- Bishop's College
For the college in Texas, USA, see
Bishop's College in
Colombo, Sri Lankawas founded by the Anglican Church of Ceylonin February 1875.
It is a free-levying private school, with over 2000 students at all grades from Kindergarten to Grade 14. The current principal is Mrs. Hemamali Bibile.
Now located at 15 Boyd Place, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka, it was one of the earliest mission schools of the
Church of Englandin Ceylon. The college was first known as Bishopsgate School. The Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev. James Chapman (1845-1862) was instrumental in setting up Bishopsgate School. 1875 is the official date from which the count begins but there is an earlier connection. Mrs. Frances Chapman, wife of Bishop Chapman had set her heart on setting up a school for Christian girls with funds collected while on furloughin England. In 1857 she established a school in their own residence in Mutwalcalled Bishopsgate, with the 20 pupils she desired. The Principal was Mrs. Long, who had served earlier at the Church Missionary School in Nallur, Jaffna. In May 1859 Mrs. Chapman returned to England due to ill health, and Mrs. Long died in 1861. The school had to be temporarily closed. No reference to its reopening is available in the Diocesan Archives.
Bishop's College dates its beginning to 1875, when the school with 13 pupils was established at Fairfield House in Darley Road, under the same name - Bishopsgate School. Fairfield House is the present site of Link Holdings Ltd. Even today the word "Bishopsgate" stands engraved at the entrance to the building. The first Principal to come out was Miss Georgiana Down, who on marriage became Mrs. Henry Drew. Among the first girls enrolled were Minnie Von Possner, Hilda Obeysekera, Dorah Aserappah and Caroline Peiris. The first boys to enter the kindergarten were James and Donald Obeysekera and Leslie de Saram. Monthly expenses in running the school were about Rs. 300/= which included rent, salaries, and the hire of a piano. The income in fees in the first month totalled Rs. 302/50! In 1882 the school had twenty-one pupils, four of them in the school boarding. But the income was not sufficient to make ends meet. Even with the sale of the furniture, the debts could not be settled. Mrs. Drew resigned in April 1882, and with her departure the school had to be closed again. [Records in the Diocese of Colombo Archives] Mrs. Drew returned to England with her husband and three children. [Her three children were Winifred Nora, Georgiana Daisy and Harry Guy, the latter becoming the father of architect
Jane Drew. A further misfortune was that Harry Drew died in 1895, leaving her with eight children to support. She died in 1942 at the advanced age of 96.]
In 1887, three Sisters from St Margaret's Convent in
East Grinstead, England came out to Ceylon on missionary work. Their Society of Saint Margaretwas a sorority founded by Dr John Mason Nealein 1855, which had now expanded to overseas mission. After a short location at Greenpath, they established their Convent at Polwatta, Colpety.
One of them, Sister Joanna Mary, was asked to help in the running of the school. Principals and teachers who came out to Ceylon to fulfil the goals of Christian Mission often had to leave due to ill health, the rigours of the tropical climate or personal reasons. The answer seemed to be with the Sisters of St Margaret, and Sister Angela was the first Sister to be Principal of Bishopsgate School. The school was to be an institution to promote educational advancement, and also a
finishing schoolfor the daughters of Christian families. Subjects taught directed them to the Cambridge local examinations: French, drawing, singing, and piano playing were also on the curriculum.
In 1890, the then Bishop of Colombo, Bishop R. S. Copleston, purchased the Maradatin Cinnamon Gardens bordering on Boyd Place, Colpety. The school moved from Darley Road to these premises in 1892, and was renamed Bishop's College. Although the Sisters of St. Margaret had by now for some years been associated with the running of the school, it was now with this shift that the school was passed into their care. Proximity to St Margaret's Convent at Polwatte was of great significance. For an unbroken period of sixty years from 1895-1955 these Sisters guided the students of Bishop's College: not only in their mental development, but in the levels of charity, community spirit and public service, and upholding of he school motto "Non Sibi Sed Omnibus" (Not for Self, but for All).
There were ten Sisters who were Principals of the school in this period of 60 years. They were, in the order of their Principal-ship: Sister Bridget Margaret, Sister Bertha Mary, Sister Latitia, Sister Eva, Sister Marguerite, Sister Geraldine Mary, Sister Mary Kathleen, Sister Mabel, Sister Celestine and Sister Gabriel.
A close bond was established between Bishop's College and St Margaret's Convent, Polwatte, which remains up to now. The Sisters are revered guests at all school functions; Bishop's College participates in all their special occasions and upholds the motto they gave the school by helping to the Convent in fund-raising at their annual fair and in many other ways.
The number of students when the school moved to Boyd Place, was 70. As early as 1896 an Association of Past Pupils known then as the Bishop's College Association was set up. As Bishop's College entered the 20th century the school chapel was dedicated to St Agnes, the Roman Virgin and Martyr of the 4th Century A.D.
The school faced Boyd Place on the South, a property known as Arncliffe on the East, a building known as Edgecote on the West, and a Government reservation adjoining the
Beira Lakeon the North. The property on which the school was located was held in trust by the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Colombowith a board of three members. As the numbers on the school increased, additional staff had to be recruited and accommodation organised. The adjoining building, Edgecote, was rented out to house the kindergarten. Buildings within the premises were expanded. In due course the school built its own Kindergarten block and Edgecote was given up in 1929. Elscourt, a magnificent building on Turret Road, opposite the Victoria Park, at one time the site of the Colombo Orient Club, was gifted to the school by a loyal past pupil Mrs Maude Peiris.
After much deliberation, and with the donor's approval, it was decided not to open a unit of the school at Elscourt as it was considered too far from the building at Boyd Place. Elscourt was sold and with funds realised. Arncliffe, the building adjoining the school with two road frontages - Boyd Place and General's Lake Road - was purchased. It was renamed Peiris House as a tribute to the generosity of Mrs. Maude Peiris. With World War II entering the Asian zone, Bishop's College evacuated to "Fernhill" in
Bahiravakanda, Kandy, with 37 students. Since the building could not house all the classrooms, Kandy Girls' High School generously shared their building. Those students who were left behind in Colombo were joined by those of Ladies College who had also not evacuated to form "Lake School" in the Bishop's College premises. Some of the buildings were taken over by the Military, so the space was limited. In 1943, the danger from the war removed, the two branches of Bishop's College were reunited at Boyd Place. The number on the roll at the re-establishment was 100.
With the end of the war, the country was moving towards independence, and Bishop's College had in 1943 introduced
Sinhalaand Tamilas the media of instruction in the kindergarten, while they were being taught as a subject. Although the school had been established as a Christian missionary school, the Sisters of St. Margaret had, as early as 1909, adopted a pluralist approach to religion. Of the 114 students at that time, 22 were non-Christian. In 1938 a Buddhiststudent was appointed Head Prefect.
In 1955 the Sisters, due to non-availability of personnel, gave up guiding the school. The school thereafter had its policy determined by a Board of Governors with the Bishop of Colombo as Chairman. Miss L.Y. Pode was appointed Principal. In 1959 Bishop's College had the first Ceylonese Principal Miss A.C. B. Jayasuriya, and with her came a new identity to the school. With a focus on national culture, she introduced the practice that the students of other faiths should commence their day with their own religious observance, as the Christians did, and have their own societies and celebrate their own festivals. She had a school song composed in Sinhala and set to oriental music. A
HewisiBand was trained to complement the Western Band. The activities of societies were in Sinhala, and in Tamil as the Tamil stream came up the school were on par with the English which had been a long-established tradition.
The school opted to be a free-levying private school and had to find its own financial resources. The school passed on after 19 years to the Principalship of Mrs Gwen Dias Abeysinghe, a past pupil. She added to the standards inherited, and Bishop's College came to produce good examinees, more champions in sports, and excellent theatrical performances; including "
The Gondoliers" with a combined cast of girls from Bishop's and boys from the brother school at S. Thomas' College.
The Past Pupils' Association, which has grown in strength, has always been supportive and assisted with money raising for buildings. Since the school hall, impressive in its day, was totally inadequate for present needs, the PPA was anxious to gift an auditorium to their "
Alma Mater", and with land leased out from the Government, laid the foundation in 1985. With the rising costs in construction, the project was spread out longer than envisaged but was commissioned for use in 1994. The school, the PPA and Parent-Teacher Association all contributed to make this a reality.
This last decade has seen the school steered by Mrs. Lindley Jayasuriya, earlier Vice-Principal. She has maintained the standards achieved in every aspect of the school.
Distinguished Old Girls
Iranganie Serasinghe- Sri Lankan actress
Manamohini Silva- Sri Lankan idol
* [http://www.xasia.lk/bishops/ Official site]
* [http://www.bishopscollege.lk/ Bishop's College website]
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