St Mary's College, Part 2
Brook Green to Strawberry Hill
1925 - 2000
By the 1920s Brook Green House, even with the extensions that had been built to house the new St. Mary's, was no longer adequate. There is a charming story told of how the move from Hammersmith was engineered by the Principal, Father J. Doyle, CM. College shared a boundary with Cadby Hall, the headquarters of the J Lyons catering group. Both Lyons and the College needed to expand. Lyons had the money but not the land, College had land but no money. The Principal negotiated a deal which gave Lyons the St. Mary's group of small buildings on a three acre site and in exchange the College received a sum of money sufficient for the purchase of Strawberry Hill, a property of 30 acres in Twickenham and a balance towards the building of an extensive residential College. The architect was S. Pugin Powell, a distant relative of the great Gothic Revival architect, Augustus Welby Pugin. The result was a set of modern buildings which harmonised well with the historic mansion of Horace Walpole.
Firmly led by the Vincentian fathers who had been given charge of the College in 1899, the College survived the vicissitudes of the Second World War, remaining open for the whole eriod despite extensive damage from bomber raids early in the war and flying bombs at the end. Uniforms became a part of everyday life with the formation of a Home Guard unit and a flight of the London University Air Squadron. Many Simmarians went into the forces and served in every theatre of war. As in the first war, many of those who served never came home and in the chapel are two memorial plaques where their names are recorded and remembered every year on Armistice Sunday.
In 1994 another milestone was passed when the Vincentian priests gave up their charge of the College and, for the first time in its history, a layman, Dr. Arthur Naylor, was appointed as Principal. In his care there have been many innovations to keep the College in its pre-eminent position in the world of education and academic studies. One of the last public duties of Cardinal Hume was to open the fine extension to the library [re-designated as The Information Resources Centre] which now offers computer based information services in addition to the more traditional book stock. Two new halls of residence to remember two distinguished post second World War Principals, Father Cronin and Father Cashin, have been opened which offer the resident students en suite rooms which make a dramatic contrast to the curtained cubicles in a dormitory which were regarded as appropriate in the 19th century. Most recently the College has been able to purchase extensive sports grounds from the Lensbury club in Teddington, a welcome relief for the pressure on the pitches at Strawberry Hill.
Over one hundred and fifty years from its foundation, the College is flourishing. It welcomes many students from overseas and it has contacts in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa, from the links made by Strawberry Hill Overseas Concern. Various sports clubs, including the Rugby Union and the Ladies' Hockey, have and continue to achieve great success in the national leagues and numbers of students represent their country in these disciplines or in athletics and gymnastics. The world in which the Simmarians live and work today is quite different from that of the 1850s in its technical achievements and Western standards of living but many of the problems remain the same in many parts of the world ~ poverty, lack of schools, refugees and war. As then, many Simmarians continue the tradition of trying to remove these burdens from society by voluntary work in the Developing world and by pursuing careers in one or other of the many vocational and caring professions.
© Ken Breen,