St Joan of Arc School was started by an order of French nuns, the Filles de Jesus, in 1904 with just five pupils.
Fr. Julien, the parish priest in Rickmansworth, bought 'Englefield' (number 11 High Street) and named it "Joan of Arc Convent" which is now used as the Sixth Form centre. These premises housed the school in its early years before numbers grew and in 1922, Mother Septima and Fr. Julien secured the purchase of "The Elms" which now forms the main front of the school building.
The Elms was a grand dwelling that stands on a site of eleven and half acres which includes a stream. The house, built in 1728, belonged to George Eliot, the novelist who at the time was writing Daniel Deronda.
A letter from George Eliot in 1875 describes The Elms, now St Joan of Arc Catholic School, as follows:
“We admire our bit of Hertfordshire greatly, but I should be glad of more breezy common land and far reaching outlooks."
For fertility, wealth of grand trees, parks, mansions and charming bits of stream and canal our neighbourhood can hardly be excelled, and our house is a good, old, red-bricked Georgian place with a nice bit of garden and meadow and river at the back. (Written by Emma Ray – Watford Observer, Friday 14th July 1989)
The statue of St. Joan of Arc that stands on the lawn in front of the main building was designed by Joan Jackson, the Head Girl of the school in 1939.
As the school continued to develop it was awarded 'Grammar School' status in 1951 and remained a Grammar School until the transition to comprehensive education took place in 1975. This also marked the first intake of boys to St. Joan's. The school has continued to flourish and held its centenary celebrations in 2004, having grown from the initial 5 pupils in 1904 to now accommodate over 1280.