Below is a brief
history of Lagan Village and St Anthony's Schools and the nearby
Cross & Passion Convent. Sadly for the parish, these no
longer exist. The former boys' school (above) and the convent
(below) have both been demolished to make way for new housing. St
Anthony's Primary School has now become St Vincent's Centre; a post-primary
school dedicated to the care of Young Adults.
Lagan Village School
1870 . . . 1973
Towards the end of the
19th century, the Catholic population was increasing in the East
of the City and Fr Felix McKeating, Administrator of St Matthew's,
established a school at Lagan Village. This building was at Richardson
Street on the Ravenhill Road and consisted of a large upstairs
room which had previously been used as a school under the management
of a Presbyterian Minister.
It was opened as a Catholic School in January 1870 with a staff
of two teachers. By the end of the year it had a third teacher
and an average attendance of over 90 pupils. Five years later
the lower storey was acquired and fitted out as a classroom.
In 1920, disturbances began in the City and in May, 1922, arsonists
set fire to the School and over the next few days almost demolished
it. Later that year, after the violence had subsided, Lagan Village
School was reconstructed and re-opened as a single-storey girls'
school. For many years it also had a class of about 15 to 20 infant
After St Monica's Secondary School opened, Lagan Village lost
a large number of its senior girls and was then allowed to enrol
boys at all levels to fill the empty places. Throughout the 1960's
its enrolment stood at about 100 pupils, but the building was
old with cramped conditions and still lit by gas. With the opening
of the new Girls' School in Willowfield, Lagan Village School
was officially closed in 1968.
During the renovation of the Boys' School in Willowfield Drive,
however, some of the classes were accommodated in the old school
building. Lagan Village School was eventually sold in 1973.
1913 . . .
St Anthony's Boys' and Girls'
Schools (above) were blessed and opened on 30th June 1913 and
were named for St Anthony of Padua. The boys were located
upstairs and the girls, downstairs. Designed by the Belfast Architect,
J J O'Donnell, the building could accommodate 350 pupils. Two
sisters from the Cross & Passion Convent in Bryson St travelled
daily to Willowfield to teach in the girls' school. In 1932, Willowfield
House and the surrounding gardens were sold by the diocesan authorities
to the Cross & Passion Order. With the increasing number
of pupils, more sisters joined the school staff and eventually
ten of them moved into the newly-acquired Convent (see below)
& Passion Convent at Willowfield
. . .
At this time, school enrolment
had increased so much that the schools in Willowfield Drive became
inadequate. In 1966, a site was obtained in the grounds of the
Convent for a separate girls' school which was opened on 30th
September, 1968 (see below) It could accommodate 250 children.
Two years later, St Anthony's Boys' School was renovated.
St Anthony's Primary School
1970 . . .
By 1970 violence had flared again
in Northern Ireland and over the next period of years, parishioners
were to feel vulnerable and frightened. As families moved out
of the area, school numbers dropped dramatically. In 1978, the
Convent was put up for sale and, by this time, school numbers
stood at 94 in total.
It was decided to amalgamate the boys' and girls' schools in the
new school building. St Anthony's Girls' School then became St
Anthony's Primary School. The Boys' school in Willowfield Drive
was sold in 1982 to the Rupert Stanley College (later to become
the Belfast Institute for Further & Higher Education), and
was used for a number of years as an Educational Outreach Centre.
When dwindling numbers made it
impossible to carry on, St Anthony's Primary School finally closed
its doors in June, 2002. In September of the same year the school
re-opened as St Vincent's Centre and continues to provide for
the educational needs of young people.
(From 'A History of the Parish'
by Very Rev Ambrose Macauley, PP )
of the Parish Schools 1938 - 1988