In 1896 Mr Charles Harper, an influential figure in Western Australian history, established a School to cater for the educational needs of his own children and those of the surrounding district in his stately home at Woodbridge.
Harper sought to establish a school along English Public School lines, while seeking to accommodate the different culture of the modern colonial society. Classes commenced in the billiard room of Woodbridge under the guidance of the school's first Headmaster, Mr Frank Bennett, with the first students mainly sons and daughters of local families. Very quickly, the class grew from 14 students to 35, spilling on to verandahs. The Guildford Grammar School we know today was born.
In 1900 the School moved from the Harper family home to its present site, with a series of new buildings opened in 1904 by Governor Sir Frederick Bedford.
According to the school magazine, The Swan, “The School buildings form a handsome structure facing the Midland Road, the rear overlooking the river flats, on which our cricket ground is to be placed. The structure is two storeys high and built of brick faced with white stucco.”
Work almost immediately began in levelling the cricket ground and laying the pitch, with the grounds also used for ladies’ hockey. It was the beginning of a proud tradition in sport, which included Guildford Grammar School becoming one of the founding members of the Public Schools' Sports Association of Western Australia (the PSA), together with CBC, Scotch College and the High School (Hale). The Association today is regarded as Western Australia's pre-eminent group of independent schools.
Guildford Grammar School also gained a reputation for delivering an excellent education to its pupils, with Prescott Henry Harper the first of many Rhodes Scholars to graduate from the School in 1905.
Click here to find out about Guildford Grammar School's many Rhodes Scholars
In 1908, Harper began discussions with local clergy the possibility of the School becoming more closely linked to the Church of England. The transfer took place in 1910, under the leadership of cleric and Headmaster Percy Henn, who had secured an endowment from Mr C H Oliverson, a wealthy London merchant, to personally finance the building of a suitable chapel on the grounds. The remarkable chapel was consecrated by the Bishop of Perth in 1914.
World War I took a significant toll on Guildford Grammar School, with many boys and Old Guildfordians lost. Over the years, many Guildfordians have served their country, and the names of the fallen are commemorated on our School war memorial.
During the Second World War, the School was again faced by upheaval and the loss of many fine students and teachers. In 1942, the school was commandeered by the military as a hospital and students relocated to Fairbridge. The announcement that the School would be shifted to Fairbridge was made on Lady Day and it was not until Lady Day in 1943 that students were told they would be allowed to return to Guildford.
While the students were absent, a red cross was painted on the roof of the chapel, the faint outline of which remains to today. In the 1950s six memorial windows in the chapel were dedicated to students who had died in the war as pilots in the RAAF.
Click here to learn about Ben Carlin and the famous Half Safe
Click here to learn about Old Guildfordians who served in Vietnam
Click here to learn about Old Guildfordians who served in the Korean War
In the 1970s, modernisation of secondary schooling across Australia saw the education offering at Guildford expanded. Then principal David Lawe Davies saw great opportunities in being able to offer a broad and relevant education to greater numbers of city and country students.
In 1976, places at the Preparatory School were offered to girls as well as boys, and Enid Fergusson-Stewart (nee Drake-Brockman), one of the original students of Harper’s school, attended the opening with her great-granddaughter. Anna Stewart was the fourth generation of her family to attend Guildford Grammar School.
By the early 1980s, the school had grown from 770 students to more than 1000, while in recent decades there has been a rapid expansion of facilities to accommodate the increased numbers.
The most recent decades have seen Guildford Grammar School become a truly modern Independent school, including the development of the award winning Thwaites Centre and modernised Preparatory School.
In 2015, new Preparatory School wings were opened, named the Joobaitch, Monop and Woolba Wings.
Each wing is named after one of three Nyoongar men were incredibly significant Indigenous leaders who had a strong connection to the land on which the School stands and the surrounding districts and country areas.
The men were recognised for helping to bridge the divide between cultures, dancing the ‘Spider Dance’ for a Royal visit in 1901 in the Guildford area.
In recent times, the School’s Boodjar Bidi boys have performed the same dance under the leadership of Barry McGuire.
Guildford Grammar School today offers students an excellent education founded on traditional values, but shaped by the needs of students today and tomorrow.
More than 1200 students walk the grounds, both boys and girls, collaborating and learning together. The 2016 School Council decision to extend co-education from Kindergarten to Year 12 will ensure Guildford Grammar School’s future is as positive as its past.