Sixty years ago, two Sisters of the Immaculate Conception arrived in Sussex with one task – to open a Catholic school for children in the new town of Crawley.
The Sisters were Maria Felix, who was to be acting headmistress, and Odile, who would be her assistant.
That school, which had an initial intake of 35 children, went on to become Our Lady Queen of Heaven Primary – and this year students past and present will be celebrating the diamond anniversary with a party to remember.
A log book found among the school’s records gives a fascinating peak at the early days – all in cursive ink-written handwriting.
Covering the period from Friday September 6 1957 to Wednesday June 30 1971, the book details everything from the opening of the school to the performance of the football teams and even a £10 cheque given to the school in 1958 to pay for books and pencils.
The first entry reads: “On Friday 6th September 1957, two Sisters of the Immaculate Conception arrived at the Franciscan Convent, Copthorne. Sister Maria Felix came from Jersey to be acting headmistress of the future Langley Green Catholic Primary School, and Sister Odile, after a year spent in Uckfield, East Sussex, joined her as an assistant teacher. The following morning the Sisters paid a visit to the Rev Father G Williams, Parish Priest of Langley Green, and in whose parish school the Sisters were to teach.
“On 10th September, the first registrations of pupils took place at Father Williams’ hall, both in the morning and in the afternoon.
“On 11th September, 35 five and six year old children arrived at the temporary hut in Hare Lane.”
Some interesting snippets of information came to light in the log book. For instance, did you know that schools were given a day off on February 26 1960 to celebrate the birth of Prince Andrew?
The staff’s first payday – September 30 1957 – was also given an entry, noting a cheque had arrived from “West Sussex Authorities”. Given the books for the Janet and John reading scheme didn’t show up until the middle of October, you can understand why they were relieved!
That first intake of youngsters are now pensioners with children, grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren of their own – and they are all welcome to join the 60th anniversary party at the school on Friday July 14.
The day will start with a Mass at 9.30am with Bishop Richard Moth, Big Assembly at 11.15am and the burying of a time capsule at 1.15pm.
The school would also like to hear from anyone who can loan any memorabilia – such as photos and old text books – for an exhibition. The school can be contacted on 01293 526057 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .