The Story of our School


Nun Shield

The inspiration of the congregation of The Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, St Thomas More School was opened in 1965. The Sisters were the original trustees of the school, but this role has now been handed over to the Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust (DOWAT).

Although the Sisters are no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the school, we greatly value their interest and support. It is important that all those linked to the school understand and appreciate the enormous sacrifices that were made by the Sisters so that Letchworth could have its own Catholic school. The achievements of the Sisters are our heritage and are greatly valued by us all.

Sister Bede was the last Sister to teach at St. Thomas More School. Sadly, she died in January 2000. You will notice a tree commemorating her life has been planted in the sensory garden at the front of the school. Our group room on the Junior playground has also been named in Sr. Bede's memory.

Since 1965 there have been five Headteachers: Sr. Veronica, Sr. Anne, Mrs. Grovenor-Johnson, Mrs. Hewitson, and Mrs Perry, who currently serves as our Headteacher.

St Thomas More

st thomas more portrait

English statesman and writer, known for his religious stance against King Henry VIII that cost him his life. More was born in London on February 7, 1478, and educated at Canterbury Hall (now Christ Church), University of Oxford. He studied law after leaving Oxford, but his primary interests were in science, theology, and literature. During his early manhood, he wrote comedies and spent much time in the study of Greek and Latin literature. In 1499 he determined to become a monk and subjected himself to the discipline of the Carthusians. Four years later More gave up this plan, and in 1504 he entered Parliament. One of his first acts was to urge a decrease in a proposed appropriation for King Henry VII. In revenge, the king imprisoned More's father and did not release him until a fine was paid and More himself had withdrawn from public life. After the death of the king in 1509, More became active once more. In 1510, he was appointed undersheriff of London.

During the next decade, More attracted the attention of King Henry VIII, and served frequently on diplomatic missions to the Low Countries. In 1518 he became a member of the Privy Council; he was knighted in 1521. Two years later, More was made Speaker of the House of Commons. During this period Henry VIII made More one of his favorites and often sought his company for philosophical conversations. More became lord chancellor in 1529; he was the first layman to hold the post. His fortunes changed, however, when he refused to support Henry's request for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. More's religious scruples made him unwilling to sanction any defiance of papal authority. He resigned from the chancellorship in 1532 and withdrew from public notice. The king resented the attitude of his former friend and had him imprisoned in 1534. More was tried the following year; he refused to take an oath of supremacy, asserting that Parliament did not have the right to usurp papal authority in favor of the king. Condemned for his stand, More was decapitated on July 7, 1535. In 1935 he was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

More is best known for Utopia (1516), a satirical account of life on the fictitious island of Utopia. On this island the interests of the individual are subordinate to those of society at large, all people must do some work, universal education and religious toleration are practiced, and all land is owned in common. These conditions are contrasted with those of English society, to the substantial disadvantage of the latter. Utopia was the forerunner of a series of similar books. Among the best-known of these are Candide by the French author and philosopher Voltaire, Erewhon by the English novelist Samuel Butler, and A Dream of John Ball by the English poet and artist William Morris.

"More, Sir Thomas," Microsoft® Encarta® 96 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. © Funk & Wagnalls Corporation. All rights reserved.

History of Letchworth Garden City

"The world's first Garden City"

letchworth garden city logo

Letchworth, a thriving industrial and residential town with a population of approximately 32,000 was the first planned and developed 'Garden City' in the world and forerunner of new-town planning and thinking. It has good lines of communication, being close to the A1 trunk road, halfway between Hitchin and Baldock, with a station on the electrified rail route from Kings Cross to Cambridge via Hitchin. Fastest trains now reach the capital in 40 minutes.

ebenezer howard

The story of this modern town started in 1903, seventeen years before Welwyn Garden City and several years, too, before the Hampstead Garden Suburb in North London. The idea came from Ebenezer Howard's book 'Tomorrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform' written in 1898. To translate the idea into actuality a competition was organised, which was won by Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin, whose plan was adopted in 1904. The site consisted of nearly 4,000 acres crossed by the railway with several roads running parallel to it. Making use of these they added a large town square south of the railway with roads radiating from it, the major route continuing north across the railway and Norton Common. To the south, outside the boundary of the new planned area, lay the old village of Letchworth.

letchworth coat of arms

 The design and the first decade or so of development owed a great deal to Parker and Unwin, who remained the consultants to the Garden City Company (Unwin until 1914, Parker until 1943). Growth of the town was controlled and, in particular, the location of factories had to be kept strictly in the correct relation one to another. It was not easy to attract industry so the town was slow to grow, with the result that the planned public buildings around the town square did not materialise for some considerable time.

The visual effect of Letchworth's planning is seen in the quite impressive approach to its centre along Broadway with its avenues of linden trees leading to the Town Square and its attractive rose beds. Here are located the Town Hall (1935) and the Museum and Art Gallery (erected in 1914 and extended in 1962) together with Public Library erected in 1938. More recent buildings have included the Roman Catholic Church of St. Hugh (1962), several large office blocks erected in the 1960s and 70s and, in Norton Way North, the very striking church of St. George, was built in 1963.

Letchworth's factories are grouped on an industrial estate, a now common enough feature but, at the time it was started, quite a revolutionary idea. The main shopping area is concentrated in the town centre and the wide pavements and well designed shops (with ample car parking) make shopping a pleasure. The newest extension to the shopping centre was opened in 1975.

Open spaces and recreational amenities are amply provided with a modern Leisure Centre, an open air swimming pool, cinema, and, in the centre, the Howard Park which, with its lawns, flower beds and children's pool, is a most pleasant amenity. To the north is Norton Common, 63 acres of unspoilt grass and woodland adjacent to the ancient highway of Icknield Way. Both these areas house Letchworth's famous black squirrels. First sighted in 1944, these truly black squirrels are found only within four miles o f the town centre. They have featured on national television on several occasions, and a local public house is named after them.

The old village of Letchworth centres around the Church of St. Mary, a 12th and 13th century building with no tower but a simple timber bell turret. Close by is Letchworth Hall (now an hotel) a Jacobean brick-built house with 19th and 20th century additions. The prominent tower is Victorian.

There are two other villages within the compass of Letchworth's boundaries - Norton and Willian. Norton, beyond the expanse of the Common, has a small church partly of the Perpendicular period but with both earlier and later masonry with a 14th century font and a 17th century pulpit.

To the south is Willian, a place of great charm with chestnut trees around the church and a village pond overlooked by a public house. The vicarage is a half-timbered building and Punchardon Hall is of the 18th century. The church, of much interest, was built from the 12th and 15th centuries. It has some chancel seats beautifully carved with poppyheads, whilst monuments include a mid-15th century brass depicting Richard Golden in his priestly vestments.

Letchworth, although now matured, is a still growing residential, commercial and industrial town, drawing visitors from all over the world who come to see and study this, the first planned 'Garden City'.                    

This Page © 1995 Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation