The Jersey Ladies’ College, as the school was first called, opened on September 20th 1880 at Adelaide House in Roussel Street, St. Helier, roughly where the ambulance station is today, with seven staff and 41 pupils (including fourteen boarders).
Some pupils just came in for occasional lessons in subjects such as drawing or singing in the afternoons. Victoria College had opened for boys in 1852, but there had been no equivalent school for girls in the island. The decision to found the Ladies’ College to provide “general instruction of the highest class, together with moral and religious teaching” was taken in November 1879 at a time when there were very few secondary schools for girls in the British Isles. According to the first advertisements 21 subjects were offered so the original seven staff must have been very versatile! By the time of the first Prize-Giving in 1882 the number of students had grown to 83 and in 1884 the College was said by visiting examiners to be one of only four or five girls’ schools in the British Isles to offer tuition to university standard.
Two remarkable sisters deserve much of the credit for the success of the new school.
Miss Elsie Roberts was appointed to be the second mistress when it opened and she became Lady Principal only two terms later, aged 28. By 1882 she had been joined by her elder sister Frances who became Lady Matron and the two ran the school until their retirement in 1915. Miss Roberts herself taught History, English Literature and perhaps some Chemistry. She had studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, in the 1870s and by all accounts she was a brisk, little lady with eyes that were said to twinkle with amusement or flash at injustice. Her teaching was said to be scholarly and thought-provoking and her kindness and consideration were remembered long after she had retired. Her main concern was to develop the character and talents of all her pupils.
In September 1888 the College moved to larger, purpose-built premises on Rouge Bouillon at the corner of La Pouquelaye and it soon needed extensions to its boarding facilities as it attracted pupils from all parts of the world. Thanks to Miss Roberts’ foresight, planning and organisation, it was at the forefront of women’s education in the late 19th century.
The next Headmistress, Miss Good (1915-1922), decided to end tuition for university degree examinations. She introduced school uniform and the Prefect, Form Captain and House systems. Her successor, Miss D’Auvergne (1923-1926), donated the Cock House Trophy for which the six current houses still compete fiercely.
In 1928 the College was taken over by the Church of England Schools’ Trust and by 1930 it had 254 pupils. In January 1936 the College, which had changed its name to Jersey College for Girls in the early 1930s, was transferred to the States of Jersey as a fee-paying school for girls. It continued to take both day girls and boarders until 1940. During the German Occupation in the Second World War, the school moved premises twice: firstly, with just a week’s notice, to La Coie Hall in November 1941 and about a year later to the Victoria College Prep buildings in Pleasant Street. Sadly, many artefacts, including the original honours boards, were lost as a result of the Occupation.
The College moved back to Rouge Bouillon in January 1946 and many alterations and additions were subsequently made on that site, until new buildings on a different campus became essential.
In 1999 JCG moved up to its present site on Mont Millais, the entire school walking up to the new buildings at the start of the autumn term. Three blocks on the new campus were named after headmistresses who were deemed by the Old Girls Association to have made very significant contributions to the College’s history: Miss Roberts, Miss Barton (who oversaw improvements to the school during the 1930s and steered it through all the difficulties of the Occupation and immediate post-war years) and Miss Chesshire (who joined College as a History teacher in 1930 and served as Headmistress between 1953 and 1960, encouraging the growth of the sixth form). The purpose build drama building was opened in 2011 and named after Mrs Stevenson (Headmistress from 1981 to 1994) Mrs. Iris Le Feuvre, after whom the Library in College House is named, fought hard in her capacity as the President of the Education Committee to secure the move to Mont Millais. The beautiful oak panelling from the Mont Millais site was used to refurbish the interior of the current Library in 2015.