developers flattening everything. They even knocked down the medieval houses opposite Romford's War Memorial - one of which housed the old public library (with its badly laid blue lino on the floor, which had large 'bubbles' great fun to jump on).
This web site is absolutely great, and it's heartening that there are others with their precious memories of Romford who have taken the trouble to share them here.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading mine!

A memory of Romford in Essex shared on Monday, 4th April 2011.

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RE: St. Mary's High School

I remember this school well, and was there around 1954-55. Sister Bernard was head, and Sister Gertrude and Sister Dimpner were there too. Sadly, so was Miss Hogg, a horrible person who was an absolute bully and should never have been allowed near children, let alone teach. Romford Market was a treasure trove, too. I was baptised at St Edwards Church and born at Oldchurch Hospital. Back to school, I have also one of the school photos with everyone on it which rolls out!

Comment from Julia Evans on Wednesday, 2nd May 2012.

RE: St. Mary's High School

I also went to this school in 1958-1964. I too remember Sister Bernard who was Headmistress, later to be replaced by Sister Xaviour who had terrible crooked fingers but wrote beautifully. One day I decided to run away from school and poor Sister Gertrude had to run up Western Road after me. Sister Dympna was very strict and I remember being in her "babies" class, rolling down the bank and looking into the pond which was full of frog spawn and I loved music and painting. Can't remember Miss Hogg maybe she had left by then.

Comment from Jeannette Larkin on Saturday, 14th July 2012.


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