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The Palmer Catholic Academy

The Palmer Catholic Academy

History of the Academy

Canon Patrick Palmer, the priest who gave his name to our Academy, spent 50 years between 1896 and 1946 helping transform the Catholic faith and churches in Ilford.

He was responsible for the building of the first permanent church on Ilford High Road in 1899, and later next to it the Guildhall Catholic club in 1925. He was also responsible for the building of the churches in Manor Park and Barkingside. He built the first Catholic school in Ilford on the High street opening in 1900, later followed by St Winefride’s school in Manor Park.

By entering the beautiful atrium and then taking a visit to the modernised laboratories in Bede House, there is no doubt that The Palmer Catholic Academy has flourished, not only as a vibrant education establishment, but also as a community.

Canon Patrick Palmer (1869-1948)
Canon Patrick Palmer

This historical journey began in 1961, and since then the academy has blossomed into becoming a well established co-educational comprehensive of 1300 students that continues to serve the Catholic community.

Our academy would still be the site of a nursery were it not for the devotion and dedication of our founder, the much respected Canon Patrick Palmer. He led the foundation of the Catholic community in and around Ilford, despite suffering through much of his life as a result of a serious injury occurring in 1912. Despite poor health, Patrick Palmer soon exhibited his dynamism, leading Cardinal Vaughan to describe him as 'the most remarkable Priest in my Diocese.' Two years after his arrival in Ilford, he laid the foundation of SS Peter and Paul's Church, hence his name is often being portrayed as synonymous with the Parish. Our site was previously a farm known as Aldborough Nursery Garden. It was not the only piece of local farmland; it was accompanied by Ley Street Farm, Downshall Farm, Seven Kings Farm and Primrose Farm located just off Romford Road. Canon Palmer's achievements and works include the recognition of how vital the education of Catholic children was; his last business act was to obtain a suitable site in Seven Kings for a secondary school. In 1940, the Cameron Road site was bought for £11,000. Canon Palmer donated most of his years for the good of those people commended to his care, to the Glory of God and to the saving of souls. Unfortunately he did not live to see the full completion of his outstanding school.

Canon Palmer Catholic School was opened in 1961, thirteen years after his death, welcoming young Catholics into the school by promoting faith as a vehicle for delivering higher academic achievements. The opening of the school in January was an exciting and enthusiastic time - thousands of Catholics saw the fulfillment of their hopes as it was the first Roman Catholic secondary school in the area. The local Roman Catholics had a school to be proud of, especially considering the opening ceremony was performed by the Rt. Rev. George Andrew Beck, Bishop of Salford. The event was also attended by many representatives of the Education Committee, Ilford Council and other local associations. At a prize giving event in October 1961, the Mayor - Mr. Owen Waters - presented the school with a portrait of Canon Patrick Palmer.

The first Headmaster of the school was Mr Murphy. After staying at the school for seven memorable years, he placed responsibility into the hands of Mr Davis who displayed similar commitment over the period 1968 to 1986, creating the Canon Palmer Home School Association. He was followed by Mr O'Donnell until 1992, when Mr Chichon became Headmaster. He expressed his desire to be part of Canon Palmer society at first sight, and before his retirement he said 'Now twenty-two years later, I am happy to have followed my instincts of that first impression and I consider it a real honour to have served and led such a fine school'. Upon his departure in 2001 Canon Palmer was introduced to Headmaster Mr Maguire, who had an immeasurable impact on the school seeing it transition from Canon Palmer Catholic School to The Palmer Catholic Academy.  On Mr Maguire’s retirement in September 2015, Mrs Moise-Dixon began her leadership.  The academy now begins a new chapter with Mr Paul Downey beginning his headship from 1st January 2019, who himself is a former student of Canon Palmer Catholic School.

It is apparent that all head teachers have gained a unique experience during their time here and have lent their energy and vision to its improvement. During its relatively short life, the school has seen a vast range of developments. When the school first opened, there was a two-form entry of about three hundred children, many of whom had previously attended SS Peter and Paul's Junior school. Later this was expanded to a three-form entry with a total of five hundred students.

The original school was small and limited with regards to specialist and practical facilities, whereas our present school is large and well equipped. The school originally started off with just Palmer building, adorned with two large crucifixes to portray the school's identity and allegiance with the Church. This was followed by Heenan and Kolbe buildings. More recent developments include the building of Mother Teresa Sixth Form Centre as well as Bede House, both causing a particular thrill in the school environment. We were also designated a specialist Science, Maths and Computing College by the Department for Education.

We believe that the academy's community will continue to be strengthened in the coming years as Canon Patrick Palmer would have wished. His energy, enthusiasm and belief live on in the Catholic ethos of the academy. Mr Waters said, 'This is one of the greatest functions I have attended during my years of office because it gives me the opportunity to place before you boys and girls a portrait of the man whose name lives on in our school.