Forest Gate's growing mid-nineteenth century population was added to by an influx of Irish economic refugees, fleeing the potato famine (see here for examples).
The then Strafford Catholic priest, James McCoin was on the look-out for help in educating Catholic children, as a counterweight to the CofE and Non-Conformist education provided by local charity schools (see here, for details of these schools and early formal education in Forest Gate).
In February 1862 he invited a party of four Ursuline nuns from Belgium to visit the Upton area (the more developed part of Forest Gate, at this time). The Ursuline order was one largely committed to education and had been seeking a base in England for at least a decade. They had previously sought bases elsewhere, including in Walthamstow - but to no avail.
Following their visit to Forest Gate, they acquired a semi-detached house with a large garden in Upton Lane, then described as "in the country village of Upton". They bought the adjoining house the following year, which together, in the St Angela's story, became known as "The Old House".
|Some of St Angela's pupils, pre 1887,|
when school uniform first introduced
Unfortunately, neither does there appear to be any surviving images of the properties, prior to very extensive later alterations by the Ursulines. The houses were, initially, to be the nuns' convent. The four original nuns were soon joined by four more.
On 28 May 1862 Mother Agatha and Mother Victoire began to teach in two cottages in Sun Row, as Green Street was known. The following year the nuns had the stables in the convent converted into a school - a big improvement on Sun Row - and moved the teaching there.
|First assembly hall, 1889 - 1914|
In 1874 Mass began to be said in the school, thus saving the local faithful a weekly trip to Stratford - and continued until the church of St Antony's was built a short distance down the road in Upton.
|The chapel, as it was in 1884|
In 1882 a new wing was started at St Angela's and included a chapel and more classrooms.
|1884 convent building|
|Sporty boarders at St Angela's, post 1887,|
but pre 1900 - note cricket bats on far left of photo
An early pupil described arriving at the school:
My first sight of Forest Gate was when the train drew up at a wooden platform, backed by a hedge, which displayed a placard: 'Forest Gate'. There was nothing to be seen but trees and a country road. Only one house did we pass on the way to the convent, and everything was still and silent.
The school building, itself, was homelike ... there was nothing but a notice-board to indicate it was a school.
|Boarders' study hall, built 1884|
|The convent, photo 1902|
|St Angela's grotto, pre-1914|
|St Angela's assembly hall, pre-1914|
|Convent garden, 1910|
|Children's garden, 1922|
|First science laboratory, opened 1907|
|St Angela's prep school, 1914|
With the onset of the second world war, the school and its pupils were evacuated to Thetford in Norfolk and Newquay in Cornwall and the "Old House" was used as a public shelter for local people during the hostilities.
|St Angela's evacuees potato|
picking in Newquay during WW2
|Aerial view, 1953|
By 1980 there were only about 20 nun/teachers at St Angela's.
On 16 March 1982 a fire swept the sisters' dormitory quarters on a day when the girls, or "Brownies" (so called because of the colour of their uniforms) were not present. The damage was substantial and many of the nuns had to be re-located during the extensive restoration process.
|Tentacles spread into Ilford|
St Angela's continues to prosper today and is designated "Outstanding" by Ofsted.