Convent School Barbados – History

Click here for a photo gallery of historical images from Ursuline Schools’ history.
At the invitation of the Bishop of the time, the Ursuline Sisters arrived in Barbados on May 05, 1894 and settled into the convent of the Sisters of Mercy located on the grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  These sisters had   moved to British Guiana shortly before.  A school had been established by the Sisters of Mercy and it was renamed St. Ursula’s when the Ursulines took it over.  It opened on May12, 1894
By the end of the first decade it was apparent that larger premises were needed and so the property “Linden”, on Collymore Rock, was acquired with the help of Mr. de Creeft Harford and Mr. John Moran. At this time there was much religious prejudice in Barbados and the Ursulines were not permitted to buy the property themselves.  However, within a very short time they had been able to repay Mr. Harford and Mr. Moran.  The Boarding School began shortly after this, when Grima Hoyos, aged 8, and her sister Adelita, aged 4 became the first boarders in 1909.
New classrooms were built on the site of the present classrooms in the 1930s and these included a lovely Commercial room, the only one of its kind in Barbados. Girls studied commercial subjects there after they had completed their other subjects.  The new classrooms were first used in July 1937.
In 1952 Merton Lodge, an adjoining property, was acquired from the Massiah family to be used as an extension of St. Ursula’s.  It was dedicated to St. Joseph and his statue, given to the convent by the parents of Lourdes and Ulusia Leon, was finally placed on the lawn outside the building.   Before this, the statue had stood in the midst of a small orchard on the site of what is now the school Hall.  St. Joseph remained standing after hurricane “Janet” while most of the trees were uprooted.   The statue still stands  in the same area of the school.   Two years later the property of the Bancroft family came on the market and since it bordered the convent property, the Ursulines bought it.  The Infant school was established there.  It was ready for use in April 1955 and was called “Marianville”
In 1955 hurricane “Janet” destroyed or severely damaged many of the convent buildings.  As a result an extended period of building began.  
The school hall, at that time located near the chapel, had been completely destroyed by “Janet” as well as much of the roof of one of the boarders’ dormitories.   As a temporary measure, in 1956, three classrooms for the Secondary School were erected on the floor of the old hall using material taken down from the damaged dormitory section.  These classrooms remained “temporary” for twenty-three years, until their demolition in 1979.  A new block had been constructed in 1956 to house classrooms, and dormitories for the boarders.  In addition, covered-ways were built so that the campus could be traversed in rainy weather.  The Home Economics Unit was opened in 1956 and a large modern school hall was opened in1958.  The building of the swimming pool followed in 1960.
With the publication of a new Education Act in 1966 it became necessary to separate the Primary and Secondary schools since some financial aid was offered for the Secondary School subject to certain regulations including the providing of audited accounts each year.  Thus came into being the Board of Governors of the Ursuline Schools.  The Secondary School kept the name St. Ursula’s while the Primary School was named St. Angela’s after the foundress of the Ursuline Order, Saint Angela Merici.
A new block for the Preparatory School – St. Angela’s – was erected in 1966.  The foundation stone for the new Science block was laid on May 04, 1969 – in time for the 75th anniversary of the Foundation of the Ursuline community in Barbados.  Thus it became possible to offer the three sciences as well as the subjects usually found in secondary schools, but with the addition of swimming.
At about this time the Parent Teacher Association was established.  This functions vibrantly with wonderful cooperation of many parents.
The curriculum at St. Ursula’s always extended to the Advanced Level.  When the Barbados Community College was formed it was no longer possible to maintain the Sixth Form since many students preferred to attend the newly formed Community College.  Thus, the Sixth Form was discontinued and efforts were put into the five years of Secondary education.
In St. Angela’s the children have always been well prepared for Secondary School with many of the girls continuing on into St. Ursula’s. The curriculum is broad and has always included Art, Swimming, Drama, Spanish and Science as well as the more usual Mathematics and English.
In both the Secondary and Primary Departments Religious Education has always been a priority as well as the personal development of the pupils and their formation in values.
In the 1980s the school moved into the Computer age.  In the beginning the girls had three computers for their use but in the mid-90s a computer room was established with ten computers.  By 2007 this had been greatly enlarged to the lovely laboratory it is today with over 30 computers as well as all the attendant machines for the modern age of technology.  The Primary school, also, has its well provided computer room where even the youngest children have an opportunity to learn basic skills.
The Ursuline Schools have always recognised the value of the performing arts and numerous presentations have been staged over the years.  In 1989 we decided it was time to stage a major pantomime.  Mrs. Jill Otway, together with her faithful helpers, embarked upon the production of “Twinkle”.  This was a successful venture, small by the standards of future productions, and very well received by our audiences.  Mrs. Otway has continued to write and produce our pantomimes over the years, each with its positive message.  We have all recognized the benefits the children derive from participating in them – learning team work, commitment, self confidence, trustworthiness and creativity.   
In 1994 the centenary celebrations drew past students from the Caribbean, Venezuela, North America, Europe and as far afield as Australia and New Zealand.
In 2008 a new wing was added to the original building to provide the first convent ever built in Barbados for the community.  It was thus possible to realise a dream held for more than 40 years: to relocate the Chemistry laboratory in what had been the convent kitchen and dining room.  Until this time the laboratory had been housed in a small area built originally as a dressing room for the School Hall,   For the current school year, 2008-2009, this new laboratory is up and running.
 “Act, bestir yourself, make efforts, cry to God with all your heart and you will certainly see wonders.” These are the words of a woman of prayer, a woman of faith, a woman of action, a woman for whom JESUS was the one and only Treasure.

Angela, born in Desenzano, Italy, was orphaned at an early age, grew in faith and wisdom and firmly believed that she had been chosen by God for a plan He had in mind. She believed that she was someday to found a Company of women consecrated to the Lord – this she did in 1535 and Angela was accorded the title of Foundress.

The age in which Angela lived and worked saw great suffering which left people spiritually and materially powerless and hungry. The corruption of moral values left families disunited and hurting and many lives were ruined as a consequence of numerous wars. In response to these conditions, the Ursulines opened orphanages and schools. The Order spread rapidly and today there are communities across the world who pattern their lives on this wonderful woman whose spirituality was deeply rooted in the Word of God.

 Angela Merici died on January 27, 1540 and was canonized a Saint of the Church in 1807. She was recognised as a woman of strength, a woman of vision and of peace, but most of all, a woman of God.

 She truly lived and worked as the Ursuline motto declares : “Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone be the glory.” e.
Historians between 969 and 976 present a summary of the story of St. Ursula and her Companions as a British Princess who had made a vow of virginity.

It is told that they were on Pilgrimage to Rome and Germany. As they sailed up the River Rhine, they refused to succumb to the entreaties of pagan lovers. Finally, at Cologne, Ursula and her Companions were ambushed by the Huns and martyred. Greatly esteemed for their courage and fidelity to Jesus, Ursula came to be regarded as the protectress of students. Some of the great Universities of the time – Paris, Vienna, Poland and Italy declared her officially to be their Patroness.

As for popular devotion, countless pilgrims made their way to Cologne each year on October 21st. Certain coins of the 14th. Century were stamped with the image of St. Ursula navigating her fleet up the Rhine. Inspired by this courageous Princess, Angela Merici, herself a humble woman, chose to name her Company “Ursulines”.

Today the school song of all Ursuline schools calls our pupils to exercise the same courage in their fidelity shown by both Angela and Ursula – “Storm or cloud will not dismay us We will do and dare”.