Saint Gregorys Catholic School
Saint Gregory's School in 1960 [BorB/J4/51b]
Saint Gregory’s is not in Biddenham but just over the border in the Borough of Bedford. Nevertheless the school is close enough to the village for the mistake to be made and hence its inclusion here.
Saint Gregory’s Catholic Middle School opened in 1959. The programme for the formal opening by the Archbishop of Westminster on 25th June 1960 [BorBJ4/51b] gives some of the background: “The first mention of a Secondary School is found on 14th August 1945. The question was reopened in 1950, with Canon Thomson as Chairman of the Governors, and the pursuit of sites began, in Lansdowne Road, Spenser Road, Goldington and finally at Biddenham. At each step close association was kept with His Lordship the Bishop, the Local Education Authorities and with canon Brewer, of the Diocesan Schools Commission. At the end of 1953 a draft of the Instrument of Government was received. In July 1955, the Architect was chosen. A year later, in June 1956, Notices of the New School were submitted, and Ministry approval followed in February 1957”.
“Building began on 1st May 1958. The Foundation Stone was laid on 27th September the same year. A year later in September 1959 the school began its work”.
The creation of a Roman Catholic Secondary School in Bedford was, in large part, due to the influx to the town and it general area, of large numbers of Italians from the south of that country. This is made manifest by an order of service for the blessing of the new school which is bilingual – Italian and English [BorBJ4/52].
The site, shared by Biddenham International School and Sports College was bought by Bedfordshire County Council from the Wingfield family, Lords of the Manor of Biddenham, in 1957 when 61.178 acres were bought for £8,056 [CCE1262/5]. The county council then conveyed 4.75 acres to the Northampton Roman catholic Diocese Trustees for £1,050 the following year [CCE1262/9].
The Education Act 1944 specified that children were to take an examination at age eleven (the so called Eleven Plus) to determine their academic ability. Those passing the examination went to grammar schools to study academic subjects, those failing it went to secondary modern school to study vocational subjects. In the 1970s Bedfordshire County Council began a programme of comprehensive reorganisation which did away with this idea of streaming children into separate schools and introduced a three tier system in which children attended schools based solely on catchment area. Children were to attend lower schools until they were nine, middle schools between the ages of nine and thirteen then upper schools from thirteen. It was decided that Saint Gregory’s would become a middle school and in 1975 it was decided to build a new Roman Catholic upper school in Bedford to which pupils from Saint Gregory’s would move at age thirteen – this became Saint Thomas More School.