FEATURE: Appeal to share your memories of a long-lost Hitchin school

Pupils at St Michael's College. Credit Stefan Orszulik.

Pupils at St Michael's College. Credit Stefan Orszulik. - Credit: Archant

A former pupil of a long-forgotten Hitchin school is appealing for information on the site which is now Hitchin police station.

St Michael's College circa 1952. Credit Stefan Orszulik.

St Michael's College circa 1952. Credit Stefan Orszulik. - Credit: Archant

Stefan Orszulik who attended St Michael’s College in Grove Road is asking for memories, photographs and old school magazines from anyone who had links to the establishment which closed in 1968.

St Michael’s lineage saw it resurface as Stevenage’s John Henry Newman School but Mr Orszulik believes there may be a number of Old Michealeans in the Hitchin area aged between 60 to 80 – and would like to get in touch with them.

St Michael’s was founded by a Friar Prevel from the Society of St Edmund in 1903. His order was persecuted in France and decided to settle in Hitchin.

The Edmundian society employed four priests to instruct five pupils after buying a house on the site and St Michael’s College was completed in 1906, with a new wing then built in 1919.

But by 1925 the Edmundian Fathers found themselves in dire financial straights caused in no small part by their ambitious plans.

Priests from the Order of Augustinians of the Assumption gained control of the Catholic church which was built, along with the college – this also marked the end of the Edmundian Fathers in the UK.

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Discipline was severe as priest wore long black habits, and around their waists they wore a leather belt which fell almost to their feet – which was a convenient if harsh means of applying punishments to pupils.

In the inter-war years the school gained popularity among the increasing number of Catholics in the area and the school housed a number of boarding pupils.

Days were long – 7am starts, and 9am evening prayers were a must, before bed at 9.15pm – yet the school was a victim of its own success.

As the number of pupils requiring Catholic grammar school education continued to rise after the Second World War, new premises were needed. Due to space constraints expanding on the Grove Road site was not an option.

However, the growth of Stevenage new town during the 1960s led to the school being relocated there experiencing a subsequent amalgamation with St Angela’s School for Girls – before becoming the John Henry Newman School.

With thanks to Stefan Orszulik. For more visit his blog stmichaelshitchin.wordpress.com where you can contact him if you have any stories you wish to share.