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Westgate

Foundation of Westgate

The Ursuline School in Westgate came into existence in 1904 when a group of refugees, who were Ursuline Sisters, fled from France with a number of their pupils. They were leaving their homeland because a hostile Government had driven them from their Convent and School in Bouloigne-sur-Mer and had passed laws that made it impossible for the Sisters to continue their work of Christian Education anywhere in France.

The School they were leaving had a history spanning some 300 years during which time it had become well known as a School of excellence, attracting pupils from England, Ireland and Scotland. During this time schools for girls were rare and when the Ursulines founded their School in Boulogne in 1624 there was no other Girls' School anywhere near.

The Sisters who set out with such faith would have known that this was not the first time their School and Convent had been closed to them. During the Napoleonic Wars, in 1792, the revolutionary guard, had ransacked the entire property and driven the nuns out. The suffering that ensued was great and has been well chronicled. A number of the sisters were never to return because of ill-health or even death. Others, however, did return and began again to build for a future which many of them lived to see and all would have experienced the relief and joy of finding themselves listed among the Schools enabled to teach girls by a Decree of Napoleon himself.

Just over a century later the sisters would have good reason to recall their history which would have been kept alive among them, and this would have provided the impetus to flee the country, and the faith to believe that their work would survive. It did, though not in Bouloigne-sur-Mer but in Westgate-on Sea where the French sisters remained long enough to nurture their inheritance until it began to flourish in a different soil.

Initially the Boarding School developed to meet the needs of parents working in the Colonies or serving in the Forces. Then, as educational opportunity was extended throughout the Country scholarships were made available by the Kent Education Committee whereby successful Catholic pupils could take up day places at The Ursuline Convent School. Over a few years the number of day pupils equalled the number of boarders. Meanwhile, developing countries were prepared to support successful pupils to study in the United Kingdom thus enriching the School Community with the culture and gifts of many ethnic groups. It was an exciting time.

In 1995, however, the School had to face another challenge with the sudden closure of their neighbouring school, St Augustine's College where not a few of the girls had brothers. The obvious solution seemed to be for the Ursuline School to become Co-educational and to phase out boarding. It is now a Diocesan School within the maintained system catering for all Catholic pupils. It has been a very long journey.

Ursuline College Westgate: www.ursuline.kent.sch.uk