History

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Elizabeth College has a chequered and distinguished history of which it is rightly proud. Click on the tabs below to discover more:

Established more than 450 years ago, Elizabeth College was established in 1563 by royal command – an attempt to provide education in Guernsey beyond what we now term ‘primary’ level. The basic aim of Elizabeth I and her ministers was to train priests who would preach in island parish churches according to the principles of the Protestant Reformation. Such was the religious and political mayhem in the island that Elizabeth’s hope was a forlorn one.

The first headmaster, Adrian Saravia, was a friend of Elizabeth’s chief minister, William Cecil. A distinguished academic, Saravia found the islanders to be brutish and lawless and reported back to Cecil that it was impossible to teach the islanders anything. He branded the local lawmakers as ‘cheats and liars’ and soon gave up his post. He returned to England and later became one of the translators of the King James Bible.

For two and a half centuries, the school tottered on the brink of extinction. There were times when, although there was a headmaster on the pay roll, there were no pupils. In 1824, the island’s Lt Governor, Sir John Colborne, set up an enquiry into the state of the College, the result of which was the re-chartering which led to a renaissance of the school. A new building was commissioned – the largest civil construction project the island had ever known. It remains the centre of College life today and its outline still dominates the St Peter Port skyline.


The College’s portrait collection has been included in the Channel Islands Public Catalogue Foundation and can be viewed here.


During the 19th century, the school catered for many boys whose parents were employed by the British government in far-flung outposts of the British Empire. A number of those same boys themselves followed distinguished colonial careers. In the same era, the College was noted for its ability to prepare boys for entry into the army and naval colleges on the mainland. The record of Old Elizabethans in the two world wars and other major conflicts of the past two centuries is wholly exceptional – no fewer than four Old Elizabethans have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

Ahead of Guernsey being occupied by German forces in 1940, the entire school was evacuated to Derbyshire and spent five years ‘in exile’. Boys had little or no contact with their parents during the occupation of the island. The College itself was used by the occupying German forces as a headquarters building and the official liberation announcement was made to cheering crowds from the steps of the school in 1945.

The College has enjoyed the support of the States of Guernsey since its establishment in 1563 and continues to grant a fee subsidy to all Upper School pupils. This ‘General Grant’, along with the States-funded special places, enables Elizabeth College fees to be held at an affordable level, around 30% lower than the average for UK independent schools. The College provides an excellent education to many of Guernsey’s children at a lower cost to the Guernsey tax payer than the State sector can provide.

There have been a number of royal visits to the College, notably by the Queen in 1957 and George V in 1921. Old Elizabethans have a distinguished sporting record which includes medal-winning performances in recent times in both the Olympic and the Commonwealth Games.

A History of Elizabeth College was published in celebration of the 450th anniversary. This beautiful and comprehensively researched book covers the founding of the College in 1563, the 1824 re-chartering and College’s exile to escape the WWII German occupation of Guernsey, as well as many other fascinating events in the life of Elizabeth College. Further details including how to order the book at a greatly reduced price are available by clicking the History Book tab above.

Since the foundation of Elizabeth College in 1563, the school has taken pupils as young as seven or eight years old. After the end of the Second World War, the population of Guernsey started to grow significantly and so did the pupil roll at the College. The College buildings were becoming overcrowded, and in January 1949 the Junior School was relocated to new, separate premises at Beechwood in the Queen’s Road. The magnificent Victorian house there had originally been the country residence of the Carey family on Guernsey.  In the mid-twenties, it was set up as a nursing home and during the War was occupied by German officers and used as a sanatorium.  The facilities at Beechwood have expanded significantly in the last 60 years with the addition of purpose-built teaching blocks and sports facilities behind the refurbished Beechwood House. Initially established, like Elizabeth College, as a boys only school, the Elizabeth College Junior School first admitted girls in 2007 and is now fully coeducational from the age of two to 11 years old.

Acorn House houses the Pre-School and Pre-Preparatory departments of Elizabeth College Junior School. It opened in 1996 in the building that had previously been used as a boarding house for the College. This has been developed over the years and now houses the Pre-School, established in 1999, and the Pre-Preparatory Department, both fully coeducational. The Pre-School has three classes and children from the age of two to four can attend. The Pre-Preparatory Department has six classes, two in each year group. Acorn House provides education for both boys and girls. Many children attending the Pre-School move into Reception. 

 
History Book imageA History of Elizabeth College’ by Bruce Parker has recently been published as the first comprehensive history of Elizabeth College. Now available at a heavily reduced price of only £5 plus P&P.

This beautifully illustrated and immensely readable book tells the fascinating story of four and a half centuries of life at Elizabeth College and has been written by Bruce Parker, an Old Elizabethan (4747), former master and retired BBC TV journalist. Bruce has uncovered an immense amount of material held at the College, in local archives and all over England which contribute to the story of the College and Guernsey itself. The intriguing story it tells has delighted, entertained and astonished readers with many unknown details and tales from the College’s eventful history. See the brochure here.

“Bruce Parker has produced an illuminating portrait of an institution which has generated, in so many islanders, profound and enduring love and affection. This long-overdue work eloquently records the contributions made by many staff and the achievements of students, both in Guernsey and beyond its shores.” Sir Geoffrey Rowland, Bailiff of Guernsey.

“An enjoyable, informative and valuable contribution to Guernsey’s historical literature.” Dr Darryl Ogier, Guernsey Archives.


The book is now available directly from the College at a bargain price of only £5.00 + p&p.


To purchase:

(a) At the Elizabeth College reception during school hours (8am to 4:30pm) by cash or cheque made payable to Elizabeth College Foundation.
(b) Complete the attached form and return by email/post to the College including payment by cheque or by electronic banking payment (preferred to (c) as it minimises the charges to Elizabeth College). Or
(c) By Paypal using a bank or credit card.
Once you have selected your postage option the ‘Pay Now’ button will take you into the Paypal system to process your payment.


Postage Options



Print of Elizabeth College


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We are pleased to be able to make available a limited edition print of an image of the College which appears in the history book title pages.  It shows the “new” Elizabeth College buildings and St James and was painted in 1843 by JH Matthiason who was, at the time, the Elizabeth College Civil Engineering Master.

The print is available in a plain gold frame with hand-painted OE colours across the corner of the mount for £40.
A framed version without the colours is available for £35.
The picture will be available to collect from Elizabeth College, or postage and packing to Guernsey/UK will be an additional £10.
Please complete and return the attached order form with your payment.

The Elizabeth College Book of Remembrance, commemorating all of the former pupils who died in the two World Wars, was placed in a niche in College Hall at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 2005, eighty seven years since the first Armistice ended the Great War.

Elizabeth College decided that a Book of Remembrance would be created to commemorate the Old Elizabethans who died in the two World Wars and supplement the war memorials in College Hall. Extensive research was undertaken into which old Elizabethans should be listed; this became a very complex task as there were many discrepancies between the many different sources of information. It was decided to list each name gleaned from searching the College Registers, with their consolidated lists of the war dead, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, which lists every known soldier, sailor or airman who was lost in the two World Wars. Where the discrepancies were irreconcilable, then an observation has been made.

In the remembrance book, the College number, name, regiment, date of birth, date of death and age at death are listed. The lists attached here include other information which may be of interest to families and students.

Old Elizabethans killed during WW1

Old Elizabethans killed during WW2