History of Loreto Secondary School, Bray

In the 1800’s to the south of the small town of Bray spread the 600 acre estate of the Putland family. At the end of a long avenue surrounded by fields where cattle grazed, stood the main residence named ‘Sans Souci’. It was described by Desmond Forristal in his book “The First Loreto Sister” as “an attractive Georgian manor, spacious without being overbearing and boasting an unusually splendid conservatory”. Charles Putland reportedly wished to sell the house having had some trouble with his family who were seeking their share of the family estate. He was a man who had previously given generously to the building of a Catholic church in Co. Cork. Mrs. Putland was a benefactress of a local Bray School in which one hundred poor children were clothed and educated. She also employed forty poor women in a flax and wool business (c.1850).

Francis Ball (Mother Teresa Ball) was a former pupil of the York Convent School who had joined the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto Sisters). It was in response to a request from Archbishop Murray of Dublin that the community sent Mother Teresa Ball (herself a young Dublin woman) to Dublin in 1821 to begin her ministry of the Education of young Catholic Women in Ireland. The Loreto sisters were firmly committed to the education of young Catholic women in, having previously opened Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham in 1822. On August 10th 1850, the 29th anniversary of her departure from York, Mother Teresa founded the twentieth Loreto Convent. She purchased “Sans Souci” in 1850 for the price of around £8,000. The house, with 72 acres extending down to the sea, had been empty and neglected for some time before Mother Teresa bought it. The necessary repairs took several months. By November 22nd it was ready for occupation and Mother Conception Lopez, who was appointed Superior, took up residence with a community of seven nuns in the new convent, which was dedicated to St.Columba. Mass was first celebrated in St. Columba’s on November 25th 1850. In 1850 the fee paying school comprising both Junior and senior schools opened in January as a day and boarding school with its students numbering sixty-four by July 1850.In 1851 a small “Free School” was started and was granted National School status in May 1854. It opened with 189 students on the books. By 1868 the educational census noted that the Convent National School had 126 female students.

By 1879, numbers in the Secondary School had risen to 80 boarders. 1895 saw Loreto Bray’s first candidates sit public examinations. During both World Wars, Loreto Convent School thrived, accommodating extra students from England, France and Spain sent as boarders to Loreto Convent Bray to continue their education in safety. In the 1960’s the move was toward “free education” giving “equality of educational opportunity to all”. In September 1967 the “Free Education Act” was introduced and Loreto Bray decided to join this scheme. Accommodation for the great influx of numbers became the chief problem. Prefabricated classrooms (Pacelli and the original St.Anne’s) seemed to be the only solution. After protracted years of negotiations with the Department of Education, permission was finally granted for a completely new wing (St.Joseph’s) with all modern facilities. The building was begun in 1970. It comprised of a reception area, an administrative block, a staffroom (extended in 1986/’87, nine classrooms, a Geography room, two science laboratories, a sewing room, a kitchen, and an art room. It was ready for occupation by September 1971.

In 1978 the Concert Hall was connected to St. Josephs, adding three more classrooms and converting the St. Francis Xavier’s dormitory above the Concert Hall to a further three classrooms. In June 1979 the boarding school was finally closed, after a careful phasing out. 1985 saw the rebuilding of St.Anne’s replacing the old prefabs with new ones. St. Anne’s was extended in 1988. The all weather pitch and hard tennis courts were added. In 1989 St.Columba’s Chapel was deconsecrated. In 1993 a locker room in St.Joseph’s was converted into a new Prayer room and a second locker room into a Music room. In 1995/1996 “Harmony Heights”, previously boarder’s bedrooms was converted into a spacious computer suite and a canteen was provided in St.Columba’s. In 1999, the Mary Ward Building opened comprising of an Oratory, a Stage with large Auditorium, a Language Laboratory, an Art room, three Science laboratories, a Career Guidance office, A Home Economics room, a Music room, a teacher’s work room, a Business room and small kitchenette. The Astro turf pitch was built in 2000 and changing rooms were added in 2003. The Sports Hall, with Gym suite was completed in 2009.

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