Loreto Abbey, Dalkey is a member house of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (I.B.V.M.). This Institute has a long history. It was founded in the Seventeenth Century by Mary Ward (1585-1645), a remarkable woman who pioneered the higher education of Catholic women. During her own lifetime she established schools all over Europe. At present, her Institute is spread over the five Continents.
The Irish branch of the Institute was founded in 1821 by Frances Ball, a native of Dublin. Her first foundation was at Rathfarnham and was called Loreto Abbey, from which title the members became known as Loreto Sisters and all subsequent foundations, at home and abroad, were called Loreto.
Loreto Abbey, Dalkey was founded in 1843. Dalkey at the time was only a small fishing village, though long before this, it had known renown as the Port of Dublin. Along its rocky seashore lay a common which Frances Ball saw as an eminently suitable site. While negotiating the purchase of this site, she rented Bulloch Castle opposite Bulloch Harbour where she operated a small boarding and day school from June 1841 until 1843. In 1842 she succeeded in buying the site at Dalkey.
Frances Ball was her own architect and her castellated building of Dalkey granite was finished and opened on August 17th, 1843 as a boarding and day school. In 1982 the Boarding School was closed. The day school today has a student population of approximately 600.