St Mary's School, Wantage

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St Mary's School
Established 1873
Closed 2007 (merged)
Type Independent day and boarding school
Religion Church of England
Last Headmistress Mrs S Sowden
Founder Rev William J Butler
Location 24-28 Newbury Street
OX12 8BZ
Gender Girls
Ages 11–18

St Mary's School was an independent day and boarding girls' school located in Wantage, Oxfordshire, England. In 2007 it merged with Heathfield School to become Heathfield St Mary's School (later reverted to Heathfield) and the Wantage site was closed.

It was affiliated with the Church of England and had close ties with its founding order, the Community of St Mary the Virgin. Predominantly a boarding school,[1] it was popular with the British aristocracy and the upper-middle class due to its ideal location near London and Oxford.


The Reverend William John Butler became Vicar of Wantage on 1 January 1847. His main aims were, first, to revive the religious life in England and second, to improve education. He hoped to achieve these aims by setting up an order of teaching sisters, but he faced many disappointments and spent 25 years trying to improve various day schools in the parish before St Mary’s School was founded in 1873.

Together with its sister school, the School of St Helen and St Katharine in Abingdon, St Mary's was run by the sisters of the Community of St Mary the Virgin and was based in the Queen Anne house on Newbury Street. Sister Ellen was the first Sister-in-Charge and Sister Juliana succeeded her in 1887. Sister Juliana had studied at Cambridge and set a high standard for the girls, entering them for the Oxford and Cambridge local examinations.

Sister Annie Louisa joined the school in 1898 and started a guide movement called Scout Patrols in 1899 before Boy Scouts had even begun. She succeeded Sister Juliana as Headmistress in 1903. Sister Annie Louisa was responsible for the chief structural improvements at St Mary’s including a science wing and the conversion of an old barn into a gymnasium. By the time Sister Annie Louisa left in 1919, St Mary’s was recognised as a “public school with an unusually high standard of scholarship”.

In 2005 the buildings were purchased for around £15m by the property developer Anton Bilton and his company, Raven Mount. The transaction was said to be necessary to increase the size of the school and modernise facilities. However, in 2006 it was announced that the school would be merging with the Heathfield School in Ascot, to form a new school, Heathfield St Mary's and the Wantage site was closed at the end of the summer term 2007.

Notable alumnae[edit]

Old girls of St Mary's Wantage are known as 'SMOGs'.


  1. ^ "Pastoral Care". Archived from the original on 3 July 2013. 
  2. ^ About Emma, Emma Nicholson, UK.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°35′14″N 1°25′32″W / 51.58722°N 1.42556°W / 51.58722; -1.42556