In 1855, it was Bishop Thomas Grant's invitation to the De La Salle Brothers in France that launched their first school in Britain, St Joseph's College. They arrived on Lady Day, 25th March 1855, and began teaching the boy's classes at the Redemporist St Mary's Church elementary school in Clapham Old Town. In September 1856 the Brothers first rented and then later bought Brooklands at 49 Clapham High Street. It was to be the cradle and home of the College for the next 30 years. By September 1872, The College began the new academic year with 100 boys crammed into the, by now, limited space.
In January 1885, Brother Potamian took over from Brother Abban as Director. Now as head, he decided the school was overcrowded and bought a property called Hill House Estatein Tooting. After the move to Tooting, members of the old Josephian Society, as the Old Boy's Association formed in1886 was then known, decided they needed a new name. At one of their monthly dinners, it was suggested that the name '49 Club' be adopted. Old Boys decided the brass numerals adorning the former College front door would make the perfect souvenir and mascot. The number plate was fixed in a silver circular band united by a chain of 49 links. That chain remains the Badge of Office of the Club's Chairman to this day.
The College's Tooting Period lasted only seven years. Productive and fulfilling as the Tooting years were, the College rapidly ran into debt and another financial crisis. On 12 August 1895, a circular to all parents told them the College would re-open in much reduced circumstances, in Upper Tooting, at a house called The Grange, in Trinity Road. Soon came yet another move - this time in August 1897 to Dane House, a 10 acre property at Denmark Hill. It was leased for 14 years and during this period financial matters and student numbers improved.
In 1903, the Brothers decided to buy an elegant property called Grecian Villa at Beulah Hill. To increase playing space, Norbury was purchased and the field known as the Second Meadow leased from the Metropolitan Water Board. At first the Brothers' community consisted partly of Brothers from Paris and others of Irish descent. In 1909, however, the College passed into the hands of a group of French Brothers expelled from France by an anti-clerical Government. Their Brother Director was Brother Julius. When he returned to France in 1918, there were 380 students at the College. Among the buildings he commisioned were the South Wing in 1910, and the magnificent Chapel.
The College continued to grow under a succession of Directors for the next 30 years. In 1928, the North Wing was created, extending from the Chapel with classrooms on two floors with the senior dormitory above. The single storey classrooms alongside the playground became the playhall which is the Cafeteria today. In 1937, a gymnasium was built with changing rooms and three classrooms above, one being the art room. In due course, this became the Art Block. Brother Elwin Joseph's appointment after the war, as Brother Director, saw the end of French Brother Directors. He had a pre-fabricated building erected to bring the Science laboratories up to Ministry of Education standards. The Ministry recognised the College as "efficient". This enabled Catholic boys who passed the 11+ to attend as free-place students, the fees paid by the Local Authority. The State system of class names was adopted; 1A, 1B...5A, Sixth Form. Students below age 11 formed the Junior School.
Under Brother Leo, the Science Building was added in 1958 and the College became three form entry. His successor, Brother Alan Maurice gave emphasis to University entrance and oversaw the building of the Hall Block which provided an assembly hall, library and sports hall. During Brother Edwin's time, the top half of Norbury was sold to become a housing estate, extensive playing fields were purchased at Warlingham, and there were increasing numbers of lay staff.
The transformation led to a new stage in the history of the school. In 1972, St Joseph's, with Brother David as Brother Director, gave up its independent status to become a Voluntary Aided School. Students no longer had to pay fees and Croydon Education Authority took over financial running of the College. St Joseph's College now became a six-form entry comprehensive school. The Brothersthen took up residence in Glencar and the adjacent house, Petersfield, 405 Beulah Hill until its recent conversation to private flats. The purchase of Ryecroft enabled the College to extend sporting facilities by providing five tennis courts and an indoor swimming pool. In 1974, the Design and Technology building was added.
Following the brief Headmastership of Brother Paul, Brother Anthony was Head for 13 years and saw the first female students enrolled in the Sixth Form. In this time, the Sports Hall and the Caretaker's House were built. In 1994, Mr Eamon Connolly became the first lay Head of the College. New buildings continued to be constructed with the Jubilee Building (Lower School/History Block) in 2000, followed by the Cisco Room in 2003.
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