THE BEGINNINGS:

St. Anthony's School, at its 19 Market Street address, dates back to the eighteen sixties. After the dust of the revolt of 1857 had settled there was successful handing over of power by the East India Company to Queen Victoria. While the revolt had convinced the British of the need to evangelise the natives for political advantage, Catholics in Calcutta used this opportunity to organise themselves and form communities.

St. Joseph’s Chapel is the outcome of this period and situation. In 1863 Fr. H. Everard, a Jesuit priest of St. Xavier’s, with a collection of Rs. 3536 bought a plot from a certain Mr. Freytas (or Freyton). He built a chapel there especially for a community of Catholic Tamilians, totaling around 900 in number, as put by Fr. Josson (Historical Record of the Belgian Jesuit Missionaries). These Catholic Tamilians were part of the ten thousand Tamilians who came to Calcutta in search of better jobs during the 1830s. They often approached the priest in times of sickness, burial and for religious guidance.

It is to cater to their educational needs that Fr. Everard also started a small school attached to the chapel. It was on 19th March 1865, on the day of the Feast of St. Joseph, the chapel was blessed by Vicar Apostolic Msgr. Auguste Van Heule. It was a time when many important Calcutta landmarks were still to come into being. New Market, which is now a stone's throw away, and Pontoon bridge (not to be confused with the present - opened 1943 - cantilever bridge ) across the Hooghly were built only in 1874.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, schools like St. Xavier’s and St. Joseph’s admitted only Anglo-Indian boys and admission for Indians was not easy in the then existing schools of Calcutta. Catering to the needs of the native Indians
Fr. Camille Limbourg, who took charge of the St. Joseph’s Chapel in 1907, paid more attention to the small primary school attached to the chapel. Fr. Limbourg, with the assistance of his superiors, upgraded the primary school to secondary on January 16, 1916, for the educational needs of the poor Indian Catholic boys. It was the fateful days the First World War and the school had only 18 students attending classes. The year also saw the establishment of the novena of Our Lady of Vailankanni in St. Joseph’s Chapel at the initiative of the Tamilian marine workers and devoted patrons of the shrine like Mr. Lazarus and Mr. Xavier. A boarding was opened in 1917 and with the end of the First World War in 1918 the old structure of the school was destroyed and a new school building was built. St. Anthony’s High School then had 160 students and nine teachers.

Undated picture of the school