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By 1871, the year of Egerton Ryerson's last great public school act, the city of London, Ontario, had not only a well-developed system of public elementary and high schools but also generous provision for Catholic education. Twenty years earlier, this had not been the case. Most Catholic children had attended the Central School, the same institution as their Protestant peers, where teachers offered a program of study that ranged from the 3Rs to a superior education. This school was the pride of the city and a model for other urban communities across the province. Furthermore, it was attended by the vast majority (about 90 percent) of school-age children in the municipality regardless of faith or wealth (2) -- a phenomenon reflecting the broad-based social and cultural support for this flagship institution. Few private schools existed in the early 1850s; and about the only alternative to the Central School, and to some extent overshadowed by it, was the small, non-denominational grammar school. (3) This amicable arrangement would be shattered over the next two decades. Fundamental social and economic changes in the city led to substantial modifications in the pattern of school provision, including the evolution of distinctive forms of schooling for Catholics. (4) Like their Protestant neighbours, Catholics developed two discrete forms of schooling after mid-century -- private institutions, for those who could afford them, and public (in their case, called "separate") schools, which since the early 1840s had been eligible for government education grants. During this period of reorganization, Catholic education emerged as an alternative system of education in London. That transition is examined here.