Colombo Fort, Sri Lanka

Bishop's College
Bishop's College main building
Bishop's College main building
Bishop's College Advanced Level Building
Bishop's College Advanced Level Building
Bishop's College pool
Bishop's College pool

Bishop's College

Bishop's College
Boyd Place , Kollupitiya
Established in 1857

One of the missionary schools established for girls of elite Christian families, mainly of the British and European residents in Ceylon. It was then known as Bishopsgate School and was in Darley Road. In 1892, Bishopsgate School moved from Darley Road in Maradana to spacious premises on Boyd Place near the Beira Lake in Kollupitiya. From then, the school has been known as Bishop's College, Sister Angela was the first Principal.

History of Bishop's College Colombo

The history of Bishop's College is taken from the book Bishop's College 1875-2000 which was published for the celebrations of the hundred and twenty fifth year of official existence in 2000. We say "official" existence because a precursor to Bishop's College had been established in 1857, but had closed down after sometime with no record available until it was re-established in 1875.

Origins (1857-1875)

During the British colonial rule a number of Christian mission schools were established in Ceylon. These schools were established from the 1820s, and provided primary and secondary education and were pivotal in the spread of Christian education.

Bishop's College began in February 1857 and then known as Bishopsgate School, was one of the earliest mission schools established for girls of elite Christian families and of the British and other Europeans resident in Ceylon. Bishop Chapman's Memorials (Published after his death by S. Keffington & Co. in 1892) record that Bishopsgate School commenced on the 1st February 1857.

The Rt. Revd. James Chapman and his wife Frances, whose father had been the Headmaster of Eton, were instrumental in founding Bishopsgate School.Rt. Revd. James Chapman was Bishop of Colombo from 1845-1862. He was also the Chairman of the Education Commission for Ceylon and took a great interest in expanding the scope of education in the island.

In 1847 he purchased a property in Mutwal, a residential quarter at that time, for his own residence to be known as Bishopsgate.

When the Chapmans were on home leave in England 1855, they took the opportunity to raise money for the work of the Diocese of Colombo. To quote from the Memorials of Bishop Chapman "... the Bishop put firth as appeal for help, first for the foundation of Divinity Studentships in close connection with the College and secondly for the commencement of a high-class Girls' School... Mrs.Chapman had always taken a practical interest in the vernacular schools for girls.... and often lamented that the good education given to the girls of low caste, was denied to those of higher degree......."

The historian of the Diocese of Colombo records that it is to Mrs. Chapman that Ceylon very largely owes that beginnings of women's education. This reference is perhaps to the fact that a school for upper class girls was started in their own home - the Bishopsgate School.

New Beginning (1875-1887)

The Sisters of St. Margaret was a society founded in 1855 by Dr. John Mason Neale at Rotherfield, England. They worked in the field of education with training schools in their London Mission for poor girls and boys. As the numbers increased they moved into their first convent in East Grinstead, Sussex. This society had begun it's overseas activities in 1873.

In 1887 the Ven. Walter Edmund Mathew, Vicar of St. Michael's church, Polwatta, had invited the sisters of St. Margaret to establish a branch in Ceylon.

On October 25th 1887, three sisters of St. Margaret, Sisters Joanna, Bridget and Verena arrived in Colombo from East Grinstead. The sisters established a convent at "Ebor House" (Later "Kew Lodge"), in Green Path, Colpetty. And in 1891 they moved to their present adobe in Polwatta.

The sisters carried out many tasks, they stated a school for middle class girls in the convent compound. Meanwhile illness had disrupted the efficient functioning of Bishopsgate School in Darley Road. In December 1887 Sister Joanne Mary, Sister in charge of St. Margaret's Home, was asked to help to run the school with the assistance of Mrs. Mathew, wife of Archdeacon.

The teachers who came to Ceylon to fulfill goals of Christian and colonising missions often had to leave due to ill health, inability to adapt to the tropical climate and a few for personal reasons.

The connection with the sisters of St. Margaret was then to afford the school important years of stability. St. Margaret's was able to supply a long line of dedicate principals.

In 1888 Bishop R. S. Copleston invited the Sisters of St. Margaret's to take charge of Bishopsgate School, and the first sister to be it's principal was Sister Angela.
In February 1890 Bishop R. S. Copleston purchased Marandatin Cinnamon Gardens in Colombo, a spacious premises near boyd place and the Beira Lake. In 1892 Bishopsgate School moved from Darley Road to this Cinnamon estate near Boyd Place. With this change there was also a change in the name of the school since it had now moved out of the Bishop's private premises. The school was now known as Bishop's College. The school had 70 pupils.

In 1895 Sister Bridget Margaret took over as Principal and in April of the same year Bishop's College passed into the care of the Sisters of St. Margaret, East Grinstead. In Ceylon the sisters had their convent at Polwatta adjoining Boyd Place.
These dedicated sisters headed the school and served for an unbroken period of 60 years.

St. Margaret's Convent, Polwatta would become for those at Bishop's College and alter ego, as it were a site on which the tenants of charity, community spirit and public service upheld by the motto of Bishop's College itself - Non Sibi Sed Omnibus (Not For Self But For All) were practiced.

The close bond between Bishop's College and the convent is shown by the inclusion of a St. Margaret's Day Fair in the BC calendar, proceeds of which went to the school and home at Polwatta (This St. Margaret's Day fair is included in the BC calendar up to this current day).

In many fields the Sisters were ahead of their time. A decision was made that "No teacher may under any circumstances strike a pupil unless the principal should find it necessary as a definite punishment, in which case it must be reported the same day to the parents of the child". This was indeed a bold and innovative measure, progressive even by the standards of today.

On the 3rd November 1896 the Past Pupils of the school met to discuss the possibility of founding a Past Pupils Association.With the Bishop's approval the first meeting of the PPA, to be known as the Bishop's College Association was held on December 5th.

Annual celebration which had commenced were the Prize Giving (recorded in 1897) and St. Margaret's Day on July 20th. Weekly services were inaugurated at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Polwatta in 1899.

In 1904 alterations and extensions to the College Chapel were carried out. And in the following year alterations and extensions in other areas of school were carried out.In May 1908 Sister Letitia arrived from England and took over as Principal. She was Principal till 1924, and the period she ushered in was a rich one.

In 1909, 114 students were on the roll showed a diversity of nationality, race and religion. By 1918 the number on the roll was 116. Sister Marguerite took over as Head in February 1924 till March 1930, when Sister Ada Mary was appointed to act. In January 1931, Sister Geraldine Mary was made Principal, which position she held till September 1932, when Sister Mary Kathleen took over.

The sisters set up a House System and appointing of prefects. They were named Chapman, Copleston, Ford & Henley.

In 1933 Sister Mary Kathleen assumed duties as Principal. The great interest that she took in the progress of the school from the beginning of her association with it made her a well-loved Principal during her term of 1933 to 1941.

The Bishop of Colombo at this time was the Rt. Revd. Mark Carpenter Garnier who had succeeded Bishop E.A. Coplestion in 1924. Bishop's College was under his care and jurisdiction. The Sister Superior of St. Margaret's Convent was now , ex-officio, Manager of Bishop's College.

In 1929, 'Elscourt', a magnificent building on turret Road opposite the Victoria Park was gifted to the school by Mrs. Charles Peiris (nee Maud de Mel).By 1936 there were 153 pupils and the buildings needed expansion. Elscourt was the site of World Fair I organized in 1937 by the past pupils of Bishop's College. Elscourt was sold and the funds raised from the sale of Elscourt were now available for the purchase in June 1937 of Arncliffe, a large house adjoining Bishop's College. In August 1937 Arncliffe was renamed Peiris House in tribute to the generous benefactress, Mrs. Maud Peiris. And Peiris House was declared open by the Governor Sir Andrew Caldecott.
On the 17th of March 1941 Sister Mary Kathleen resigned from her post as Principal and Sister Mabel was appointed to succeed her.

The Second World war was on its way and an atmosphere of anxiety prevailed. On the 15th March 1942, Fernhill on Bahirawakande in Kandy was inspected as a possible branch school. Colombo schools were closing for security of the children.
On May 1st1 942 the branch school of Bishop's College opened at Fernhill Kandy with 37 children.

Conditions in Colombo gradually returned to normal, and on April 17th 1943 the two branches of Bishop's College, Kandy and Colombo re-united at Boyd Place with 171 pupils on its roll, which by September had extended to 190. By January 1945, Sister Celestine replaced Sister Mabel as Principal.

In November 1948 World Fair II was held on the school grounds. Sister Gabriel took over from Sister Celestine soon after Ceylon attained Independence.
On the 31st of October 1951 Miss. L.Y. Pode came out from England to assume duties as the first Vice Principal of Bishop's College. On the 6th of July 1950 the Parent
Teacher Association met for the first time.

On June 2nd 1955 Sister Gabriel announced to the staff: " The Sisters of St. Margaret will withdraw from Bishop's College at the end of this term as there are no longer suitable Sisters for staffing a school such as Bishop's College.

In 1955 Miss. L.Y. Pode succeeded Sister Gabriel as Principal, with Mrs. Budd Jansze as Vice Principal.

The connection with the Sisters of St. Margaret did not break off, and unofficial connection continued between the Sisters and the administration of Bishop's College. In 1959 Miss. A.C.B. Jayasuriya succeeded Miss. L.Y.Pode.

On Miss. Jayasuriya's retirment in December 1978, the bond of the school with the Sisters was further strengthened, as the next Principal, Mrs. Gwen Dias-Abeysinghe, was a past pupil who had been under the tutelage of the Sisters. After she had served the school as Head for ten years, the mantle fell on the shoulders of her Vice Principal, Mrs. Lindley Jayasuriya, who had Practically her entire education with the Sisters at Bishop's College and had in addition maintained the connection by having been on the staff of the school since graduation.

Post Independence (1955-2000 and beyond)

In 1955 after the Sisters withdrew from the administration of the school, the school's administration was taken over by a Board, with the Bishop of Colombo as Chairman. The Principal who was appointed by the board, had a wide discretion in the running of the school and was to "be responsible for the entire internal organization, management and discipline of Bishop's College."

Miss. A.C.B. Jayasuriya assumed her charge at Bishop's College as Principal on September 1st 1959. Having served for a period of nineteen years, she left in December 1978. During her early years as Principal the education system in the country underwent major and critical changes. When Miss. A.C.B. Jayasuriya laid down office in December 1978 she handed over a 1000 students to the charge of her successor.

In 1976, Miss. Jayasuriya decided that the Bishop's College which had not had a school song, should have one composed in Sinhala. The Revd. George Karunaratne wrote the words, and the music was composed by Dr. Marasinghe. This school song was sung for the first time at the Prize Giving on the 30th January 1976.

On the 1st January 1979 Mrs. Gwen Dias Abeysinghe was appointed as Principal. A new chapter in the history of Bishop's College commenced with this appointment. A past pupil of the school, she came to her new task with both enthusiasm and gratitude. She brought with her a rich experience, having taught in Visakha Vidyalaya and at St. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia. At the end of December 1979, the Vice Principal Mrs. Brenda Jayasinghe resigned from her post after serving ten and a half years. Mrs.Jayasinghe was succeeded by Miss.Lindley Tennakoon who had been upto the Sectional Head of the Upper School.

On the 21st January 1980, Miss. Lindley Tennakoon was welcomed as Vice Principal. Now by marriage she was also Mrs.Lindley Jayasuriya

A graduate in Science, with the additional Diploma in Education, Mrs.Jayasuriya assumed her duties with several years of experience as a teacher and Sectional Head of the Upper School. Mrs.Jayasuriya was appointed to act as Principal in January 1989 and took on the reins of office on Mrs. Dias Abeysinghe's retirement, with 1600 students on the roll.

Mrs.Jayasuriya in the decade of her Principal ship which she completed in 1999, has had to face many problems in many situations.

Mrs. Marianne Hills , a graduate from University of Kelaniya, was Vice Principal from March 1989 to December 1996.Mrs. Nirmali Wickramasinghe , a graduate in Science of the University of Kelaniya, was Vice Principal from July 1997 to April 2002.Mrs. Cheryl Cooray , a graduate in Science from the University of Colombo, is the Vice Principal from May 2002.

Mrs. Hemamali Bibile was a student of CMS Ladies College Colombo 07, where she successfully completed her primary, secondary and advanced level studies. At the age of 20 she entered the English Teachers Training College and was appointed to St. Joseph’s Convent Kegalle, as a fully qualified English Teacher in 1974. She then moved on to Clifton Girls School Colombo where she served for nearly 11 years.

She was seconded to service at the Curriculum Development Centre, Colombo 07 as a Course Instructor and Syllabus Writer of English Text books and Teachers Guides. She won a Staff Development Award Scholarship offered by the British Council to the University of London for a one year diploma in Teaching English as a second language.
From 1988 to 1993 she has served as an English Teacher in the Ministry of Education Sultanate of Oman.

Having obtained a Bachelor of Education, English Medium, Specialising in Teaching English as a second language she was appointed an in-service teacher advisor to the Colombo district from 1994 to 2003.Obtaining many achievements from 1971 to 2003 she has greatly contributed to the field of education.

Bishops College Pics from days gone by sent in by Sandy Austin

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