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It all started in 1892 in a cottage.  Miss Bertha Mingay, a certificated teacher, started giving lessons at home.  Her institution was called the Acorn School and only had eight learners.  The quality of education Miss Mingay was offering was so impressive that enrolment numbers grew rapidly.  By 1894 the school had 91 girls and Miss Mingay appointed her sister to help with the management.  The cottage was not able to accommodate the girls, so Miss Mingay rented the Odd Fellows' Hall in Hill Street, now the Dutch Reformed Church, and renamed her institution the Hopewell School

The school's first official recognition was in 1896, when the Education Department of the Cape Colony invited Miss Mingay to sign her school under their name.  Because Miss Mingay was the founder she was given the position of "Headmistress".





At that stage (1986) there was no official uniform and the girls were allowed to wear brightly coloured blouses of their own choice, long dark skirts and large (frilly) white pinafores. Outside they wore hats and their hair had to be tied back with coloured ribbons.





School ended at quarter past two and there were no organised games or sport as the time was diverted to studies.  The first sporting facility was established in 1902 and the facilities were a tennis court and croquet lawn.  During break the girls' played "I spy", "Tippy-tippy-touch-wood", rounders and hide-and-seek. After school they went straight home.     





In 1897 the British Empire was celebrating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.  As soon as the foundation stone of the the official school building had been laid, the name Victoria Girls' School was given to the school.  This was in commemoration of the Queen's sixty-year reign.





In the year 1898 Miss Mingay resigned as headmistress in order to get married.  Although Miss Mingay resigned, her passion for education didn't stop there as she went on to become a mother and grandmother of a family of educationists, including a professor of physics at the University of Cape Town.  


As a result of Miss Mingays' retirement the school had to appoint a new headmistress.  The headmistress appointed and best suitable for the job was Miss Glennie.





According to Dr Muir, Superintendent General of Education in the Cape, the choice to appoint Miss Margaret Glennie was "as wise as could be".  She is said to have established the tradition of  service and chivalry, kindness and courtesy.


During the first two years of Miss Glennie's position as headmistress (1899- 1901), the enrolment numbers were a phenomenal 292.  The building the school was situated in, was too small to accommodate such a huge number of girls so it was time to build again.


On January 1902, it was the commemoration of Queen Victoria's death and the Governor of the Cape Colony laid the foundation stone of the "Victoria High School for Girls'".                





In 1905 the Cape Government passed the School Board Act which introduced new elements to education. One was that from 1910 education would be made compulsory, (but not free) for all white children up to the age of 14.





The reputation of the school was that of a good one and this attracted girls' that lived far from Grahamstown.  The need for a hostel was recognised in 1906, but it was only in 1912 that anything was done about the situation.  Since there was no money or land available for the school, they tried to find a building which they could turn into a hostel for the girls.


On Somerset Street, where "EB"  stands, there used to be a house owned by Mrs Rudd.  After negotiating with her, the school was able to rent the house for ten pounds a month, so as from January 1912 VG had its first boarding facility: Dorset House.  By July, the hostel had 13 girls and four teachers that acted as matrons.   


With the expansion of the boarders Dorset House was soon too small, so this led to the school renting a cottage which was known as the Shackleton's Cottage.  These boarders were watched by Miss Philpotts, who had come to VG as Head Matron in 1913.


In 1913 the Shackleton's Cottage was too small to accommodate the number of boarders, this led to the school acquiring a new hostel, Thursford.





The school owned a library of 275 books, but by 1924 the book stock, of ordinary books had grown to 680 (30 in Dutch) and a Reference Library with 40 volumes.  The girls were taught the importance of self-improvement and intellectual development through independent reading and research.    


Please visit us again so as to read more about the history of the school.                                                                                                







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Victoria Girls' High School Online: Established, January 2004, Last Updated: May 2017
Mail P.O. Box 601, Beaufort Street, Grahamstown, 6140, SOUTH AFRICA • Phone (046) 636-1550 • Fax (046) 636-1620
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