140 Years of Catholic Education in Manchester
When Cardinal Vaughan rented a house, 16 Devonshire Street, Grosvenor Square, off Oxford Road in December 1875 to be used as a school to educate the sons of Manchester Catholics, little did he realise that almost 140 years later nearly 800 boys and girls would be on the roll of St Bede’s; a far cry from the 14 boys who were divided into two forms when St Bede’s Manchester College opened on 28th January 1876.
It was the first school under the patronage of St Bede: possibly the name was chosen because the Cardinal’s brother, a Benedictine and the Archbishop of Sydney, was Dom Bede Vaughan. In August 1877, the Manchester Aquarium on Alexandra Road and the plot of land around it was purchased by the then Bishop Vaughan for College purposes. On 10th September 1877, St Bede’s College re-opened in the Manchester Aquarium with 45 pupils who were taught by 11 staff, 8 of them priests.
In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the Vaughan building was constructed and in 1892, Salford Catholic Grammar School (the Diocesan Junior seminary) amalgamated with the College which duly became the place where over 500 priests, not to mention several Bishops and Archbishops were educated.
The College Chapel was built in 1898 and the Henshaw Building, named after the fifth Bishop of Salford, was opened around 1932. The Beck Building, named after the seventh Bishop of Salford, was opened in 1958 while the Regis Building, built in the first decade of the twentieth Century as a retreat house for the Cenacle Convent, was bought by the College in 1970. It remained empty until 1984 when the Governors took the decision to make St Bede’s co-educational. Over the next three years, the Regis building was completely renovated and allowed the College roll to increase from 630 at the beginning of the 1980s to nearly 800 today.
There have been many changes and Cardinal Vaughan and the early generations of Catholic boys, who owed their education at St Bede’s to his foresight, would probably not recognise the College if they were to see it today. However, we believe that that they would certainly identify with its values, which remain as they were in the last quarter of the 19th Century: academic excellence, civilised standards of behaviour and an awareness of traditional family values underpinned by the message of the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church.