Saint John Fisher lived in the sixteenth century. He came from Beverley in Yorkshire and was educated at Michaelhouse, Cambridge University. Fisher was a hard working student and became a teacher at the university. Later he was elected Chancellor of Cambridge University.
John Fisher recognised that striving for knowledge brought all people closer to God. He understood that the most successful students would be those who worked together in close co-operation, and so, John Fisher encouraged the students in Cambridge to work closely with scholars in Europe. He also revived the learning of Greek and Hebrew, so that people could have a greater understanding of the Bible. John Fisher himself travelled widely in Europe and was friends with the very famous mathematician Erasmus.
John Fisher believed that as many people as possible should take part in learning. In his day, most English people could not read and write. He was responsible for setting up two of the Cambridge colleges, St John’s College and Christ’s College. This task took over twenty years.
Later in his life, John Fisher was made Bishop of Rochester. He was famous for his care of the poor and those in need. Every day he would go to see the poorest people who gathered at his gate and make sure that they had enough food.
Fisher lived during the reign of King Henry the Eighth. Henry refused to follow the teaching of the church about marriage. He had abandoned his wife, Katherine of Aragon. Fisher spoke out against the king’s divorcing of Queen Katharine of Aragon, and because he would not support the king. Fisher was imprisoned in the Tower of London and was executed by Henry VIII in 1535. Shortly before his death he was created a Cardinal by Pope Paul III.
A Short History of St John Fisher School by Mr Peter Waszak
On the 8th March 1956, the Ministry of Education gave the go-ahead for the construction of a two-form entry secondary modern school on the Eastfield site, to the east of Park Lane. The total cost estimated was £105,308 of which 37.5% could be recovered by a government grant. The local education authority would pay £8,800 for the kitchen and dining hall. Building work conmmenced on 1st July, 1957. The main contractor was HJ Firman Ltd of Newark Road.
On 12th March 1958, Mr CT Brand from Cambridge was appointed Headmaster. The Bishop of Northampton laid the foundation stone on 24th April, 1958. As a temporary measure on 16th September, 1958, the 168 senior students moved into the former Eastholm School in Broadway. The Patron of the school was St John Fisher, (St Dunstan was at one time considered). There was a distinctive uniform of deep purple with gold braid. The badge was the red and white Tudor rose. The uniform was very expensive and in the mid-1960s a black blazer was introduced. In addition to Mr Brand and Mr Gorton, the Deputy Head there were six teachers. The classes were 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3 and 4. There was also a Preceptors’ Class, which until July 1964 took the College of Preceptor’s Examination in place of GCE or CSE examinations. The building was formally handed over on 2nd March 1959.
At the start of the Summer Term, on 14th April 1959, 203 students moved in – of these 31 came from Stamford and 15 from Spalding. This allowed the reorganization of Catholic Schools in these areas to take place. Spalding students remained until January 1966 when the new Catholic School at Boston opened. In addition to Peterborough, students came from parts of Rutland and Huntingdonshire, Wittering, Eye and Ufford. As so many students travelled by bus from outside the city school hours were from 9.15 to 3.45, this relatively late start time avoided a clash with the arrival and departure of students from the Eastholm Secondary Schools.
On Thursday 9th July 1959, the feast day of its Patron, St John Fisher School was formally opened by the Bishop of Clifton, the Rt Rev Joseph Rudderham, DD, MA. The school was built on part of a 33-acre site shared with Eastholm School and the Catholic Primary School, and was designed to accommodate 300 students. Three main wings were built intersecting at the entrance hall and housing 8 classrooms with cloakrooms, an art and craft room, housecraft room, science laboratory, library, hall/gym, dining room and staff rooms. Before the kitchen for St Thomas More School was built, the primary school students used the facilities at St John Fisher School at lunchtime.
In his address, Bishop Rudderham argued that the purpose of Catholic education “must be to develop to the full the personality of the child. Our aim is not just to produce useful citizens, but to make the children loyal and loving citizens of the new Kingdom of God”. At the ceremony, Dr John Norton Collins was presented with the highest Papal honour, the cross ‘Per Ecclesia et Pontifice’, awarded by Pope John XXIII in recognition of his being a Manager of All Souls’ School from 1902 to 1961.
In 1961 the Peterborough Joint Education Board purchased 3.23 acres of allotments to the south of the school to extend the playing field. At Easter 1972 plans were announced for an expansion of St John Fisher School. Building work began in July 1973 and was completed by September 1974. In that year the school received its first comprehensive intake, but it was a further five years before the whole school followed a comprehensive curriculum. To cater for children of all abilities, new subjects were added to the curriculum and an option system was introduced.
At Christmas 1978 Mr Brand retired after 20 years as Headmaster. To mark his retirement a testimonial reception was held. Guests included people who had played important roles in the establishment of the school. The following September Mr Brand returned to the school for the presentation by Bishop Alan Clark of the ‘Benemerenti’ medal for his services to education.
The new Headmaster, Mr Chris Dodd from Rotherham, arrived at the start of the 1979 Spring Term and in February, Mrs Upchurch retired as Senior Mistress and was replaced by Mrs Ann Parkin. In March 1979 work started on the Second Phase of the school extensions, which cost £330,000. These included a new sports hall, classroom block, a new science block incorporating two geography rooms, an RE room, and a group room. In July 1980 a tradition which began in 1901 ceased when Sister Mary Aspinall left the school. She was the last Sister of Charity of St Vincent de Paul to teach at St John Fisher School.