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Our History

Although it has changed site several times within the E1 postcode, Bishop Challoner School has been teaching young people in the East End for over 100 Years.

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The first Convent of Mercy opens in Mercers Place.


A new Junior Mixed school operates from its first site in Lucas Street.

War Years

Many Tower Hamlets students are evacuated from the city during the Second World War and The East End is bombed heavily due to its proximity to the docks. The Lucas Street School is used as a rest centre until destroyed on 17th March 1945. Saint Mary and Saint Michael’s School next door is also badly hit after only being open for a few years. The secondary girls’ school, now named ‘Bishop Challoner Girls’, is housed at Redmans Road. The Boys’ School, now called Bishop Challoner School is in Johnson Street.


The school moves to Christian Street.


Bishop Challoner is split between two sites. Once the Girls in the lower school at Christian Street reach 15 they move to Bishop Challoner Upper School in Damien Street (a mixed school in previous years) for their further education. The Damien Street School in this respect is the first Bishop Challoner Sixth Form. The boys school is closed and amalgamated with St Bernard’s and St Gregory’s Boys’ Schools, moving to Bethnal Green and becoming St Bernard’s.


Sister Mary Joseph Cleary retires from the headship of Bishop Challoner, a post she has held since 1933. By now there are 15 forms with 450 students overall.


The Upper School moves from Damien Street to a new building on Lukin Street, part of the school’s current site. The new building is partially paid for by the school salaries of the nuns teaching there and these new premises are opened and blessed by Cardinal John Heenan on 28th June. Bishop Challoner Lower School continues at Christian Street in a building leased from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.


Trusteeship of Bishop Challoner transfers from the Sisters of Mercy to the Archdiocese of Westminster in preparation for Sister Berchmans’ retirement as head and the appointment of Mrs Myers, Bishop Challoner School’s first lay headteacher in 1992.


Boys’ are now admitted to the Sixth Form and the technology and Business areas are upgraded. A new Sixth Form building is opened by Cardinal GB Hume


The trusteeship is transferred to the Diocese of Westminster

1997 - 1999

The Christian Street building closes and the school moves to a newly built teaching and administration block with the main entrance on Hardinge Street. Several other upgrades to the facilities at the former Lukin Street site (now Hardinge Street) are also included in the move. The new facilities are opened by Cardinal GB Hume in January 1999.

2001 - 2007

Bishop Challoner becomes the country’s first federated school in 2001, with the Boys’ School opening in September in a small corner of the Shadwell Centre, Commercial Road. Teachers that teach in both schools have to walk back and forth between the Shadwell Centre and Lukin Street sites. This goes on for two years, with numbers of around 90 boys, but when in 2003 the numbers swell to 180 the Shadwell Centre site becomes untenable. A £47,000,000 redevelopment plan is drawn up and after some delays building work begins in 2006. A temporary school building is erected near the Lukin Street School - a 3 story steel structure fully fitted out with classrooms, a dining room, kitchen and school hall.

2007 - 2010

The first completed buildings become available to the Girls’ School. The Sports Hall, Theatre and Dance Studio are built first, followed by the eastern part of East/West Building and the southern part of the North/South building. The dining room and the rest of the school are the last bits to be completed with the Boys’ School moving into the new buildings in 2009.


The completed school is dedicated by Cardinal Nichols (then Archbishop Nichols) on 22nd January in a packed Saint Mary and Saint Michaels Church with staff and pupils past and present in attendance. A special setting of the Mass, ‘Missa in Honorem Episcipi Challoneri.’ for choir, congregation, orchestra and organ was composed by Dr Chris Maxim for the occasion