Our History

St Hilda's in 1938
Milestones in our History

Early History (Claremont Ladies' College/Girls' High School):

1896: Mrs Edith Ross forms a small school situated on Stirling Highway.

1898: Misses Elisabeth and May Allen take charge of the fledgling school relocating to the Congregational Hall and later to the Parish Hall in Claremont and naming the school Claremont Ladies’ College.

1905: Miss Melina Parnell establishes the School naming it Girls’ High School. The Girls’ High School grows to include Macedon House (formerly in the grounds of the former John XXIII site on Stirling Highway, Claremont), and in 1907 Gunnersbury House on the river front (now in the grounds of Christ Church Grammar School).

1912: Miss Parnell moves the whole school to the river front in Claremont.

1926: Miss Parnell retires. After Miss Parnell’s retirement, the Anglican Church, keen to have an Anglican girls' school in the Claremont, Cottesloe and Peppermint Grove area, purchased the Girls’ High School. Three years later it is renamed and transferred to Bay View Terrace, Mosman Park.

1927: The Girls' High School is purchased by the West Australian Church Schools Company.

1929: The Girls' High School is sold to the Council of Church of England Schools. It is the first school for girls in Perth to be controlled by the Diocesan Trustees.

1931: Relocating and naming St Hilda’s: On Sunday, 22 March, the Governor of Western Australia, Sir William Campion, officially opens the School and the Archbishop of Perth, the Most Reverend Henry Frewen Le Fanu, dedicates it with the name of St Hilda’s Church of England School for Girls. St Hilda’s begins under the direction of Miss Catherine Small with 54 pupils from the Girls’ High School and 45 new pupils. Miss Small develops the School into a well-known Western Australian girls’ school despite difficulties during the Depression and World War II when the boarders were evacuated to Bencubbin.

View the original 1904 advertisement for the Girls' High School

1947 - 1997

1947 – 1967: The Una Mitchell years – St Hilda’s experiences a surge of growth and development under the guidance of Una Mitchell.

1969 – 1975: With Miss Patman as Headmistress of the School substantial development is undertaken. The Roger Goode Centre and the Una Mitchell Buildings provide excellent new facilities; Grand View House is an important acquisition and addition to the school grounds and Cultural Day (now known as the St Hilda’s Arts Festival) is introduced.

1976 – 1979: Mrs Rita McGregor is Headmistress.

1980: Mrs June Jones appointed Principal.

1981 – Jubilee Year: The School is re-named St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls and celebrates its Jubilee year on the Mosman Park site.

1980 – 1990: Enrolments increase rapidly. Major developments in curriculum and in life of the School take place. An extensive building program encompasses all corners of the campus from the Library, to Maths and Science areas and the Early Learning Centre.

1990: Chapel Appeal launched and in September 1990, the Archbishop of Perth, the Most Reverend Dr Peter Carnley, lays the foundation stone.

1994: Chapel consecrated in March 1994.

1996 Centenary Celebration: This was a landmark, not only in the School’s history, but also in the history of the education of women in Western Australia. The school family, Old Scholars and members of the community participated in a variety of functions and activities to mark the occasion. A commemorative plaque was installed in the footpath on Stirling Highway, Claremont, opposite Christ Church, at the site of the first school.

1998 - Present

1998: Mrs Joy Shepherd is appointed Principal. During her first year at the School she restructures the Pastoral Care system to place more importance on Year groups. The specialised role of primary educators is recognised with the appointment of a Head of Junior School. Dr Wendy Giles and Mrs Julie QuanSing-Rowlands brought important developments to the teaching and learning programs of St Hilda’s for our youngest students.

1999 – The Boarding House Fire: Disaster strikes when Parnell Boarding House is gutted by fire while the boarders are at lunch. Students relocated to the Chidley Educational Centre.

The silver lining: Parnell House is subsequently refurbished with the top floor becoming a Drama Centre and the bottom floor housing the Languages Department.

2001 - A new boarding house: Designed to accommodate 150 students, the stylish new boarding house is opened by Dr P F Carnley, Archbishop of Perth and Primate of Australia. All the School’s boarders formerly housed in Parnell, Margaret and Catherine Houses, are accommodated in the new facility.

Chidley Campus is acquired and new sports courts and an underground car park are built on Palmerston Street.

2006: The new Junior School at Chidley Campus opens in September and is a credit to the vision of our teachers and the architect. Subsequent refurbishment on the Bay View Campus includes new areas for English, Art and Music. A new Library and Technology Centre is completed.

2011-2014: St Hilda's enjoys unprecedented success in terms of growth, facilities and academic results. Enrolments exceed 1200 students. A 50 metre swimming pool, heated by a geothermal bore makes year-round watersports an attractive option. The magnificent 900 seat Performing Arts Centre is opened giving increased scope for music, dance and drama performances. The Nicholas Rinehart Science Centre was officially opened in October 2014. Mrs Joy Shepherd retired as Principal in December 2014.

2015: Mrs Kim Kiepe joins St Hilda's as Principal in January. St Hilda's has 1300 students from Junior Kindergarten to Year 12.

2019: Mrs Fiona Johnston joins St Hilda's as Principal in January.

Saint Hilda Abbess of Whitby

St Hilda (614-680) was of the royal house of King Edwin of Northumbria and became abbess of the double monastery at Whitby.

Because of the school she founded there she is regarded as a patroness of women's education. Even though she favoured the Celtic model of the Church, she accepted the decision of the Synod of Whitby to abide by the Roman practice.

St Hilda's story

A Christian princess from Kent marries King Edwin of Northumbria: Ethelburga of Kent was a Christian princess, who came north to marry King Edwin of Northumbria. As queen, Ethelburga had a strong Christianising influence on the thinking of her husband and his household.

Hilda baptised with his household

Hilda was an orphan who had become a member of the household of her great uncle, King Edwin. At age 13 she was baptised along with his household at Easter, 627. The ceremony was performed by the monk-bishop Paulinus, who had come from Rome to Canterbury with St Augustine and accompanied Ethelburga as she came north to marry King Edwin.

Abbess at Hartlepool

About 20 years later, Hilda was planning to join her sister as a nun at the monastery of Chelles in Paris, when St Aidan of Lindisfarne, persuaded her not to leave Britain. He gave her land on which to start her own monastery and later appointed her abbess of Hartlepool.

Foundation at Whitby

Sometime later King Oswiu of Northumbria charged Hilda with educating his daughter and gave her the land on which she founded a double-monastery at Whitby. This comprised two communities - one male and one female - living separately but gathered together for chanting the office. This was not uncommon in Celtic monasticism.

Whitby Abbey Flyover

A wise spiritual director

Hilda was a wise spiritual director. She established a library and theological school and set a high standard of holiness and charity. Five of her students became bishops, two of whom - John of Beverley and Wilfred of York - became saints. Among her disciples was the cowherd Caedmon, who became a monk and teacher at the monastery and composed poems on the terrors of the last judgment, the pains of hell and the joys of heaven. Bede says of her monastery: "No one there was rich or poor, for everything was held in common and none possessed any personal property".

The Synod of Whitby 664

The prestige of Whitby is reflected in the fact that King Oswiu chose it as the host location for the famous Synod in 664 to resolve the differences between the Celtic and Roman models of Church. While Hilda herself would have preferred the Celtic practices, she accepted the Synod's decision to implement Roman practice. The monks of Lindisfarne, by contrast, could not accept the decision; they withdrew, first to Iona and later to Ireland.

Death and influence

Chronically ill for the last six years of her life, Hilda died in 680. Both Glastonbury and Gloucester claim to have her relics. Her Abbey was destroyed by the Danish invaders in 867. After the Norman conquest of England, monks from Evesham re-founded the Abbey as a Benedictine house for men and it continued until the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1539. The ruined remains of the Abbey are a landmark for sailors on top of the sea cliff.

St Hilda and the Ammonite

Ammonite fossils found on the shore at Whitby are said to be the petrified remains of snakes that once infested the Whitby area. Hilda brought the infestation to an end turning the snakes into stone so as to clear a site for the building of her abbey. There are three snakestones in the arms of the town. And Hilda is often depicted holding an ammonite, or snake stone, in one hand and a model of her abbey in the other. St Hilda's actions are immortalised in Sir Walter Scott's poem Marmion:

When Whitby's nuns exalting told,
Of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,
When Holy Hilda pray'd:
Themselves, without their holy ground,
Their stony folds had often found.

Saint Hilda 


Along with our rich history of more than 120 years, our buildings have their own stories. Click on the headings below to read about our School's beautiful historical buildings. 

Main School Building

When the School was sold to the Council of Church of England Schools, they purchased 8 and a half acres of land including houses and outbuildings between Palmerston Street and Bay View Terrace. In 1930 the foundation stone, designed by Sir JJ Talbot Hobbs, was laid and building commenced on the 2 story main school building. Within the building is the school hall, which was the central point for whole school gatherings such as the morning assembly and gym and music classes. On Sunday 22 March, 1931, the Governor of Western Australia Sir William Campion officially opened the school. The Archbishop of Perth, the Most Reverend Henry Frewen Le Fanu, dedicated the newly-opened school with the name St Hilda’s Church of England School for Girls. In 1937 a two-story extension was built to accommodate domestic science and the art room block. The upstairs part of the main school building, Catherine House, was the boarding house for students. It was named after Catherine Small who was Principal from 1931 to 1946. It served as a boarding house until 2000 when the new Boarding House was completed. In 1981 the school hall was renovated to include an extension for school dances, art exhibitions, morning teas and parent-teacher meetings. The main school building is where you will find the Principal’s office, main reception, museum and central records.

Photo: An art class taking place in front of the Main School Building in the 1950s.

Great Court

The Great Court is a landscaped lawn and seating area in the middle of the school where students congregate at recess and lunch times and is the home of many student fundraising cake stalls, Arts Festival Day and community Service Day. A time capsule was buried in the area in the Jubilee Year, 1981, by Sister Barbara Maude and Sister Jean from St Hilda’s, Whitby, England. The sundial erected in honour of Joe Hall, who was the school gardener for 13 years, was relocated to the area between Hope Nicholas House and the Boarders’ Dining Room in 19??. The towering replica of Caedmon’s Cross was placed in the Great Court at the end of 1995. A gift to the school from the Bennett Family in 1962, the cross is made from a mould of the one erected at Whitby in 1898. Caedmon is the earliest English poet whose name is known. Caedmon was an Anglo-Saxon who cared for the animals at the double monastery of Streonaeshalch (Whitby Abbey) during the abbacy (657-680) of St Hilda (614-680). He was originally ignorant of the art of song but learned to compose one night in the course of a dream, according to the 8th century historian Bede.

Jessie Rutter Gardens

Jessie was a student at the Girls High School and was in the Class of 1920. In 1985 during the weekend festival of art and music, known as the October Weekend, she officially opened the gardens which were her gift to the School. Whilst the garden has changed over the years, it is still a designated garden and lawn area for the students to enjoy.

Una Mitchell Building

Una Mitchell was the Principal of St Hilda’s from 1947-1967. Opened in March 1976, Miss Mitchell is fondly remembered at the School for her dedication, integrity and compassion. The building is currently home to Humanities, Technology and Enterprise, the Tutoring Centre and Religious and Philosophical Studies.

Photo: The Una Mitchell Building in 1976

From Mitchell House to the Library and Technology Centre

Formally known as Innerhadden and purchased from Mr Robert Bunning in 1958, Mitchell House was officially opened in 1960 by Archbiship R W H Moline. The building was named after then-principal Miss Una Mitchell, who led the school from 1947-1967. The House was renamed Whitby House after the Una Mitchell Social Science Faculty was opened. English was taught at Whitby House until it was demolished in 1982 to make way for a new Library and Technology Centre. After the demolition a fundraising appeal was launched for a purpose-built library downstairs and English classrooms upstairs. The appeal was well-supported by the St Hilda’s community and in 1984 the new building was opened. At the time, it was the first school library in WA to be fully automated. In 2008 it was refurbished as part of the 20 Year Master Plan and the Library took over the building when English moved to the cultural precinct.

Roger Goode Centre

Opened in July 1973, the building was named after Roger Goode who participated in the management of the school for 40 years: most notably as Chair of Council from 1950-1961. The Goode family has a long history at St Hilda’s, with the establishment of the Rosalind Sandover and Kathleen Goode Scholarship. The Roger Goode Centre currently houses the Gymnasium, Fitness Centre and PE Staff Offices.

Media Building

The now-Media building was built and originally opened in 1960 as a Science building, including general science laboratories and a chemistry lab as well as catering for the study of biology, chemistry and physics. The Hocking Lecture Theatre officially opened in 1970 and was named in honour of Science teacher Miss L M Hocking, who taught at the school from 1957-1968. In 1984 Science moved to a new building to allow for the increasing number of students. Media is now taught upstairs and the ground floor classroom is being refurbished after textiles relocated to a new home in the Food and Technology Centre in July 2015.

June Jones Teaching and Learning Centre

The library was located in the single story building here from 1962-1984. Major developments in the curriculum and the life of the School spurred an extensive building program which encompassed all corners of the campus. In 1990 the building was officially opened and comprised the offices for Curriculum, Enrolments and the Print Centre. A self-contained flat for the Senior Resident Mistress was included upstairs along with the staff room and an entrance to upstairs maths classrooms. In September 2003 the building was named in honour of former Principal Dr June Jones, who was Principal from 1980-1997. Today, Curriculum and the Print Centre reside downstairs and the School Flat and Staff Room upstairs with sweeping views across the river.

Hope Nicholas House

Hope Nicholas House was purchased from Mr Sam LR Elliot, originally called Coedmarw, and was used as the Headmistress residence, boarding mistress residence, classrooms and boarders dining room in the 1930s. The renovation of Hope Nicholas House was the first stage in building the Chapel was possible through enormous effort and a generous financial contribution from Old Scholar Gina Rinehart (’71) and was named in honour of her mother Hope Nicholas (’32).

Photo: Hope Nicholas House in the 1950s.

Chapel of St Hilda of Whitby

The Chapel Appeal was launched and the foundation stone laid near the entrance on 2 September 1990. Designed by Fremantle-based architect Brian Klopper, construction began in 1993 and in March 1994 the Chapel was consecrated by Archbishop Carnley. It has many splendid religious and architectural pieces, such as the Bell Tower on the North West corner with the St Hilda’s crest carved in stone on the wall, a circular stained glass window to the west and an organ in the gallery that dates back to 1875. The Chapel Oratory from the main school building was relocated to the Chapel.

Grand View House

The house was bought by the School in 1974 and has since been restored. 

Boarding House

Catherine House was the original boarding house until 2000 when the new boarding house was completed. However, 58 senior girls lived in Parnell House for until a fire in 1999. Parnell House was opened in 1960 by Archbishop R W H Moline and was named after Miss Melina Parnell, who was Principal from 1905-1926. The house was rebuilt and is now home to Languages and Drama. Margaret House was built in 1934 to accommodate the growing number of boarders and was named after a tributary of the Fitzroy River, as all boarders were members of the Fitzroy House. It is now part of the new boarding house, which was opened in 2001, which houses all boarders of the school. In 2019 St Hilda's embarked on a multi-million dollar Boarding House refurbishment, with Stages 1 and 2 now complete.

Boarders' Dining Room

The first dining room for boarders was at the historic Girls’ High School. When the school moved to the current site, the dining room was in the Gallery which was remodeled in 1960. Dining was then held next to Grand View House at a demountable, which was then demolished in 1989 to make way for the new existing dining room at the front of the school in 1990. The first evening meal in the current dining room was Christmas in July with guests, parents, teachers, Mr and Dr June Jones (principal from 1980-1997) and entertainment from the Year 10 Boarders Band. The site was dedicated on 2 September, 1990, at the Service of Dedication for New Buildings and Blessing of the Foundation Stone for the Chapel by the Most Reverend Dr P F Carnley, Archbishop of Perth.

Elizabeth Hemsley Art and Design Centre

Named in recognition of a generous gift to the School by the Hemsley family for the new home of the Art and Design Centre, the gallery was opened in June 2009. Located in the cultural precinct, the building was originally part of the Junior School Pre-Primary classrooms. Elizabeth was a past parent of two girls at the School and an extraordinary volunteer.

Joy Shepherd Performing Arts Centre

This magnificent 900-seat facility officially opened on 14 June 2012. Two weeks later, the School production Beauty and the Beast was performed to a packed house. It is an iconic building designed by Christou Design Group and serves as a hub and focus for assemblies, services, guest speakers, house meetings, year meetings and award presentations. In July 2015 it was officially named the Joy Shepherd Performing Arts Centre, recognising Mrs Shepherd’s contribution to the Arts at St Hilda’s. The Forrest Foyer was named in recognition of a generous gift to the Performing Arts Centre by the Forrest family. The Joy Shepherd Performing Arts Centre sits on the original site of the outdoor Swimming Pool, built in 1965, which was filled to begin earthworks on the JSPAC in February 2010.

Nicholas Rinehart Science Centre

Officially opened by Professor and Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall on 16 October 2014, the centre was named in recognition of a generous gift by Old Scholar Gina Rinehart (’71) and in honour of her mother and aunt who were influential in her life. The Nicholas Rinehart Science Centre houses the whole of science, both students and staff, to bring everyone to the one place and allow students to learn about science in laboratories.


The eight-lane, 50 metre swimming pool heated by a geothermal bore was officially opened by Old Scholar and Olympian Gemma Beadsworth (’04) on 2 August 2011. The pool is a hive of activity most days as the heating makes year-round water sports a possibility.


The School purchased a block and the house facing Palmerston Street in 1949. It became the first purpose-built Kindergarten and later also included before and after school care. When the Junior School moved to Chidley in 2006 the house was refurbished and converted to the shop for all school uniform requirements.