The wish that the market town of Romford would become part of the Mercy mission materialised for the Brentwood Sisters when, in 1890, Mgr H. Tilley sought for Sisters to teach in St Edward’s Elementary School in the town. The school was in condemned premises and the fact that the two Sisters assigned to Romford were obliged to make the double train journey each day, meant that there was little possibility of making contact with the families of their pupils. Because of the resulting restriction of their apostolate, the Sisters were withdrawn after three years service.
In 1908, following the closure of a small Board School in Brentwood, Romford was designated y the Community as a place in which to establish a Branch House which would incorporate another Boarding School To this end The Laurels was rented on Western road, and when the School – St Mary’s Convent High School – had grown beyond all expectations and needed all available space a house for the Community was rented near the Church in Laurie Square. When very soon afterwards, Brooklyn which was next door to the Laurels, came on the market, it was purchased by the Congregation and the little Community, under the leadership of Sr M Xavier McCarthy, moved into their new home. In 1912, through the generosity of a benefactor, a permanent Chapel was built for the Sisters, the first Mass being offered therein on 25th March 1913, that date being thereafter designated Foundation Day.
In 1918 in response to the request of the newly appointed Parish Priest – Fr J. van Meenan – two Sisters commenced teaching in St Edward’s Parish School and during the years that followed, both the Parish and Convent Schools flourished. Boarder accommodation ceased to be offered in 1937, and the space thus released was used to provide extra classrooms. The outbreak of World War II brought serious disruption in both schools and Convent, as many of the pupils and their teachers were evacuated: but, as time went by, a semblance of normality was restored until the danger of ‘doodlebugs’ forced evacuation.
After the war, the Upper School was phased out and finally closed in 1952. It was difficult to plan ahead in view of the proposed development of the highway system in the Western Road area, in connection with which a Compulsory Purchase Order was expected. Eventually, in 1961, building of Hare Park Independent School began and ten years alter, when St Mary’s High School closed, its remaining pupils moved to the new school which then assumed the title of St Mary’s Hare Park School. Lack of Sisters to replace those who were retiring forced the transfer of responsibility for the school to a Parents’ Trust (1987) which undertook to maintain its Christian ethos. The Sisters continued to teach in the Parish Schools until 1992.
As redevelopment continued, the move from Western Road became urgent. A detached property with a large garden was bought and adapted in Burntwood Avenue, Hornchurch, and was ready for occupation in 1973. The lovely garden proved to be a real boon when, in 1989, the sick and elderly Sisters transferred from Brentwood where the large Convent was made available to the Sion Community for Evangelisation. Enjoying their Sabbath Years in peace-filled surroundings, these Sisters play a vital supportive role for the Sisters involved in active apostolates.