Cross Penzance Catholic Church  'The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady' part of 'The Holy Family' Parish  > >  "History section" | sitemap



In the early days whenever a mission was established, not only was the church and presbytery built but immediately some form of school was started. So, when Father Young built his church, he made sure that there was room underneath for a school. As we can see today there is a very large crypt, but it must have been very dank and dark with a very low ceiling.

When the Oblates took over the mission, they were joined by some teaching nuns from their sister order. We read that "they soon had a goodly number of boys and girls in their schools under the Church, taught by themselves, their brothers in the Order and by the Nuns."

When the Oblates left, the work of the school continued with lay teachers; the only name that comes down to us is a Miss Brady, who seems to have been also Canon Shortland's housekeeper. Right through these "difficult times", the work of education was supported by grants from the Catholic Poor Schools Committee. This was the way the government helped voluntary schools, by giving a block grant to church authorities to distribute according to needs. Penzance received 20 to 30 each year in the mid 1850's, being reduced to between 5 and 10 in the 1860's. These grants had considerable value, and they must have been a great help.

In 1869, when the church was extended with a Lady Chapel and sacristy, underneath that extension "a roomy and lofty school" replaced the old one under the nave.

Towards the end of Canon Shortland's life a new site was obtained from Mr. Runnalls, to the south of the church, and a generous benefactor had given 700 towards a new school. But it was Canon Courtenay who actually completed these plans in 1893. He obtained the services of sisters of the Filles de Notre Dame to teach in this new school. But his successor, Canon Wade, saw that they were replaced in 1902 by the better-suited order of Daughters of the Cross.

It was these sisters who opened a private Girls Convent High School in 1938, to replace their earlier work with an orphanage. St. Gertrude's School built up a good reputation in the town, but had to close in 1969.

After the Second World War, the Daughters of the Cross had to withdraw from Penzance. Their place was taken in 1947 by Irish Presentation Sisters. The school grew in numbers, so that the 1893 buildings became very overcrowded. So, in 1979, a brand new school was built by the diocese in Peverell Road.

It was only in 1993, that a lay head teacher was appointed to the school.

created 29th October 2004 - last  revised 3rd March, 2010 v1.01 -