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125 Years of History

A School is Born

Mrs Grosvenor TuckerMrs. Grosvenor Tucker is the person credited with developing the idea of creating an all-girls school, and of gathering the people who embarked on the journey to create The Bermuda High School for Girls at the end of the 19th century. She was a mother of six daughters, and was determined that they should have the very best education, and so in the Spring of 1894, she formed a committee charged with raising the necessary funds to realise her vision. 

The Committee turned to the Headmistress of Cheltenham Ladies College in the UK, Miss Dorothea Beale, for advice. She suggested a colleague, Miss Matilda Tothill, who was renowned for her energy, efficiency and enthusiasm, and encouraged her to take up the position of Headmistress at BHS. Miss Tothill arrived in Bermuda by steam ship in early September 1894 with Miss Millicent Strange, the teacher she had chosen to accompany her. The committee that started with nothing but determination, courage and the certainty of about 30 students opened the School to 51 students on September 17th, 1894, in two rooms of a rented house on Reid Street. Original Building

Early Days

Within a year of opening its doors, the School was growing so fast that the committee knew they needed a bigger space. Mr. William Barr and his wife donated the piece of land on which the current campus sits. In June 1899, staff and students moved into the newly constructed building, which to this day houses the main reception area, main hall and classrooms and is known as The Tucker Centre, after Mrs. Grosvenor Tucker. The oak staircase is still in use, and was donated to the school by Mr. Musson Wainwright, who went on to become the Mayor of Hamilton.

Old photo The Tucker CentreBy the time Miss Tothill retired in 1900, the school was firmly established in the community, with its character and ideals in place. At that time, there were 80 pupils enrolled, divided into five classes. Miss Tothill never lost touch with the School and kept a keen interest in its workings, all the while maintaining a great sense of pride throughout her life that the aims and ideals she had brought with her from Cheltenham were being carried on at BHS.

By 1917, BHS had enrolled its 100th pupil, and in 1923, it was time for the school to expand its space yet again. In 1923, the Hastings Wing was completed – funded by a £1,000 gift from Mrs. George Plimpton in memory of her parents General and Mrs. Hastings, who had been early benefactors of the School.

Throughout the 1920s, BHS saw the House System and netball introduced, with a playing field acquired in 1927. In 1931 the first ever Field Day was held, a tradition that still holds today as Primary and Secondary students compete in Sports Day.

BHS Grows

The School soon became overcrowded again, and in 1932 the Rose Gosling Wing (which now houses the Primary Department) was constructed and joined to the main building by the “Covered Way”. In 1934, former student, Miss Marjorie Hallett, became Headmistress, a position she held for over 30 years.  In 1937, Miss Hallett introduced the First Old Girls’ Day ceremony, which this year celebrated its 82nd anniversary as The Torch Ceremony. Torch Ceremony

BHS celebrated 50 years in 1944 with a week of celebrations, ending with a Thanksgiving service at the Hamilton Anglican Cathedral. During his address, the Bishop remarked, “…it can scarcely be doubted that some of you will live to see a woman physician standing at your bedside, and listen to a woman barrister practicing in the courts, perhaps indeed to carry the doctor’s stethoscope or to wear the barrister’s gowns yourselves”. The times were changing, and BHS graduates were ready.

From 1945 onwards, women’s traditional roles were changing, and women were entering careers which had previously been completely dominated by men. BHS graduates were well prepared. Miss Hallett noted, in a 1945 quote that still holds true in 2019, “Today, to a greater extent than ever before, BHS girls are preparing themselves to enter professional and commercial fields. Efficient leadership is badly needed in all spheres of life, and in the future, as in the past, I am confident there will BHS girls ready and equipped to fill this need.”

World War II saw the role of women evolve further, and indeed, these young women owed their new status and rights to many BHS Old Girls – Gladys Morrell, Doris Butterfield, Marie Bluck, Kitty Zuill, Hilda Aitken, Betty Kitson and Rose Gosling, who were all instrumental players in the women’s suffragette movement in Bermuda.

The School Association purchased Curling Cottage at the end of 1945 and it served as the home for the Art and Music Departments. By 1947, there were 300 pupils at the school, and in 1949, Miss Hallett was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws from Mount Allison University. In 1952 the Marjorie Hallett Wing was completed including the Queen Elizabeth Hall, which to this day still serves as a focal point for the community life of the School.

A Modern School

Throughout the 1950s, outstanding exam results were achieved and more and more young women gained entry to college and universities around the world.

Dr. Hallett had steadily steered the School through a tumultuous time from World War II at the start of her time at BHS, to the upheaval of the 1960s. During this period, more and more doors were opening for women, and BHS ensured that its Old Girls were able to take advantage and walk right through them.

The 1960s saw some major changes for the School; in 1968 the first black pupils were admitted; Laurita Wilson in the kindergarten (now EYP teacher Laurita Dill) and Deborah Jackson in the Secondary department. In 1972, the first male Head of School, John Delany, joined the School to see it through a great period of change. During his six years at BHS, he established a Scholarship Scheme to help admit deserving students from the Government Primary School system, and oversaw the extension of science, modern languages and business studies courses throughout the school, and perhaps most importantly, the desegregation of the student body and the staff. The Senior Years Programme was introduced in 1974 which saw boys back on campus, but at the end of their educational journey this time!

ComputerBHS had started to take the shape of the School we know today; in 1973 the Parent Group was founded, (the precursor to the PTA) and parents took on a more active role in fundraising for the School. Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, the School expanded its footprint and subject offerings with the opening of the Arts Centre in 1974 (renamed the Frances Tucker Zuill Wing in 1991), and the start of Computer Studies in 1984. In 1990 The Dudley G. Butterfield Centre opened, and in 1991, BHS made an important contribution to the community when it leased land to The Reading Clinic for their current home.

A Trailblazer in Education

The past two decades have seen enormous growth of BHS – in 2000, BHS became the first IB World School in Bermuda, leading the way for other schools to follow in its path. The Renaissance IB Centre was completed in 2006 and houses IB students in their own, purpose-built facility. In 2003, a state-of-the-art gymnasium was built, named after donor and former Head Girl (1919), Jessie Vesey.ib center opening

In 2005, BHS joined the worldwide network of 200 schools in 50 countries to become a Global Member of Round Square, an organisation that has enriched the lives of our staff and students immeasurably.

In 2016, the Early Years Programme (EYP) was introduced and 18 four year olds joined the BHS family. The BHS EYP provides essential learning and social skills and creative exploration opportunities which ensures a smooth transition into primary school.

In 2014 and 2015 respectively, BHS was recognised internationally for high academic standards by both the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). These accreditations speak to over a century of diligence in the pursuit of excellence, and celebrate BHS’s remarkable commitment to a high standard of education as well as continued growth and self-improvement. 

A School for the Future

Campaign Launch Event 3268241BHS launched its Leading the Way Campaign for Innovation in March 2017, and to date has raised over $10.7M to build a 14,000 square foot Innovation Centre purposed for STEAM. The ground-breaking was held in January 2019, and local firm BCM McAlpine is overseeing the construction, which is due to be completed in the Fall of 2020.

The Innovation Centre will include five new Science laboratories, two Computer Science and Robotics labs, a MakerSpace, a Learning Commons and Library, and a Leadership Centre for Girls.  Renovations include a Blackbox Theatre and an Arts Wing connected to the Innovation Centre that will house the upgraded Music and Visual Art departments, with an outdoor “Idea Hub” linking the Visual Arts with the MakerSpace.  

BHS has always been known as a school that provides an excellent education, and prepares students for wherever life takes them.  The global economy of the 21st century needs more girls studying STEAM subjects, and Bermuda also requires young women with the leadership, communication and collaboration skills necessary to lead companies, non-profits and indeed, the country.  By offering a higher quality and comprehensive STEAM programme with updated facilities, we are broadening the potential for a wider educational experience, not only for current and future BHS students, but also for others in the community.West Elevation without Timber Screen View 1 18 12 2018

Throughout its history, BHS has evolved with the times; growing and changing as needed, but always staying true to its core values in the pursuit of excellence. On the verge of a new era which will bring BHS firmly into the 21st Century, it is remarkable to look back on 125 years of history and reflect on all the people who have played a part in this venerable school’s history. It is with honour and pride that alumni of BHS realise that they too are a part of the BHS story – a story with many exciting chapters, and many more still to be written.