The Guernsey Ladies’ College opened the doors to its first 12 pupils on 10th October 1872. It has an honourable place among the earliest of the establishments for the education of women which were founded as the result of the vigorous and expanding interest in social and educational matters in the mid-nineteenth century.
It was agreed to follow the ethos of Cheltenham Ladies’ College and its Headmistress, Miss Dorothea Beale. To this end, the first Lady Principal of The Guernsey Ladies’ College was to be Miss S. M. Eaton, a member of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College staff.
The subjects taught were English Language and Literature, French Language and Literature, Latin, Algebra, Geometry, Political and Physical Geography, Domestic Science and the Laws of Health.
These first pupils were Madelaine Carey, Annabel Carey, D. M. Gliddon, Henrietta Bell, Rosina Bell, Florence Bell, Emily Paint, Caroline Hooper, Caroline Parker, Helen R. Ranken, E. Akerman, A. Akerman. The first great-grandchild of one of these 12 was admitted to the College in 1924.
Only one month after opening, the number of pupils rose to 25, and by the end of the year there were 70 pupils.
Second World War and Occupation
September 1939 saw term begin with vastly increased numbers of pupils as many parents with relations in Guernsey had sent their children to the island in the belief it was a safe haven; others who had been on holiday here when war was declared had decided it was wiser to leave their children here even if they themselves had to return to England.
However, after Occupation of the islands, the decision was made to evacuate the College as a unit to England, where it would remain in exile for five years. Parents were only advised on 19th June 1940 that the boats were coming the next day, and the College would only have 24 hours to prepare to leave. On Thursday 20th June, staff members and 100 girls boarded the cargo boat, Batavier 1V for Weymouth. Some pupils and teachers remained in the island and tried to continue an educational setting as best they could. German officers did inspect the College buildings, but decided they were not suitable for their purposes.
The unit travelled to Oldham, Lancashire and the Baptist Sunday School in King Street became the College’s first home. Shortly thereafter they moved out to the village of Great Hucklow, before news came through that Miss Robinson, Headmistress of Howell’s School in Denbigh had offered to receive the College and give classroom accommodation.
So, on 21st September 1940, 63 pupils of all ages between 6 years old and 18 years old moved to Denbigh. By Easter 1941, the staff number was down to just four, but buoyed by the arrival of Miss Mellish, a previous Principal in Guernsey who had heard about the evacuation and offered her services to help. The pupils were billeted with local families.
It was a long wait until 3rd August 1945 when this College unit of 55 returned to Guernsey on the Hantonia.
There is a special mention for Miss Ellershaw who had been with the girls as Principal for the entire evacuation, “We who shared the experience of the long evacuation want to pay our tribute to her. In all those five long years we leaned upon her; she shouldered the ultimate responsibility. Her administration, her courage, her steadfastness, her humanity and her care for one and all, made her the Headmistress we trusted and respected, who brought College back in good heart to our own island once more”.
When College reconvened, there were 157 pupils. 42 came with College from England, 16 who had been at the College in 1940 and re-joined, and 99 new girls.
The first home of the College was a house at the top of the Grange called Lynton. Quickly needing more space, the College took over the adjoining house, Ladymeade, and these premises together became known as College Villa.
By 1878 the numbers had increased again and it was decided to buy the property known as Detroit in the Grange, formally opened in 1880 (now housing the Education Department). These premises housed the College until 1965.
There were boarders during this time, living in a variety of private houses in Queens Road and Mount Row, or the top floor of the College itself. The largest number of boarders was 28, but by the time World War Two broke out this was down to 10, and then boarding ceased after the war.
In September 1920, the College took over the Preparatory School in Brook Terrace and moved it in house.
By 1949, numbers had again increased and in order to accommodate the main school, a new home had to be found for the Preparatory Department. Melrose, a large house of great dignity, was acquired in 1949 and the Preparatory and Junior schools opened there in September. By 1959, Melrose was up to 100 pupils, with 300 in the main school at the Grange.
After a fire broke out on the top floor putting a block of classrooms out of use for a term and ever increasing numbers, it was on 6th April 1962 that the States approved in principle for a new College to be built on the Melrose estate at an estimated cost of £132,000. By 27th June, the limited company was dissolved and the College was to be managed thereafter by a Board of Governors. On 1st January 1963 the States officially took over The Ladies’ College.
It was on 10th May 1963 that the College was honoured by having the foundation stone of the new premises laid by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who declared that, “…the modern woman needs to have the highest education available to her if she is to take her place in the modern world”, before wishing the school a successful and happy future.
All content is credited to 'The History of the Guernsey Ladies' College, 1872 - 1963' by Miss. J. E. Buckfield.
1872 The Guernsey Ladies’ College opens its doors
1874 First Prize Day held
1880 Relocates to ‘Detroit’ in the Grange where it will stay until 1965
1884 Kindergarten established for boys and girls with 23 pupils at start. Minimum age of 3, later became 4. Disbanded in 1917
1895 First record of a pupil going on to become a Doctor of Medicine, an Amelia le Pelley
1900 Number of pupils rises to 120
1905 The Ladies’ College Guild, the Magazine, and the Debating Society are all founded
1905 First pupil wins a scholarship to Oxford University
1907 The States resolves to provide 2 scholarships a year
1907 For the first time, a pupil educated entirely at College obtains her entrance to Newnham
1908 The 1000th pupil is admitted
1910 First overseas trip, a cycling tour of Normandy
1914 An extra school year is added, called Remove
1914 The First Ladies’ College Company of the Guernsey Girl Guides is formed
1915 Introduction of a school uniform
1916 The wearing of gloves to and from College is dropped
1916 Boys are no longer admitted to kindergarten
1920 Pupils divided into 3 houses – Carey, Brock and Sausmarez
1920 Number of pupils rises to 133
1921 The Guild purchase a playing field on the Melrose estate as a Jubilee gift to the College, opened 15th October 1924
1922 Bishop of Winchester is Patron of the College
1923 Blazers are introduced to the uniform
1931 Durand House is formed
1931 Number of pupils rises to 160
1933 The School Song is first sung at Carol Service
1940 100 pupils and staff are evacuated to Oldham, England
1940 63 pupils arrive at Howell’s School, Denbigh with a staff of 4
1945 55 in the College party that return to Guernsey on Hantonia
1945 Term begins with 157 pupils made up of 42 who came with College from England, 16 who had been in College and re-joined, and 99 new girls
1945 An extra Speech Day held to catch up after the War
1949 Melrose Preparatory and Junior Schools open
1958 Fire breaks out upstairs in the Grange and puts a block of classrooms out of use. This and the need for more space lead to talks of relocation
1960 Number of pupils rises to 400, with 100 being in Melrose
1962 The States approve in principle that a new College should be built on the Melrose estate
1962 The limited company is dissolved and a Board of Governors is established
1962 90th celebrations
1963 The foundation stone is laid by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The pupils move into what remains to this day as the current College site
1963 Number of pupils rises to 430, with 140 being in Melrose and 60 being in Sixth Form