St Joseph’s School was set up for the children who lived in the Onehunga “Fencible Settlement.” This was a settlement for British soldiers and their families.

The British Government had asked British soldiers to move with their families to live in areas near Auckland, as the Government was worried that Maori tribes might attack the European settlers in Auckland. The British soldiers and their families had travelled to New Zealand for free and were given some land to farm and a cottage to live in.

These soldiers were called “the Fencibles”. The word ‘fencible’ comes from the word ‘defencible’ which means that their job was to defend the area from any attacks.

For many years, the St Mary’s Church in Onehunga had been used as a classroom. However, in 1858 Fr Paul asked Mother Cecila Maher to send some Sisters of Mercy to Onehunga to set up a Convent. Fr Paul wanted the Sisters to help to care for the people of Onehunga and to take over the teaching of the Catholic children. In 1864 a group of Sisters moved into a cottage in Onehunga, and used some rooms in the cottage as classrooms.

The Sisters built a new convent, which included some classrooms. However, soon there were too many children to fit into the convent classrooms and so a new classroom block as built. These new classrooms were opened in 1882 and the school was named St Joseph’s School.