St Charles Square has been home to Catholic education since 1872. During this time it has produced two colleges, two secondary schools, two primary schools and one nursery. Since 1907 St Charles School has continued the tradition of providing opportunities for young minds to grow in faith and knowledge.
St Charles College for Boys
St Charles School was built in 1954. However the story begins in 1872 when Dr Henry Manning (later Cardinal Manning) acquired two acres of land in North Kensington to build a Roman Catholic College for Boys.
The College was finished in 1874 and occupied the site of the present Sion Manning Girl School. In 1875 he bought a further seven and a half acres of land and built a perimeter wall, part of which still stands today.
Dr Manning was an Oblate of St Charles and shared the Saints belief in the importance of education for rich and poor alike. For this reason he named the College and the surrounding area St Charles.
The College was a very grand red-
Its vast grounds stretched westwards from the current Sion Manning site to the back gardens of the houses in St Mark’s Road and northwards to include the current Church of St Pius X and St Charles Primary School.
For many years cattle grazed on this land unaware that they were subjects for science and art lessons for pupils from St Charles Demonstration School to study and draw.
St Charles Teacher Training College and St Charles Demonstration School
In 1903 the college community moved to larger accommodation to cater for the growing number of students. The building remained empty for two years until it was taken over by the nuns of the Sacred Heart in 1905 and used as a teacher training college. However, there was a need for a new school to be built to allow trainee teachers to practice and develop their newly acquired teaching skills. And, so, in 1907, after obtaining permission from the London County Council, the Sacred Heart Sisters built the St Charles Demonstration School close to the site of the present school hall. It opened on the 21st January with 154 children under the headship of Miss Ada Shepherd.
A College Chapel
In 1908 the Sisters built a chapel for the College. This would later become our Parish Church of St Pius X.
The Threat of War
On the 1st September 1939, with the threat of War, the school was evacuated to Dorchester. Over the next six years St Charles Square suffered from severe bomb damage. The College and the Demonstration school were so badly damaged that the Sacred Heart Sisters decided not to repair or rebuild the buildings. Instead they decided to leave the Square and move to Roehampton.
After the War
In 1946 the site was acquired by the Westminster Diocese for redeveloping. Apart from the chapel and gardeners cottage the site was leveled to the ground. Over the next four years the Diocese built Cardinal Manning Girls School (now Sion Manning) on the site of the College, Cardinal Manning Boys School, on the site of the present Sixth form College, and St Charles Primary School, on the site of the old Demonstration School.
A New Primary School
The present St Charles School was opened during the 1954 spring term. It was described in the Kensington Post as “sleek and clean in appearance, well lighted, ventilated, heated and equipped”. Over the past 50 years the school has worked hard to maintain this reputation. The main building has changed little but extensions have been built providing the school with a computer suite, a library, two new classrooms, a larger assembly hall, larger staff room, music gallery and a nursery.
When Cardinal Manning built his college in 1872 he may not have fully realised the significance of what he was doing. For in doing so he was sowing the seed that would grow over 145 years into the strong Catholic Community that St Charles Square is today. In addition to the educational establishments, the Square is home to St Pius X Parish Church, the Catholic Children’s Society and the Convent of the Carmelite Sisters.
We have had a number of past students come back to visit us over the years. We have even had a few from the 1920’s! It is always fascinating to hear their story and lean about how the School has changed over the years. If you are a past pupil and would like to share your story, pictures, etc with us then please contact Mr Lynch at the School email address.