Prior to 1850, Aldershot was a wasteland with a small population. In 1854, at the time of the Crimean War, Aldershot Garrison was established as the first permanent training camp for the British Army. This led to a rapid expansion of Aldershot’s population; it rose from 875 in 1851, to more than 16,000 by 1861.
Aldershot became part of the Diocese of Southwark and in 1867 a catholic school room was opened in the High Street for 48 children. This increased the following year to 67.
In 1869, a disused Public House on the corner of Alexandra Road and Cambridge Road was formally opened as a combined chapel and school. This building still exists today.
The Sisters of Mercy from Abingdon began to look after this school in 1884. Unfortunately, owing to financial difficulties, the Sisters left in 1889. Their place was later taken by the Franciscan Sisters and the school later became ‘Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, St Anthony’s Convent’ until 1969.
In 1882 St Joseph’s became part of the Diocese of Portsmouth and in 1913 St Joseph’s Church in Queens Road was opened, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School was later opened next to it.
During the 1940s to the 1970s, St Joseph’s School was moved to huts on St Georges Road. There was no kitchen there so the children would have to walk up to West End School at lunchtimes until later years when the lunches were delivered.
In 1966, St Mary’s Infant School was built in Bridge Road. In 1978 a junior school was built next to it and this formed the current site of St Joseph’s Catholic Academy.
Updated September 2020.