Jersey Ladies College

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The original building before it was extended, doubling the length of the facade
A 1904 photograph of the Jersey Ladies College

The education of girls in Jersey from the mid-19th century lagged behind the provision for boys. Victoria College had been opened for boys, on the pattern of English public schools, in 1852. The well-to-do and the élite classes continued to employ governesses or to send their daughters to schools in France or England; other classes relied on the existing elementary schools in Jersey.

Click for a Google Street View of the school today

Influential gathering

Jersey people of influence gathered at the Grove Place Wesleyan Chapel in St Helier on 28 November 1879 and decided to set up a limited liability company to further a plan to provide a college for girls in Jersey. The then Bailiff, Sir Robert Pipon Marett, became patron of the enterprise and an advertisement appeared in the British Press and Jersey Times in June 1880 to announce the forthcoming opening of the new college in September of that year: "It is designed to give to the daughters of residents and others, at an extremely moderate rate, an education of the highest order. Its promoters have long felt there is a pressing need for such an institution in Jersey".

The school was opened in September 1880 as Jersey Ladies' College, located at Adelaide House in Roussel Street, St Helier. Girls were entered for Oxford and Cambridge Local Examinations and Matriculation of London University, and those who had studied in France were able to take the Brevet de Capacité in Paris. In 1883 three students achieved distinction in the Matriculation Examination of London University; the first ladies to have matriculated from Jersey.

New building

In 1887 the Ladies' College acquired property at La Pouquelaye, fronting Rouge Bouillon, in St Helier. A new building was constructed and the school moved to the new site in 1888. After the First World War the school acquired the neighbouring Mont Cantel site for use as a junior school. The school was purchased in 1928 by the Church of England Schools' Trust and changed its name to the Jersey College for Girls, and in 1935 was taken over by the States of Jersey.

A classroom in 1900

History

From the school website

The Jersey Ladies’ College, as the school was first called, opened on 20 September 1880 at Adelaide House in Roussel Street, St Helier, roughly where the ambulance station is today, with seven staff and 41 pupils (including 14 boarders).

Parents' Day in 1910

Versatile staff

Some pupils just came in for occasional lessons, in subjects such as drawing or singing, in the afternoons. Victoria College had opened for boys in 1852, but there had been no equivalent school for girls in the island. The decision to found the Ladies’ College to provide “general instruction of the highest class, together with moral and religious teaching” was taken in November 1879 at a time when there were very few secondary schools for girls in the United Kingdom. According to the first advertisements, 21 subjects were offered, so the original seven staff must have been very versatile.

By the time of the first prizegiving in 1882 the number of students had grown to 83, and in 1884 the college was said by visiting examiners to be one of only four or five girls’ schools in the UK to offer tuition to university standard.

Sisters

Two remarkable sisters deserve much of the credit for the success of the new school.

Miss Elsie Roberts was appointed to be the second mistress when it opened and she became Lady Principal only two terms later, aged 28. By 1882 she had been joined by her elder sister, Frances, who became Lady Matron and the two ran the school until their retirement in 1915. Miss Roberts herself taught history, english literature and perhaps some chemistry. She had studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, in the 1870s and by all accounts she was a brisk, little lady with eyes that were said to twinkle with amusement, or flash at injustice. Her teaching was said to be scholarly and thought-provoking and her kindness and consideration were remembered long after she had retired. Her main concern was to develop the character and talents of all her pupils.

Young ladies on a bicycle outing in 1905

In September 1888 the College moved to larger, purpose-built premises on Rouge Bouillon at the corner of La Pouquelaye and it soon needed extensions to its boarding facilities as it attracted pupils from all parts of the world. Thanks to Miss Roberts’ foresight, planning and organisation, it was at the forefront of women’s education in the late 19th century.

The next Headmistress, Miss Good (1915-1922), decided to end tuition for university degree examinations. She introduced school uniform and the prefect, form captain and house systems. Her successor, Miss D’Auvergne (1923-1926), donated the Cock House Trophy for which the six current houses still compete fiercely.

A picture from 1916

Church of England

In 1928 the college was taken over by the Church of England Schools’ Trust, and by 1930 it had 254 pupils. In 1935 the college, which had changed its name to Jersey College for Girls in the early 1930s, was transferred to the States of Jersey as a fee-paying school for girls. It continued to take both day girls and boarders until 1940. During the German Occupation in the Second World War, the school moved premises twice: firstly, with just a week’s notice, to Le Coie Hall, in November 1941, and about a year later to the Victoria College Prep buildings in Pleasant Street. Sadly, many artefacts, including the original honours boards, were lost as a result of the Occupation.

The College moved back to Rouge Bouillon in January 1946 and many alterations and additions were subsequently made on that site, until new buildings on a different campus became essential.

Final move

In 1999 JCG moved up to its present site on Mont Millais, the entire school walking up to the new buildings at the start of the autumn term. Three blocks on the new campus were named after headmistresses who were deemed by the Old Girls Association to have made very significant contributions to the College’s history: Miss Roberts, Miss Barton (who oversaw improvements to the school during the 1930s and steered it through all the difficulties of the Occupation and immediate post-war years) and Miss Chesshire (who joined College as a history teacher in 1930 and served as headmistress between 1953 and 1960, encouraging the growth of the sixth form).

Picture gallery

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Links

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