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Headington history: Schools

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St Joseph’s School


St Joseph’s School

St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Headley Way (above) started life next door to the Port Mahon pub in St Clement’s Street. Originally called St Ignatius' Roman Catholic School, it opened with 18 children in 1869 in Leslie House, the presbytery (priest's house) of St Ignatius's Roman Catholic Chapel.

After the opening of St Aloysius' Church on the Woodstock Road in 1875, the chapel was henceforth only used on Sundays, and St Ignatius' School moved into the chapel itself.

In 1892 a small boys' school that had opened next to St Aloysius Church in the Woodstock Road in 1882 was enlarged to accommodate 80 boys. Hence from 1894 St Ignatius' School in St Clement's was for girls and infants only.

In about 1902 St Ignatius' School was renamed St Aloysius Mixed Infants and Girls.

In 1909 the Holy Child Sisters who had been living in Leslie House moved to Cherwell Edge. Leslie House was demolished, and a new school (below left), was built on its site with three classrooms for boys and girls, but the infants continued to be taught in the old chapel. The photograph below shows the 1909 school on the left and the 1795 chapel on the right.

St Ignatius, 1909 building

In 1911 Ss Edmund & Frideswide Church was opened in the Iffley Road, and the St Clement's site was just for the school.

In 1932 St Aloysius Mixed Infant and Girls School on this site and St Aloysius Boys' School on the Woodstock Road both became mixed, so this school in St Clement's was renamed St Joseph’s Roman Catholic School. Until St Edmund Campion School opened in 1958, it also had a senior department (which also took the senior children from St Aloysius’s School).

St Joseph's Roman Catholic School remained in St Clement’s for another 34 years, but by the 1960s it had become dilapidated: there were no indoor toilets, the playground was so small that the 260 children had to take turns to play, and the traffic in St Clement’s was a problem. \o\y v;pdrf pm 12 July 1968.

In September 1968 St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School opened in the present buildings in Headley Way, Headington, with seven classrooms, a swimming pool, and a hall/gymnasium. The new school cost £85,000.

In 1975, when Oxford adopted a three-tier system of education, it became St Joseph’s Roman Catholic First School for children aged 5 to 9.

When Oxford reverted to a two-tier system of education in September 2003, it once again became St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary School for children aged 5 to 11.

Sister Marie Ann was the last nun to teach at St Joseph's School (in both St Clement's and Headley Way). She retired in July 2010 after teaching there for 39 years: news article. Some of the information above was obtained from the following:


St Ignatius' Chapel (1793–1911)

St Ignatius Chapel

St Ignatius' Chapel (above) was built in 1793 next door to the Port Mahon pub in St Clement's Street by a Jesuit priest from Waterperry, Father Charles Leslie. At that time there were about sixty Roman Catholics in Oxford, and until 1875 when St Aloysius' Church was built it was the only Roman Catholic Church in Oxford. Cardinal Newman attended his first public mass here in 1845.

The chapel, surmounted by a cross, can be seen on the right in the nineteenth-century drawing below. On the left is the Presbytery, which had been completely rebuilt in 1829, but was demolished in 1909 to make way for the new school building. The last Mass was said in the chapel in 1911.

A blue plaque was unveiled on the chapel on 31 July 2018, and the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques website has more information about it here.

St Ignatius's Chapel

The photograph below by Henry Taunt, dating from 1906, shows the side of St Ignatius' Chapel. Historic England has two views of the interior by Henry Taunt of the same date: CC50/00510 and CC50/00509.

St Ignatius's Chapel

The former chapel and school in St Clement's are currently occupied by offices. They are both Grade II listed buildings:

© Stephanie Jenkins

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