Our School History


In 2018 our school celebrates 150 years of Catholic primary school education in Hunters Hill, making Villa Maria Catholic Primary School the 10th oldest Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Sydney.


The first reference to the parish school is in May 1868, when two local women, Jenny Makinson and Emily Heydon, began a school with 25 students. The school was most likely located at The Priory, owned by the Marist Fathers at Tarban Creek. 

Over the following twenty years there were a number of locations for the school, both in the Church grounds and on Gladesville Road. A number of teachers followed Miss Makinson and Heydon, until the Sisters of St Joseph (the “Josephites”) and the Marist Brothers took charge 
of schooling for girls and boys respectively in the early 1880’s.

               


                                                                                                                                                                                                                         2010 - Villa Maria School - new extension opened 2010 (photo courtesy S.Ryan, 2015)

1888 - A timber building for the schools had been constructed by the parish on the corner of Gladesville Road and Mary Street, where the Parish Hall stands in 2018. Although sharing the same building, there were separate boys' and girls' schools. The Josephites’ establishment was a convent school that had five Sisters, eight boarders and an assistant teacher all living on the premises, and a total attendance of 65 students. The Marist Brothers’ school had a roll of 48 students.

 
   1887 - Villa Maria Parish School students - taken on the property           1889 - Villa Maria Parochial School, with Br Sigismond Coustet,                  1889 - Villa Maria Parochial School, Junior Department              
    owned by Marist Fathers behind the Villa Maria Church (the school     Senior Department (photo courtesy Marist Brothers Archives, 2017)             (photo courtesy of Marist Brothers Archives, 2017)
    was then in an Annex to the church (photo courtesy Marist 
    Brothers Archives, 2017)
 
1899 - A timber parish school, Blessed Peter Chanel School, was built at Futuna Street, Woolwich, alongside St Peter Chanel Church. Two of the Josephite Sisters travelled daily to conduct lessons there. 

1907 – The building housing the convent and school, located on the corner of Gladesville Road and Mary Street, was destroyed by fire. In the same year, the Josephites handed over care of Blessed Peter Chanel School to the Marist Sisters.

1908 – Girl and boy Parish schools were eventually built at different locations. While the boys’ school was larger, the buildings were of similar design…brick with slated roofs. Both school buildings were officially opened by Cardinal Moran on 29 March 1908. The girls’ school was named St Joseph’s Girls School, and was run by the Josephites, and taught girls and infants. It was located at 45 Gladesville Road (where the IGA supermarket stands in 2018). The boys’ school, named variously as ‘Villa Maria’ or ‘Marist Brothers School’, was run by the Marist Brothers and was a small primary school for boys from Third to Sixth Classes. It was located in Mark Street (where Villa Maria Primary School stands in 2018).

1931 – Sr Clare Walsh was Principal at St Joseph’s Girls School.

1936 – Blessed Peter Chanel School was closed, with the 60 girl and boy students transferred to Marist Convent (in Woolwich) and Marist Brothers (Mark Street) respectively.

1946 – Sr Sebastian Kelleher was Principal of the St Joseph’s Girls School.

1953 – Sr Guiseppi Piesley was Principal of the girls’ school.

1954 – Sr Therese Agnes Hynes was Principal of the girls’ school.

1955 – An additional classroom block was built at the Marist Brothers School to accommodate increasing numbers: by 1960 the school had built up to around 400 students.
1950 - Marist Brothers School "Villa Maria" Mark Street, original brick building opened 
in 1908 by Cardinal Moran -photo taken from tower of St Josephs College 
(photo courtesy of Marist Brothers Archives, 2017)

1960 – Br Vincent Flanagan was Principal of the Marist Brothers School. He would be the last Marist Brother to head the local parish school.                    

1963 - Sr Benedicta Crilley served her last year as Principal at St Joseph’s Girls School, as the Josephites prepared to relinquish management of the school to the Marist Sisters the following year.

1964 - All Primary School students from the Marist Convent (in Woolwich) moved to the St Joseph’s Girls School in Gladesville Rd. Sr Julienne Vincent, a Marist Sister, was appointed Principal.

1966 – It was decided that secondary education in Mark St should be ended, and the two primary schools (St Joseph’s Girls School and Marist Brothers Mark Street) would amalgamate on the same Mark Street site. Girls would be educated to 6th Class and boys to 4th Class, with older boys being direct to Patrician Brothers College, ‘Holy Cross’, Ryde. The other major change was that the Marist Sisters would take over the primary school. The amalgamated school was known as St Joseph’s School, and Sr Julienne became Principal.                                                           
1967 - Sr Louise became Principal and asked the Cardinal for permission to change the school’s name to ‘Villa Maria’.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         1955 - Marist Brothers School, Mark St (photo courtesy Marist Brothers Archives, 2017)
1968 - Sr Herman was Principal of Villa Maria.

1972 - Sr Emilian Geraghty was Principal.

1978 - Sr Marie Clarke was Principal.

1979 - Sr Margaret Cummins was Principal.

1980 - Sr Marie Clarke was Principal.

1981 - Sr Emilian was Principal.

1983 - A new administration block and renovated hall were opened.

1984 - Sr Carroll McDonald was Principal.

1987 - Miss Mary Cloran was appointed Acting Principal.

1988 - Miss Cloran became the first lay Principal.

1989 - The new school library was opened, and the hall was returned to its original use.

1993 - Mrs Price-Randall was appointed Principal. Sr Helen Leary was the last Marist Sister to teach and also assist in the Library at the school. She retired in December.

1997 - Renovations to the school were blessed and opened.

1998 - Miss Julie Cunneen was Principal.

2010 – In preparation for a new administration/classroom block, the original 1907 brick school building at Mark St was demolished.

2011 - Mr Kevin Turner was appointed Principal. In the same year, the new block was officially opened.

2017 – A new creative arts and amenities block was opened. The upstairs area of this block was named the ‘Father Kevin Bates Creative Arts Room’, in recognition of the much-loved Villa Maria Parish priest.

2018 – Celebrating 150 years, Villa Maria Catholic Primary School remains a two stream, co-educational primary school from Kindergarten to Year 6. Enrolments have continued to increase, reaching 410 students in 2018.

Special thanks to Stephen Ryan who tirelessly worked to seek a number of sources and provide this history to date including the digital archiving of images.