25th May 1563
Elizabeth College is founded in St Peter Port

Elizabeth College was founded on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I. Yet even with such grand patronage, the St Peter Port college that bears her name had an uncertain beginning.

The first head teacher lasted less than five years. Belgian-born Hadrian à Saravia, more commonly-known as Adrian Saravia, was appointed to establish and lead the school. However, he became so frustrated by the job that he left in 1568. He’d been there less than five years, and later assisted in the translation of the original King James Bible.

Slow growth

The pupils were so few in number at its founding – and for more than the next 200 years – that there were times when they were outnumbered by the teachers. It took until the 1820s for its to really find its way. It was then that a committee put together by the Lieutenant-Governor wrote a new curriculum, hired new teachers and enrolled more pupils. In order to push through their changes, they had to get rid of the headmaster, Daniel Durand. Fortunately, they bribed him with the promise of a pension, and he went.

Since then, it has never looked back. Over the years it has grown from the single building it initially occupied to the point where it now consumes a full 69 acres.

Elizabeth College during the war

The school premises were used by the occupying forces as a headquarters building during the Second World War. Its roll of 150 students had been evacuated en masse to Derbyshire before the forces arrived.

The Germans built a large, strong bunker in its grounds, which they used as an ammunition store. This is now the foundation of the school’s tennis court. When the island was liberated in 1945, the official announcement was made from the school steps, further cementing its position as a historical focal point for the island.

Category: Guernsey History | Other events tagged

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