Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 24, 2017
Webpage updated: April 10, 2020




Today known as simply Notre Dame School, the former Notre Dame Roman Catholic Secondary School for Girls is currently located in Looseleigh Lane, Plymouth, alongside the modern Convent of Notre Dame de Namur.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namurhad been founded in France in 1804.  Sixty years later two of the Sisters, Julie Billiart and Francoise Blin de Bourdon, travelled to Plymouth, where Bishop Vaughan asked them to set up a boarding school for girls adjacent to the Roman Catholic Cathedral.  It opened at Westbury Terrace, North Road, on October 19th 1865 and accepted pupils from all over the world.

Within a short time they opened a school for poor girls and infants and this was followed by a new building to house a day school for the children of the middle-classes.  Designed in the Gothic style by Mr Hansom, architect, of Clifton, Bristol, and built by Mr James Taylor, of East Stonehouse, it was situated to the south of the Presbyterian Chapel.  The principal schoolroom was 80 feet in length, by 20 feet wide and 14 feet in height and over it was a playroom.  There was also a separate room for musical studies.  The completion of the construction was celebrated on the evening of Monday July 7th 1868 with a sumptuous supper being offered by the Mother Superior to Mr Taylor and his workmen.

On Friday December 16th 1938 the Member of Parliament for Devonport and Minster for War, Mr Leslie Hore-Belisha, used a golden key to open a badly needed extension to the School.  This was in what was formerly the Presbyterian Chapel, which had been substantially reconstructed to the plans of Mr H C Smart, architect.  The former Chapel had been transformed in to an assembly hall and in the basement a gymnasium had been constructed, along with new cloakrooms and showers.   A staircase had been provided to link the extension with the existing building.

Outside, where a building had been demolished, a new one consisting of a domestic centre has been erected.  This was furnished with gas stoves, seats, tables and a demonstration table to accommodate twenty scholars.   On the first floor were an art-room and a library.  This has enabled part of the original school to be converted in to additional class-rooms.

At the ceremony were the Roman Catholic Bishop of Plymouth; Mr R F Axworthy, chairman of the Plymouth Education Authority and the Reverend Brother J H McDonald, principal of Saint Boniface's College.  Tea was afterwards served to the guests in a room studded with miniature "Belisha beacons".

Unfortunately the daily routine of both the Convent and School came to an abrupt halt on the night of April 21st/22nd 1941, during the Second World War, when the assembly hall was set ablaze and then the following night the entire Convent was destroyed.  The School was then transferred to two large houses in Teignmouth, Devon, called "Ashleigh" and "Buckeridge Towers".

After the end of the War, the School was reopened although the Convent was not rebuilt.  It was assimilated in to the national education system, where it became Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Secondary Modern School.

A brand new Notre Dame High School for Girls was constructed on a 16-acre site at Crownhill and opened in 1966.