About

History

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.

June 1894

NEW MERCERS’ GIRLS’ SCHOOL

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.

01 Mar 1895

BROOK GREEN

Brook Green is selected as the site for the Mercers’ new school. Other sites in Hampstead and Kensington had also been considered.

01 Mar 1896

ARCHITECT

Gerard Horsley is selected as the architect for the Mercers’ Company’s new girls’ school.

Drawing of main building of school.

09 Apr 1897

NAMING OF THE 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.

Bust of John Colet in the Marble.

19 Jan 1901

BUILDING BEGINS

Work begins on St Paul’s Girls’ School on Brook Green.

01 Mar 1903

MISS FRANCES GRAY

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.

First High Mistress, Miss Frances Gray.

15 Apr 1904

SCHOOL OPENING

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.

A royal visit from HRH Mary, Princess of Wales accompanied by her husband (future King) HRH Geroge, Prince of Wales.

15 Apr 1904

FIELD CLUB

The first society is formed. The Field Club brings girls on botanical expeditions.

01 May 1907

FIRST LIBRARIAN

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”.

First photograph of the school library.

01 May 1910

THE ORGAN

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.

School organ in the Great Hall.

01 May 1911

THE SWIMMING POOL

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.

Old photograph of the school's first swimming pool.

01 May 1913

THE MUSIC WING

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.

Architectural design for Music Wing.

29 Sep 1918

THE PLANETS

The first performance of Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’.

Photograph of Gustav Holst.

26 Jul 1921

ROYAL VISIT

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.

Princess Mary visits the school.

01 Jun 1924

THE PAULINA

The Paulina, the school magazine (founded in 1904) continues to flourish. This cover design still epitomises many of today’s Paulinas.

A cover of the 1924 Paulina magazine.

01 May 1927

MISS ETHEL STRUDWICK

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.

Old High Mistress, Miss Ethel Strudwick.

27 Jul 1933

SCIENCE BLOCK

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”.

Entrance of the Science block.

01 May 1935

GRAMOPHONE

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.

01 May 1937

NEW SOCIETIES

The Debating Society, Middle School History Club, and Literary Society are formed.

01 May 1939

WARTIME

Bute House under requisition by the Air Ministry and London Defences.

Old photograph of Bute House.

01 Sep 1939

WAR EVACUATION

With the outbreak of war in September 1939, St Paul’s evacuates to Wycombe Abbey.

Photograph of Wycombe Abbey, where staff and students evacuated during the war.

01 May 1940

REOPENING

After gaining the support of parents, the school reopens on Brook Green with significantly reduced staff and pupils.

01 May 1942

TENNIS VICTORY

The Tennis Team wins the Aberdare Cup this year and again in 1944.

01 May 1943

SPEECH DAY

Speech Day resumes for the first time since 1939.

Speech Day at the school in 1943.

01 May 1948

MISS MARGARET OSBORN

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.

Old High Mistress, Miss Margaret Osborn.

01 Jun 1953

UNIFORM?

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.

Students gathered outside school main entrance.

01 Jan 1954

GOLDEN JUBILEE BANQUET

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.

Old photograph of students gathered eating dinner in the Great Hall.

18 Mar 1954

ROYAL VISIT

HM The Queen Mother visits St Paul’s Girls’ School for the Golden Jubilee.

HM Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, on her first visit to the school in 1954.

01 Jun 1954

‘THE MASQUE’

Gustav Holst’s ‘The Masque’ is performed at school.

Students performing Gustav Holst's 'The Masque' in 1954.

01 Jun 1962

JOHN GARDNER

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’.

John Gardener, appointed new Director of Music in 1962.

01 May 1964

MRS ALISON MUNRO

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.

Old High Mistress, Mrs Alison Munro.

01 May 1966

“CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE”

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.

Performance of Brecht’s ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle’ by students in 1966.

01 May 1967

FIRST MALE STAFF

This year marks the first full-time appointments of men to the academic staff (excluding music) in the art and modern languages departments.

01 May 1971

DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

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.

Old photograph of students and staff gathered in the school.

01 May 1974

MRS HEATHER BRIGSTOKE

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.

Old High Mistress. Mrs Heather Brigstoke.

01 May 1975

NEW POOL

The new pool opens as part of Mrs Munro’s development.

Old photograph of new swimming pool once opened in 1975

01 May 1979

PARENTS’ GUILD

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.

01 Apr 1980

FIRST COMPUTER

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”.

Photograph of the first computers used by students at the school in 1980.

01 Nov 1982

GALA EVENING

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.

23 Feb 1985

ROYAL VISIT

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’.

23 Sep 1986

LIBRARY EXTENSION OPENED

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.

Photograph of the library extension, named the Siegmund Warburg Memorial Library.

01 Apr 1989

MRS HELEN WILLIAMS

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.

Old High Mistress, Mrs Helen Williams.

01 Jun 1991

ART

Art is established as a school-directed course.

01 Apr 1992

MISS JANET GOUGH

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.

Old High Mistress, Miss Janet Gough.

18 Jan 1994

SCIENCE BLOCK

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.

Art sculpture in the Science block.

01 Apr 1997

COLET LIBRARY

The Colet Library opens.

01 Apr 1998

MISS ELIZABETH DIGGORY

Miss Elizabeth Diggory is appointed High Mistress.

Old High Mistress, Miss Elizabeth Diggory.

01 Apr 1999

SPORTS HALL

Construction on the Sports Hall is completed.

Sport Hall gym for staff and students, including cardiovascular equipment and free weigh machines.

01 Jun 2004

CENTENARY

The school celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Students, staff and parents enjoying the school's centenary celebrations in 2004.

08 Jul 2004

ROYAL VISIT

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.

HRH Prince Charles on his visit to the school in 2004.

01 Jun 2006

MS CLARISSA FARR

Clarissa Farr is appointed as High Mistress.

Old High Mistress, Clarissa Farr.

01 May 2007

DRAMA

Drama is established as an independent academic department.

07 Jul 2007

THEATRE RE-OPENED

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.

01 Sep 2007

POET-IN-RESIDENCE

The poet-in-residence programme is started by the English department.

01 Jun 2010

VALEDICTION

The Valediction service for leavers is held for the first time.

01 Sep 2010

BELL RESTORED

The original school bell from 1902 is restored.

09 Mar 2012

VOX RADIO

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.

01 Sep 2012

COLET FELLOWS

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.

Colet Fellows arriving at the school in 2012.

20 Sep 2012

‘RE-STORE’

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.

Logo of the school's charity shop Re-store.

07 Feb 2014

110th ANNIVERSARY

The school celebrates its 110th anniversary with special Holst Concert and activities.

Logo of the 110th birthday edition of the school magazine, Paulina, in 2013-14.

01 Jun 2014

GREAT WAR COMMEMORATIONS

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.

05 Jan 2015

STAINED GLASS IN THE MUSIC WING

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.

Stained glass ceiling in the Music Wing.

11 Apr 2015

OLD PAULINAS’ BOAT RACE SUCCESS

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.

01 Aug 2017

MRS SARAH FLETCHER

Sarah Fletcher is appointed as High Mistress.

High Mistress, Sarah Fletcher.

06 Jul 2018

OPENING OF THE NEW PAVILLION

Our new Pavilion was formally opened by Zoe de Toledo, Olympian and OP 1998 to 2005.

Exterior shot of the sports Pavilion, opened in 2018.

21 Sep 2018

GARDEN BUILDING

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.

Photograph of The Lawn, with the Garden Building in the background.

Next page

Staff and Governors

Staff and Governors