A controversial new Catholic secondary school officially opened its gates in Twickenham last week, with about 1,000 guests in attendance.

The outdoor mass ceremony at St Richard Reynolds Catholic College was attended by the Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop of Southwark and the Archbishop of Cardiff.

The college - including the primary school - had been subject to vociferous opposition from secular campaign groups and ended up in the High Court.

Richmond had been one of only two London boroughs, with Bromley, without a secondary Catholic school before the British Humanist Association failed to block the bid.

And speaking at the school’s official opening on September 19, council leader Lord True spoke of his determination to see Richmond become the first London borough to open a Catholic school in more than a decade.

He said: “When we formed council in 2010, we always said we wanted to create this new school for Catholic children in the area.

“It had been promised for several years and somehow those promises never came to fruition.

“It has come through a great deal of criticism to get to this point and it is important because schools are the foundation for everything.”

The high school can currently provide for up to 150 year 7 children, with a further 150 being added each year until it reaches its capacity of 1,050.

Headteacher Richard Burke said: “It has been a privilege being part of the movement that has brought St Richard Reynolds Catholic College into existence.

“Welcoming our year 7 pioneers last week was historic, emotional and heart warming.

“It would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of so many people.”

As a result of the school's opening this year, competition for places at Catholic schools in west London has been strong.

Now Catholic children in the borough will not have to be educated outside of Richmond if they wish to attend a Catholic secondary school.

Councillor Paul Hodgins, cabinet member for education, said: “Now at last Catholic families in this borough have equal opportunities for equal education.

“It is a remarkable achievement to have redeveloped the site, recruited staff and fitted out the schools in just 10 months.”

At the ceremony, Vincent Nicholls, Archbishop of Westminster, and Archbishop of Southwark Peter Smith unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the college’s opening.

The buildings were also blessed as part of the day, with parents and pupils in attendance as well as staff and governors.

Year 7 parent Joanna Saunders said: “The staff are warm and caring.

“They expect a lot from the students, and give a lot back. The atmosphere is calm and friendly.”

Both the primary and secondary schools are voluntary aided and are in the trusteeship of the Diocese of Westminster.