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Our History

Our school’s founders

Grays Convent High School is entrusted by the Congregation of La Sainte Union, which was founded in northern France in 1826 by Father Jean Baptiste de Brabant, in response to the great social needs following the French Revolution. Today the union’s Sisters minister in 13 countries around the world to bring:

  • Reconciliation and healing to a broken world
  • Unity for all people in a divided world
  • Peace and justice in a fearful world

La Sainte Union at Grays

The first Sisters of La Sainte Union came to Grays in 1899, at the request of Cardinal Vaughan, Archbishop of Westminster, for a "good, zealous community of nuns" who would teach in the two parish schools. He later wrote to the Superior General of La Sainte Union in 1898 to say, "There is no mission in or near London that offers such a future for the salvation of souls as Grays does."

Debrabant’s Vision and the Work of the Sisters Continues

Lucie Contraine and Eulalie Ramon were among the first hundred women to become the first La Sainte Union Sisters in 1843.

The La Sainte union Sisters continued to grow and they set up schools in England, Ireland, Buenos Aires, Argentina, West Indies, The Cameroon, Tanzania, Burundi, Benin and Haiti.

In 1899, when a few English speaking L.S.U. Sisters came from France. Four of them went to teach in Tilbury and three in Grays.

The Convent Day School in Grays was opened on the 29th of October 1899 with only three pupils. The Convent was in Orsett Road where the opticians Clement Clarke is today. It soon grew and a larger site was needed, so the school moved to College Avenue. Mass was first celebrated here on 19th March 1906. The Sisters themselves moved from Orsett Road to their home in Wylies, at the end of College Avenue.

The School as established by the Sisters is characterised by
Union, prayer, worship, service and work.

Our Prayer of Thanksgiving:

We give thanks to God, for Father Debrabant and the Sisters who founded our school. We give thanks for their faithful example, dedication and hard work. We pray that we will continue their work by making Jesus the centre of our lives through prayer and by bringing God’s love to everyone we meet.
Amen

History of La Sainte Union in Grays and Tilbury

Our school was set up by the La Sainte Union (the Holy Union) community of Catholic sisters. La Sainte Union des Sacres Coeurs was founded in France in 1826. The school is characterised by union, prayer, worship, service and work.

On October 29, 1899, La Sainte Union opened a fee-paying day school, known as the Convent Day School. The school initially grew slowly. It opened with only three pupils, and by the end of the year there were still only nine. The survival of the school was to remain in doubt until the 1930’s. Both boys and girls were accepted for many years. However, soon after the day school had opened, the Sisters were looking for a site on which the school could expand. They chose land in College Avenue and by 1906, the building was ready for  occupation.

On the 19th March 1906 holy Mass was celebrated for the first time in the new Convent chapel and on the 24th March the Sisters left 42, Orsett Road and moved into College Avenue.

Part of the 1930’s building was destroyed in the Second World War, but was later rebuilt and extended.
After new classrooms and an assembly hall were built in 1934, the convent day school grew quite rapidly and it earned an excellent reputation.

In 1989 the Sisters moved out of the Convent to enable further expansion of the Convent School. A computer suite and music and art blocks were established. The Sisters then lived in the house which was built in 1872 and had been known as “The Dell” (when owned by Alfred Russell Wallace) and then “Wylie’s” (Mr Wylie was a vet), and was known as “LSU Convent”. Wallace worked closely with Darwin; together they produced ‘The Origin of the Species’.

The Sisters sadly left The Convent when it was sold in February 2016.  The statue of Our Lady and St Bernadette was relocated in the grounds of the school as a reminder of their long history and influence here.