Sacred Heart of Mary Girls' School

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Sacred Heart of Mary Girls' School
Front elevation of main building
Sacred Heart of Mary Girls' School Upminster.JPG
Front elevation
Motto Veritas Liberabit Vos
(The Truth will set you free)
Established 1927
Type Academy
Religion Roman Catholic
Headteacher Mrs Kim O'Neill
Founders Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary
Location St Mary's Lane
RM14 2QR
DfE number 311/5403
DfE URN 137233 Tables
Ofsted Reports Pre-academy reports
Students 800~
Gender Girls
Ages 11–18
Colours Blue     

Sacred Heart of Mary Girls' School is a Catholic girls' secondary school with academy status located in Upminster, an area in Havering, North East London, England.


SHMGS is among the top performing comprehensive schools in London in the examination league tables. It was one of the top 100 state schools in the country in the 2012 A Levels.[1]


The school is regularly oversubscribed. It serves the deanery of Havering and girls from practicing Catholic families and other Christian denominations are given priority.[2]



In 1927 nuns from the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary bought Hill Place for use as a convent, naming it the Convent of the Sacred Heart of Mary. Hence the school has been colloquially known as "Upminster Convent School". It was established as a small independent fee-paying day and boarding school called "Convent Collegiate School"[3] catering for girls of all ages and boys up to the age of eight.[4]

At the outbreak of World War II the school was evacuated to Chilton House in Buckinghamshire. The school premises suffered no damage during the Blitz despite its proximity to RAF Hornchurch. In 1946 after the war ended, teachers and pupils returned to London and classes resumed. With the advent of the tripartite system, Convent Collegiate became a voluntary aided secondary modern. It turned comprehensive in 1978 when the system was abolished. By then Sisters on staff included Sisters from other orders and the teachers were predominantly lay staff. The first lay headteacher was appointed in 1983.[5]

Hill Place[edit]

Central to the property is a large Gothic house designed by architect W.G. Barlett, who had also remodelled St Laurence's Church nearby, during the 1870s. The house is now Grade II listed.[6] The house had an impressive entrance hall, with marble flooring, oak panelling and above the main staircaseuse a stained glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones and made by William Morris.[7]

The original Hill Place was built in 1790 and was part of James Esdaile's estate. In 1827 it was owned by Wasey Sterry and after his death a number of tenants before being bought by Temple Soanes in 1867. Soanes commissioned William Gibbs Bartlett to reconstruct the house, between 1871-1873, in the gothic style. In 1895 E.S. Woodiwiss bought the house and kept a private Zoo in the grounds. Following other owners the house was bought by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary as a convent and Catholic girls school.[8] A Georgian style chapel in red brick was built against the east end of Hill Place in 1935 and was demolished in the 1960s due to structural problems following subsidence.[4]

In July 2013 the property was put up for sale by the Trustee.[9]

The Old Chapel[edit]

The Old Chapel following refurbishment in March 2013

The Old Chapel was designed and built by Samuel Hammond and opened in June 1800 as an alternative place of worship for Protestant Dissenters. This group were known as ‘Dissenters’ because they moved away from the established church. partly due to a dispute over tithe payments to the parish church, St Laurence, to fund its upkeep. The gallery was enlarged in 1803 to contain more seating. In 1827 the building was extended and a vestry added. In 1873 the building was extensively refurbished which included heating, gas lighting and a new pulpit. The congregation of the Old Chapel grew steadily throughout the Victorian era and in 1911 as Upminster grew as a garden suburb led the increasing number of worshippers move to new premises; Trinity Church on Station Road.

Another Christian group, the Plymouth Brethren, bought the Chapel for £400 and worshipped from 1911 – 1988. The building was listed Grade II in 1979.[10]

The trusteeship of the Chapel passed to the Havering Christian Fellowship in 1992.

The Parent Teacher and Friends Association of the school purchased the Chapel in 2005 and with a grant in 2007 of £670,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and over £390,000 from others the building which had been on English Heritage's "At Risk" Register since 1991[11] was restored to include toilets, a kitchen and meeting spaces and the chapel will be put to use as a heritage centre to showcase the chapel's history and its place in the history of Upminster.[12]

In 2012, construction workers doing restoration works at the Old Chapel dug up 24 unexploded shells and bombs on the compound in the space of three weeks. Historians later identified them as those from the Blitz of World War II and hypothesised that they had been buried there by the military with intent of disposal.[13]


  1. ^ "Top 100 Comprehensive Schools at A Level". London: The Independent. 26 January 2012. 
  2. ^ "Admissions Criteria" (PDF). 
  3. ^ Powell, W.R., ed. (1978). 'Upminster: Education and charities', A History of the County of Essex: Volume 7. Courtesy of British History Online. pp. 161–3. 
  4. ^ a b Benton, Tony. Upminster. Tony Benton. p. 140. ISBN 0-9529359-0-2. 
  5. ^ "Sacred Heart Web page". Retrieved 2014-08-26. 
  6. ^ "Listed buildings - Convent of the Sacred Heart of Mary, St Mary's Lane, Upminster". Havering Borough Council. 
  7. ^ DVD of Undiscovered Upminster by Mike Jones
  8. ^ Drury, John. a history of upminster and cranham. Ian Henry. p. 24. ISBN 0 86025 405 4. 
  9. ^ Romford Recorder Homes 24 dated 5 July 2013 page 1
  10. ^ "Sacred Heart web page". Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  11. ^ "The Clarkson alliance". Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  12. ^ Shaffi, Sarah (21 March 2013). "Upminster Old Chapel gets £670,800 Lottery boost". Romford Recorder. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "World War II bombs shed light on history of Upminster during the war". Romford Recorder. 14 April 2012. 

External links[edit]