Stonyhurst Saint Mary's Hall

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Stonyhurst College
Latin: Aula Sanctae Mariae
Stonyhurst Saint Mary's Hall
Clitheroe, Lancashire, England BB7 9PU
Coordinates 53°50′49″N2°28′19″W / 53.847°N 2.472°W / 53.847; -2.472 Coordinates: 53°50′49″N2°28′19″W / 53.847°N 2.472°W / 53.847; -2.472
Type Private day and boarding
MottoQuant Je Puis
(As much as I can)
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic (Jesuit)
Established1807;216 years ago (1807) (as Hodder Place)
1946 (as Saint Mary's Hall)
Department for Education URN 119825 Tables
HeadmasterIan Murphy
GenderCoeducational, since 1997
Age3to 13
Number of students240~
Colour(s)Green, White
LinesCampion, St Omers, Shireburn, Weld
Affiliated school Stonyhurst College
Patron saint Blessed Virgin Mary

Stonyhurst St Mary's Hall (commonly known as S.M.H.) is the preparatory school to Stonyhurst College. It is an independent co-educational Catholic school, for ages 3–13, founded by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). It is primarily a day school but has some boarders. As the lineal descendant of Hodder Place the school lays claim to be the oldest preparatory school in the country. [1]


It is adjacent to Stonyhurst College, outside the small village of Hurst Green, near Clitheroe in Lancashire, England.


Jesuit College

SMH logo, introduced in 2010 SMH logo.jpg
SMH logo, introduced in 2010

Stonyhurst College was founded in 1593 as the English Jesuit College at St Omers in present-day France, at a time when Catholic education was prohibited by law in England. Having moved to Bruges in 1762 and then Liège in 1773, due to the persecution of the Jesuit order which ran the school, it finally settled at Stonyhurst in 1794. An attempt had been made to found a preparatory school to the College at St Omers, which would have been based in Boulogne, but this was abandoned and ultimately thwarted by the expulsion of the Jesuits from France in 1762. [2] In 1768 new buildings were erected for a preparatory school at Bruges; this 'Little College' was closed in 1775, two years after the migration of the College to Liège. [3] Thirteen years after the settlement in England the preparatory school was finally established in 1807. [4]

Hodder Place, former Jesuit novitiate and preparatory school Hodder Place Stonyhurst.jpg
Hodder Place, former Jesuit novitiate and preparatory school

Hodder Place

The Stonyhurst Estate donated by an old boy of the College at St Omers, Thomas Weld, included the Shireburn family Hall and a large building on the edge of the River Hodder, Hodder Place. The latter opened as a Jesuit novitiate when the Jesuits were formally re-established in Britain in 1803. Four years later, preparatory, the youngest pupils in the school, which had settled in the Hall, were transferred to Hodder Place. It was not until 1855, however, that the preparatory school was formally opened. The building underwent extension in 1836 and again in 1869 when two towers were constructed on either side. [5]

Hodder Place continued to function as the preparatory school to the College until 1970 when it was shut and converted into residential flats. A rugby pitch still remains adjacent to the building and is very occasionally used today by St Mary's Hall both for sports and, during the summer, as a campsite for boarding pupils, under the supervision of the boarding staff.

St Mary's Hall

SMH from across the sports pitches St Mary's Hall Stonyhurst.jpg
SMH from across the sports pitches
Gerard Manley Hopkins GerardManleyHopkins.jpg
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Between 1828 and 1830, a new building in Georgian style was constructed closer to the college and opened as the new novitiate, St Mary's Hall. In the nineteenth century, the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins trained as a priest there, and in the twentieth century John Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien, also trained there.

The building was extended with two symmetrical wings on either side in the 1850s when the symmetry of the College's south front was also finally completed.

St Mary's Hall continued to function as a seminary until 1926 when the seminarians were moved to Heythrop Hall in Oxfordshire. The building lay derelict until the English College moved in for the duration of the War. After their return to Rome, Figures Playroom was transferred from the College to St Mary's Hall, which opened as a middle school to Stonyhurst in 1946. When Hodder Place was closed in 1970, the pupils were moved across to St Mary's Hall to form Hodder Playroom. As successor to Hodder Place, SMH has a claim to be the oldest surviving preparatory school in Britain. [1]

Since the addition of wings and the chapel extension in the nineteenth century, the buildings of St Mary's Hall changed comparatively little, except due to extensive fire damage in the 1980s, which destroyed much of the building's wooden panelling. In 1993, as part of the Stonyhurst Centenaries, celebrating the four-hundredth anniversary of the school's founding and the two-hundredth anniversary of its settlement at Stonyhurst the year later, a new state-of-the-art theatre was built in the grounds, the Centenaries Theatre. Since then, the old theatre has been transformed into a new entrance and library, and, with the transition to co-education in 1997, girls' dormitories have been created in the old craft, design, and technology attic, and new changing facilities for girls created at the back of the Sports Hall. [1]

Hodder House

In 2004, the old gymnasium was converted into new Foundation Stage and KS1 facility, and named Hodder House. It educates children ages 3–7, making it now possible to undergo fifteen years of education at Stonyhurst.


Until 2007, SMH was officially known as "St Mary's Hall, Stonyhurst". The new Headmaster of the College, Andrew Johnson, insisted that a new name was necessary to bring the Stonyhurst campus closer together; SMH is now officially known as "Stonyhurst St Mary's Hall". [6]

Religious life

The Chapel at St Mary's Hall SMH Chapel.jpg
The Chapel at St Mary's Hall

St Mary's Hall is a Roman Catholic school, overseen by the Jesuit order. As such, the Jesuit ethos pervades the life of the school, with emphasis upon spiritual development, reasoning skills, and the creation of Men and Women for Others. [7]

Mass is celebrated for the whole school on feast days, prayers are said at morning assembly, and night prayers in the chapel bring the day to a close. Charity is encouraged through the observance of CAFOD lunches, where money saved from simplifying the menu is given to charity, and through the school's own charity "Children for Children". Each year St Mary's Hall plays host to the "Stonyhurst Children's Holiday Trust" week, when children with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds are looked after by senior pupils from the College.

St Mary's Hall has its own chapel where Mass is said, as well as the Stations of the Cross during Lent and the Rosary throughout October and May. A portable altar also enables the Centenaries Theatre to be used for school Masses.

Religious iconography is present throughout the school. A statue of the Sacred Heart, restored by the College stonemason in 2008, stands atop the entrance to the old Jesuit escape tunnel in the garden; a statue of Mary and a mosaic altar occupy a position beneath the main staircase in the hallway; there is a grotto beside the stone steps adjacent to the building, where night prayers are said during the Summer Term; and there are statues in the playrooms and crosses in every classroom and dormitory.

It is a long-standing tradition for pupils to write "May Verses". These are poems written in honour of Mary, Mother of Jesus. During the month of May they adorn the school's main staircase. Since the opening of Hodder House in 2004, the nativity, performed by the youngest members of the school, has become an annual fixture on the calendar.

As at the College, pupils write AMDG in the top, left-hand corner of any piece of work they do. It stands for the Latin phrase Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam which means "To the Greater Glory of God". At the end of a piece of work they write L.D.S. in the centre of the page. It stands for Laus Deo Semper which means "Praise be to God Always". These are both traditional Jesuit mottoes.

Religious Education is compulsory for all pupils at the school.

School organisation

The playroom system

Unlike most English public schools, Stonyhurst is organised horizontally by year groups (known as playrooms) rather than vertically by houses. Each playroom has an assigned playroom master, with each cohort moving through the playrooms, having a sequence of playroom masters (rather than being allocated into a house with housemaster for their whole time in the college, as happens in other schools).

Hodder House

Preparatory Playroom

Elements Playroom (formerly Hodder Playroom along with Preparatory)

Figures Playroom

Rudiments Playroom


Stonyhurst Park Cross. Memorial to Hodder pupil.jpg
Stonyhurst Park Cross.

In addition to the playrooms, there is also a system which cuts through the year groups, the "Lines", which are used mostly for sports and competitions. The Lines and colours are as follows:

Pupils remain in the same Line throughout their time at the school, and if their parents, older siblings, or grandparents etc. were also pupils, automatically enter the same Line


St Mary's Hall has a head boy and head girl, whose responsibilities include showing round prospective parents, and speech-giving. Various duties are also assigned to a staff-elected committee of Rudiments pupils.


At St Mary's Hall, behaviour is typically rewarded or punished through the use of "Line Cards". Each pupil carries their card at all times. It is signed on the left-hand side with a brief explanation by the teacher as a punishment, or "debit". It is signed on the right-hand side with an explanation as a reward or "credit". The cards are coloured according to Line membership. The total number of credits and debits, in part, determines which line is awarded a special Line Supper.

Line points are allotted for academic work and also contribute to the Line Supper allocation.

As at the college, the most severe punishment is permanent expulsion, and below that, temporary suspension. [9]


Special ties are awarded for excellence in sport or for other achievements. Rudiments wear special ties with the school emblem repeated. Furthermore, the committee wear similar ties with red sections.


Academic standards are high, owing in part to small classes, of usually no more than fifteen.

In Rudiments, pupils sit the Common Entrance and/or the 11+ Scholarship examinations in preparation for entry to the College. The Common Entrance examinations were only a recent addition to the school. Before that, pupils leaving St Mary's Hall took the Stonyhurst entrance exams, which were internally set.

Extra curricular

As at the College, St Mary's Hall follows a broad-based curriculum, encouraging participation in a range of activities including sport, music, drama, and art.


Drama classes are compulsory at St Mary's Hall, where additional classes may be taken in preparation for LAMDA examinations and entry into the Blackburn Festival. Plays are a regular fixture on the calendar, as are dramatic performances by pupils at the "Friday Presentations", when the school gathers on a Friday evening to be entertained by a talk or production in the Centenaries Theatre. Each year, the staff also stage the school pantomime; pupils are asked to gather in the theatre under the guise of a "staff announcement". [6]

The Ark

SMH had until recently a small, rare-breeds farm with pigs, hens, rabbits, sheep, fish, and birds. Known as "The Ark", it was looked after by the children, under the supervision of staff. The Ark was closed due to animal welfare concerns.


Notable Alumni:


Hodder Place


St Mary's Hall


See also

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  2. Digital object identifier – Cookie Absent
  3. TE Muir, Stonyhurst second edition 2006, p.195
  4. A Stonyhurst Handbook for Visitors and Others, third edition 1963
  5. A Stonyhurst Handbook for Visitors and Others, third edition 1963, p.37
  6. 1 2 "Key Stages". Stonyhurst. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  7. "Men for Others". Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  8. "Playrooms". Stonyhurst. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  9. "Behavior policy" (PDF). Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  10. General News Archived 27 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  11. This is Lancashire [ permanent dead link ]. Retrieved 31 December 2008
  12. This is Lancashire [ permanent dead link ]. Retrieved 31 December 2008
  13. "World Cup hero Will's close shave with fame". Lancashire Telegraph . 12 December 2007.