The Society of the Sacred Heart came to Hammersmith in 1893 when Reverend Mother Mabel Digby bought the diocesan seminary building which had recently been vacated.
There had been convents and schools on this site since 1668 when Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II, invited the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded by Mary Ward, to live there. By the time the Society had reached England the site was occupied by English Benedictine nuns who remained until 1865. In 1869 Cardinal Manning acquired the site and a new diocesan seminary, designed by J.F. Bentley was built. It was this building which was bought by the Society and which houses the Sacred Heart High School today.
A small independent day school was founded in 1893 and the present High School grew from these small beginnings, having passed through various stages of development: higher grade elementary school; secondary school in receipt of a government grant; voluntary aided Grammar School, and finally, in 1975, Comprehensive High School.
On the same site an elementary school was built in 1894 and remained there, as the Sacred Heart Primary School, until 1987 when it moved to a new building in Brook Green.
Between 1895 and 1927 several other educational developments, initiated by the Society took place; from 1895 to 1922, a Finishing School (boarding); a night school ran from 1906 to 1912; a Centre for Pupil teachers began in 1903, amalgamated with the Secondary school in 1904, and continued until 1918 when it was no longer necessary. Finally, between 1919 and 1927 there was a College for University students.
By the mid 1920’s, the secondary school was growing and needed more space, and for this reason a row of small houses on the west side of Elm Grove (later Bute Gardens), adjacent to the school, was bought in 1925. It was hoped that these houses could be demolished in order to make more space for the school. In fact, only 3 houses were demolished before the rest were declared ‘listed’, and no further demolition was possible. These houses were to prove an asset, not for the school, but for use as Provincial Offices and as accommodation for members of the Province.
The convent building, which housed both the Secondary School and the community, also went through a series of changes. In the early 1970’s the community members were reduced as small communities became the norm. In the 1990’s the school took over much of the original community space but there remained a small community and rooms for visitors to the Province. By 2009 this facility had moved elsewhere and the school was given the use of the whole building.
From its early beginnings in 1893, the school has grown, and is flourishing today. You can view it at:
Although no longer working in the school, RSCJ are represented on the governing board, and still maintain a presence in Bute Gardens, beside, and in contact with the school. You can read about them here.