In 1896, Parliamentarian and pastoralist Charles Harper, who built Woodbridge House in Guildford, arranged for Frank Bennett to teach his sons and daughters and those of neighbouring families in the billiards room of his home.
The first class was held in 1896 with 14 pupils, before rapidly growing to 35 young students.
Harper’s daughters Clara, Maidie and Kitty were among the first students, as were twins Enid and Frederica Drake-Brockman, and neighbours Lillian Rogers and Francis Viveash, who joined boys in what was to become known as Guildford Grammar School.
The early students were not, perhaps, model pupils. Enid famously described the Harper boys as “villains” prone to running wild along the corridors on the Guildford train. According to legend, both boys and girls alike would raid Mr Drake-Brockman’s cigar box and share a cigar over their homework.
Despite the mischief, Brigadier Geoffrey Drake-Brockman, father of Deborah, Enid and Frederica, wrote in his memoirs this was “an early experiment in coeducation that proved 100% successful.”
Still, the experiment was short-lived.
By 1900, new principal Alexander Gillespie persuaded Harper to build a classroom near the main Guildford Road, known as the ‘Big School’. Once the school moved from Woodbridge in 1901, no new girls were accepted, though Enid and Frederica Drake-Brockman remained and the latter briefly taught in the school before marrying one of the teachers.
In 1976, 80 years after the founding of Guildford Grammar, the School announced it would open its Preparatory School to girls. The following year, Enid was invited back to attend the official opening of the Kindergarten, accompanied by her great-granddaughter Anna Fergusson, the fourth generation of her family to attend the School.
On a number of occasions since, the School Council
has considered co-education. The requests from parents to investigate this option have grown over time, and the question of co-education has been raised by many parents in the community survey as well as in conversation with teachers and the School leadership.
Now, 120 years after the first class of boys and girls to be educated at Guildford, the School has confirmed it will provide co-educational education from Kindergarten to Year 12 by 2019.
1896-1902: Girls and boys (mostly siblings) attend the school
1902-1975: School admits boys only
1976-2017: Girls and boys admitted to the Preparatory School
, boys only to the Senior School
2018-onwards: Girls and boys attend Preparatory School
, integration of girls into Senior School