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Since St Paul’s first opened its doors in 1904, the school has provided an ambitious, progressive education for generations of talented young women. At all stages throughout its history, the school has combined the best elements of a classical education with a commitment to innovation and a forward-looking approach.
The Commission for Endowed Schools asked the Worshipful Company of Mercers to use their existing funds to found a girls’ school. The Company had been contemplating the foundation of a girls’ school since c.1872 when Baron Lyttleton, Chair of the new Commission for Endowed Schools, had first approached the Company and asked whether they would consider diverting some of the funds of the John Colet Foundation towards a girls’ school. Around 1509, John Colet, the Dean of St Paul’s, had directed his vast fortune towards forming a boys’ school.
Brook Green is selected as the site for the Mercers’ new school. Other sites in Hampstead and Kensington had also been considered.
Gerard Horsley is selected as the architect for the Mercers’ Company’s new girls’ school.
St Paul’s Girls’ School is formally adopted as the name for the school. In previous documents, it had been referred to as Dean Colet’s Girls’ School.
Work begins on St Paul’s Girls’ School on Brook Green.
Miss Frances Ralph Gray is appointed Head Mistress (1903–1910) and then High Mistress (1910–1927). Frances Gray had been educated at Newnham College, Cambridge and had been a Classical Lecturer at Westfield College, London and Head Mistress at St Katharine’s College, Fife.
The official opening of St Paul’s on 15 April 1904 by HRH Mary (Princess of Wales), accompanied by her husband (and future King) HRH George V. Original school fees were £7 per term.
The first society is formed. The Field Club brings girls on botanical expeditions.
Miss Noakes serves as the first librarian at St Paul’s. She is credited for organising the books in her own hybrid system, called “modified Dewey”.
In the summer of 1910, the harmonium in the Great Hall is replaced with an organ from JW Walker & Sons. The inaugural concert was given by Sir Frederick Bridge, who also played at Westminster Abbey for HRH Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and HRH Edward VII’s coronation.
St Paul’s is praised for being the only girls’ school to have a “private swimming bath” by Sarah Burstall in “Public Schools for Girls”. Novice swimmers wore red costumes, while the more experienced girls wore navy blue.
The Music Wing is opened by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the Principal of the Royal Academy of Music. Holst’s “St Paul’s Suite” is played for the first time.
The first performance of Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’.
The second royal visit to St Paul’s Girls’ School. Princess Mary (the future Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood) is the guest of honour at Prizegiving.
The Paulina, the school magazine (founded in 1904) continues to flourish. This cover design still epitomises many of today’s Paulinas.
Miss Ethel Strudwick is appointed High Mistress. She had read Classics at Bedford College, London and then taught at City of London School for Girls since 1913. During her time as High Mistress she continued to teach, as much as half a timetable. She is remembered for leading the school through the great challenges of wartime.
HRH Princess Alice (Countess of Athlone) opens the science block. Her daughter, Princess May, was a Paulina (1921-23). The “West London Observer” calls the building “splendidly equipped with excellent lighting and ventilation”.
Miss Strudwick requests that the Governors authorise the purchase of the school’s first gramophone. She did so begrudgingly; she had concerns about its impact on family life and the education of children.
The Debating Society, Middle School History Club, and Literary Society are formed.
Bute House under requisition by the Air Ministry and London Defences.
With the outbreak of war in September 1939, St Paul’s evacuates to Wycombe Abbey.
After gaining the support of parents, the school reopens on Brook Green with significantly reduced staff and pupils.
The Tennis Team wins the Aberdare Cup this year and again in 1944.
Speech Day resumes for the first time since 1939.
Miss Margaret Osborn is appointed High Mistress. After having read Greats at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, she taught at St Mary and St Anne, Abbot’s Bromley and King Edward VI High School for Girls, Birmingham and then had been Head at St George’s School for Girls in Edinburgh. Miss Osborn planned the celebrations for the Golden Jubilee.
Paulinas have never had a dress code, but wore uniform items such as a coat and hat until the early 1980s. At present there is a compulsory sports kit.
On the Saturday before the school’s birthday on 19 January, there was a service at St Paul’s Cathedral attended by over 2,000. It was followed by a banquet at the Connaught Rooms which more than 800 Old Paulinas attended.
HM The Queen Mother visits St Paul’s Girls’ School for the Golden Jubilee.
Gustav Holst’s ‘The Masque’ is performed at school.
John Gardner is appointed as the new Director of Music. He composed the settings of well-loved carols ‘Tomorrow Is My Dancing Day’ and ‘The Holly and the Ivy’.
Mrs Allison Munro is appointed as High Mistress. She is the first former Paulina to hold this post. She read mathematics at St Hilda’s College, Oxford and then pursued a career in the civil service, culminating in being Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation by 1958. Under her leadership, a substantial programme of development began in 1971. She was awarded a CBE in 1964 and DBE in 1985.
Performance of ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle’. The play is directed by Gloria Bax, an inspirational Head of Drama who was ambitious in her choice of productions.
This year marks the first full-time appointments of men to the academic staff (excluding music) in the art and modern languages departments.
Mrs Munro’s development project is launched. The development includes refurbishments and improvements to many parts of school, including a common room for the Senior School, a new geography wing, language laboratory, art studios, another dining room, an improved staff room and a new swimming pool.
Mrs Heather Brigstocke is appointed High Mistress. She read classics at Girton College, Oxford and then taught at Godolphin and Latymer as well as Francis Holland School, becoming the Headmistress of the latter. She is remembered for introducing weekly lectures, economics courses, and the Director of Studies post to the school.
The new pool opens as part of Mrs Munro’s development.
Mrs Brigstocke establishes the Parents’ Guild in 1979. The first tasks of the Parents’ Guild includes working in the book room, library and the theatre. In addition, the Parents’ Guild played a vital role in fundraising and provided flower displays on the Marble, traditions that continue today.
Mr Mark Weinburg, a St Paul’s parent, gives the school its first computer. It was described as a “small microcomputer which goes easily on a desk top”.
The school hosts a Gala Evening in Aldwych to fundraise for Mrs Brigstocke’s ambitious building plans, which includes a new theatre, a computer centre, and an engineering workshop. The evening involves entertainment from Jeremy Irons, John Dankworth, Cleo Laine, and Richard Briers.
HM The Queen Mother returns to St Paul’s to open the Celia Johnson Theatre. The audience watches two student performances: a play about Gustav Holst by John Mortimer and a staged production of Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’.
The library extension is opened on 23 September as the Siegmund Warburg Memorial Library. Sir Siegmund Warburg’s daughter Anna (a former Paulina) donated his vast collection of history books to the school after his death in 1982.
Mrs Helen Williams is appointed High Mistress. She had read English at Girton College, Cambridge and had taught for a year at St Paul’s and then lectured at Edinburgh University. She then became Headmistress of Blackheath High School.
Art is established as a school-directed course.
Miss Janet Gough is appointed High Mistress. She is the only High Mistress to have started as a teacher at St Paul’s. She is remembered for standing on the Marble each morning to greet students.
The expansion of the science block is completed on 18 January. In order to improve science facilities, the laboratories are refurbished and a second storey is added to the building. The structure reopens as the Mercers’ Building.
The Colet Library opens.
Miss Elizabeth Diggory is appointed High Mistress.
Construction on the Sports Hall is completed.
The school celebrates its 100th anniversary.
HRH Prince Charles visits St Paul’s Girls’ School on this day. He toured the school, met with students and staff, and looked at the archive exhibition.
Clarissa Farr is appointed as High Mistress.
Drama is established as an independent academic department.
Sir Peter Hall was the guest of honour for the re-opening of the Celia Johnson Theatre, doubled in size compared with its 1985 original.
The poet-in-residence programme is started by the English department.
The Valediction service for leavers is held for the first time.
The original school bell from 1902 is restored.
The student-initiated Vox radio station launches their first show. The radio station now plays in the Forum, the Great Hall, and the Dining Hall.
The inaugural Colet Fellows come to St Paul’s Girls’ School to assist with American university applications as well as various lessons, sports, societies, and the creation of the new school website.
St Paul’s opens its very own charity shop, ‘Re-Store’. A team of senior girls begin collecting lightly worn clothes to be sold for charity.
The school celebrates its 110th anniversary with special Holst Concert and activities.
Commemorations to mark the outbreak of the First World War, including displays of artifacts and documents and a visit by Richard Dunning, owner of Lochnager Crater.
Completion of the stained glass ceiling in the Music Wing foyer. The design, by Maria Cristina White-da Cruz, includes symbolic references to Holst, Rosalind Franklin and other staff and alumnae.
Both the men’s and women’s Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races were held on the same day (11 April) and course for the first time since the event’s inception. Former Paulinas Maxie Scheske (rower and Oxford Women’s Boat Club President) and Jennifer Ehr (coxswain) were on the winning Oxford team on this historic occasion.
Sarah Fletcher is appointed as High Mistress.
Our new Pavilion was formally opened by Zoe de Toledo, Olympian and OP 1998 to 2005.
The new Garden Building was officially opened by Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge. The Garden Building houses the Senior School as well as the geography and history departments.