Ancestry UK

St Joseph's Home / Ave Maria School, Eltham Park, Eltham, Kent

In 1901, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Southwark acquired an old mansion known as Eltham Park House, Glenure Road, Eltham. The property was initially used as a Home for Roman Catholic Children Suffering from Diseases of the Scalp — this provided treatment for highly infectious conditions such as ringworm which were then common amongst poor children. On August 14th, 1902, the establishment became a Certified School, allowing it to take children placed by the workhouse authorities.

Just over a year later, on October 20th, 1903, the establishment was relocated to the St Mary's Home at 128 High Street, Eltham. The Eltham Park premises then became St Joseph's School for Boys.

In 1910, the Southwark Diocese sold St Joseph's to the Congregation of St Clothilde and it became a convent and girl's boarding school. In 1939, the convent was acquired by the Sisters of Mercy to add to the St Mary's convent and school they already owned on Eltham High Street.

During the Second World War, Eltham Park House was taken over by the War Office and suffered from bomb damage. By 1950, with the damage now repaired, the house was returned to the Sisters. It then became the home of their Ave Maria School, an Approved School which was being relocated from its premises at West Croydon. After moving to Eltham Park House, the Ave Maria School could house up to 40 Junior Girls, aged under 15 years at their time of admission. Coincidentally, the Ave Maria School had its roots in the St Mary's Industrial School that had been run by the Sisters at 128 High Street, Eltham, from 1871 to 1886.

In 1973, the School became a Community Home with Education (CHE) and run in conjunction with Greenwich London Borough Council. The School closed in 1980 and reverted to convent use until the closure in 1984 of St Mary's School and convent on Eltham High Street, with both those establishments relocating to Eltham Park House which then became St Mary's Roman Catholic Primary School.

Although the old mansion still forms the core of the present-day school, successive alterations and extensions to the building mean that very little of its earlier form is now visible.


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  • None identfied at present — any information welcome.


  • Higginbotham, Peter Children's Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain's Young (2017, Pen & Sword)
  • Hyland,Jim Yesterday's Answers: Yesterday's Answers: Development and Decline of Schools for Young Offenders (1993, Whiting and Birch)
  • Millham, S, Bullock, R, and Cherrett, P After Grace — Teeth: a comparative study of the residential experience of boys in Approved Schools (1975, Chaucer Publishing)