St Dominic's School

Thu Oct 30 2014

History

Bargate House, in which the main Senior Department is now situated, has an interesting history; in 1804 a rectangular building was added to the cottage to form a workhouse for the Penkridge Union which was at one stage able to accommodate 200 inmates. However in 1872, the building ceased to function as a 'House of Industry'.

‘Bargate’ was sold on Wednesday 23rd July 1919. The residence was sold to a Wolverhampton wine merchant, Louis Connolly.

A Catholic Layman and a man of great generosity, Louis Connolly presented ‘Bargate’ to Father O’Toole, The Catholic priest at St. Mary’s, Brewood for the wellbeing of the local Catholic Community.

In 1919 Father O’Toole, who had a very high regard for the Dominican Sisters, offered them ‘Bargate’ for use as a school or invalid homes.

It was not a particularly auspicious time to found an independent school following the end of the First World War, however on the 20th September 1920, The Dominican Convent School, Brewood opened with just six pupils; by the end of the first academic year there were 12 children on the school roll.

The school was to provide a Catholic education for the girls so that they would be well equipped to become good wives and mothers.

The school grew steadily under a number of Headmistress Dominican Sisters until 1974 when although the school was at it’s strongest, its future was at greatest jeopardy. This was when the school became St. Dominic’s Brewood Trust Limited.

1978 saw the last of the Dominican Sisters and thus the link with the convent. However, later that year Sister Helen Weston was appointed as headmistress and the convent link was thus perpetuated again.

Sister Helen’s aims were as follows:

‘The Christian Ethos, with its emphasis on the development of the whole personality of the child of God and citizen of the world, inspires the curriculum and is responsible for the happy atmosphere which prevails within the school…..and we try to create an atmosphere conducive to spiritual and moral growth, remembering that future happiness is dependent upon self-knowledge, self-acceptance and self-giving. We aim to develop the talents of each girl, be these ten, five or one; we believe that each pupil has a unique contribution to make to the human race as a whole, and to her immediate society in particular’.

She described her ideal school as ‘a place where minds are informed and character is formed and children are loved’.

In 1984 Sir jack Hayward, Wolverhampton born philanthropist sent the school a cheque for £10,500.00 as a donation for the Sports Hall appeal. Sister Helen invited Sir Jack to open the hall in 1987. It was during the opening ceremony on 3rd July 1987 that Sir Jack proceeded to lay 2 wagers; could any pupil recite Sir Henry Newbolt’s poem ‘The Lamp of Life’, if so he would give a further £10,000.00 to the school. He also pledged that if Sister Helen could name the Wolves team who played in the 1939 Cup Final, he would double the pledge.

After two pupils had recited the poem, Sister Helen reeled off the football team’s names without hesitation. The press across the world got hold of this story and Sister Helen’s ‘Nun’s story sure bet’ became famous.

Sister Helen retired in April 1990 leaving behind a legacy of excellence and academic successes.

During 2007 the dedicated sixth form block with the specialist performing arts dance studio with sprung floor and recording studio was open, gaining awards for its architectural excellence.

St. Dominic's High School for Girls, now non-denominational with a Christian ethos, will in the Summer Term of 2012, welcome the first ever Headmaster to the school, Mr Harvey Trump,  following the retirement of Mrs Sandra White in 2011.

With many thanks to Jeremy Walters for his ‘labour of love’ in writing ‘St. Dominic’s School Brewood, A History 1920-1995’ from which the information above has been taken.