Good Hope Seminary High School turned 143 years old in October 2016. It is the oldest school in Cape Town on its original site.
The history of our school’s establishment is as follows.
In October 1872, a proposal was made to the CT Presbytery of the Dutch Reformed Church that consideration should be given to the establishment of a school for the advanced education for girls. Hopeville Lodge, the former home of the Chief Justice of the Cape, Sir John Wylde, was purchased for the purpose of founding a school. Located between its main entrance on Glynville Terrace and Hope Street in Gardens, it was on one of the new tram routes that ran along Orange Street and Mill Street, only a very short walk away.
After necessary alterations to the building, the school was opened on 6 October 1873 under the name of the Good Hope Seminary for Young Ladies. On 1 December 1873 the property was transferred into the names of five trustees while the school was administered by a Board of Management under the chairmanship of W.E. Moore, a prominent lawyer, a duty he fulfilled for approximately 37 years.
The Lodge was described as a spacious mansion with well-wooded grounds, having immense rooms. The latter feature would prove to be useful for the boarding hostel that was housed in the same building as the school. The hostel (named Charlton House after Miss Joyce Charlton, Principal 1970- 1981) remains on the original site of Hopeville Lodge, while the school itself was extended in 1916, with the main building (parallel to Hope Street) displaying beautiful colonnades on the façade facing Hope Street, and a distinctive cupola on the roof. The main entrance was relocated to Hope Street where it remains to this day. A wing of classrooms, laboratories and a lecture theatre was added in the 1960s and further classrooms in 1972. The Tyfield Library (named after Miss Thelma Tyfield, Principal 1943 – 1961) is housed in a separate building. The entire campus including tennis/netball courts and swimming pool is still situated on the original site of Hopeville lodge.
THE SCHOOL’S CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY in respect of the provision of an advanced education for girls.
We are proud that the original educational goals of the founding fathers are enjoyed 143 years later, by girls representative of the full spectrum of the citizens of our city, and also our country.
It was the stated intention of Mrs Percival, Principal 1874 - 1886, to fulfil the aspirations of the founders: ‘…..to provide young women with a sound Christian, and at the same time, liberal education, such as would enable them worthily to fill their station in life, and duly exercise that elevating influence which, in every Christian community, constitutes the peculiar and indispensable power of women’.
Despite its sectarian origins, tolerance always stood as a hallmark of Good Hope Seminary’s ethos and girls from both Christian and Jewish backgrounds integrated happily while German and French girls provided balance to the Dutch (and later Afrikaans) and English mix.
An historical and political milestone was reached in 1991 when the school was finally permitted to admit pupils of all races, and today the pupil population is fully representative of the demographic of South Africa.
The Founders stated in 1873 that:
“by far the most important object of all true education is to be achieved, namely the awakening of the intelligence and the rousing of the interest of the pupils, in literature, art and the larger aspect of life in order to supply them with internal resources, and warrant the expectation of further self-development and secure their future usefulness.“
This was, for 1873, a truly forward-thinking set of ideals and as such can be considered the first mission and vision statement for the school. It is not surprising that the subjects chosen for the curriculum were far removed from the “needlework and polite conversation” considered to be the suitable accomplishments for the young ladies of that period. Therefore, a wide choice of subjects including Chemistry, Mineralogy, Algebra, Physical and Political Geography, English language and English Literature, English and Colonial History, Bible History, Latin, Dutch, German, and French were available.
Good Hope Seminary has continued to uphold the tradition of offering a wide subject choice, so just as in 1873, the school still offers a curriculum composed of Language and Literature in both English and Afrikaans, Sciences (both Physical and Natural), Geography, History, Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy, Accounting, Business Studies, Computer Applications Technology, Consumer Studies, Music, Visual Arts and Life Orientation. Pupils are thus able, over 140 years later, to fulfil the aspirations of the founding fathers in respect to their development as young women. They are able to take their place in the 21st century with confidence, secure in the depth and scope of knowledge and character development which the school has so ably provided for them.