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WESLEYAN HIGH SCHOOL (called Walton High School from 1926; closed 1928), Grahamstown.

founding / coeducation at Kingswood / Afrikaanse blasoen

Wesleyan High School

The blazon, as written by Prof Hugh Smith,[1] of Rhodes University, reads:


Arms: Or, a band sinister between five escallops, placed three and two, Azure. The shield is ensigned with a coronet Azure issuant therefrom a cap of estate Or.

Motto: On a scroll in letters Argent, IN DEI GLORIAM ET IN USUM ECCLESIAE.


The professor’s choice of words is somewhat archaic, since the word bend is more usually used for a diagonal band. The word sinister indicates its placement from upper sinister (left as seen from behind the shield, right from in front) to lower dexter.

The word escallop is also archaic, but is to this day normally used in blazon. The scallop, also called fan shell or comb shell, is a mollusc of the family Pectinidæ. This family is found worldwide, but in heraldry is particularly associated with pilgrimage, and especially pilgrimage to the shrine of St James the Great (Santiago) at Compostela, in Galicia, north-eastern Spain.

Wesleyan High School memorial window in the Kingswood College chapel

A mediæval pilgrim would pick up a shell on the beach near the pilgrimage church and sew it onto his (her) clothing, especially the upturned hat brim, as a sign that he (she) had completed this pilgrimage. A great many families from various parts of Europe adopted one or more scallops in their coats of arms, among them the Wesleys of England.

So the use of scallops in this device refer directly to John Wesley, founder of the Evangelical movement and of the Methodist Church.

Of the educational institutions in Grahamstown, several have scallops in their arms, but only Wesleyan High and Kingswood College show scallops in reference to Wesley. The other Grahamstown scallops refer instead to the arms of Graham of Fintry.

The shells in this device are five in number, three above and two below the bend. The WHS window in the Kingswood College chapel (shown at right) shows the upper three shells arranged 1 and 2, but the blazon does not specify this, and the more usual way of arranging them is 2 and 1.

Since Wesleyan High (a girls’ school) was founded in 1880, and so was 12 years older than Kingswood, and in fact the boys’ school was founded precisely because Grahamstown had a successful Methodist girls’ school, it is unsurprising that the original Kingswood badge had five scallops. This, however, was later changed to seven, and the characteristic wyvern was added at the same time.

The badge as used by the school employed two shades of blue, one dark and one light, but heraldry does not normally distinguish between dark and light blue, and Smith properly blazons all the blue in this device as Azure.

The shade of any colour used in heraldry is never specified. However, since this is the device of a girls’ school I felt it appropriate to show it in a fairly light, or feminine, shade of blue.

The field is gold (Or), conventionally shown as yellow.

The shield is ensigned by a coronet (unspecified as to peerage rank), and unusually the blazon specifically mentions that a cap of estate is “issuant therefrom”. It is normal British practice for a crown or coronet to appear with a cap of estate (or chapeau) inside it (this is not necessarily the case in Continental Europe). However, since the standard British usage is for the cap to be purple or red, upturned ermine, it is necessary to mention the unusual colour of this chapeau, since it is blue. Presumably this cap is nonetheless upturned ermine.

In illustrating the coronet I have arbitrarily copied a British ducal coronet and coloured it accordingly. The coronet shown in the memorial window looks more royal – perhaps it is modelled on the coronet of a royal prince or princess. Note also that while I have coloured the stones set in the rim of the coronet, it is usual British practice for the coronets of (non-royal) peers to have gilt decoration in the shape of precious stones, rather than actual (or imitation) stones.


About the school:

Howard Kirkby[2] quotes WHS old girl Muriel Robb:[3]

“The [WHS] was started on 26 January 1880 in Shaw Hall[4] in High Street with 12 girls under Miss Emily Walton, daughter of the Rev John Walton, MA. Six months later a boarding department opened in Beaufort Street. In 1883 the new building (the foundation stone of which was laid on 9 February 1882 by the Hon George Wood, MLA) was occupied. This was called Main House . . .”

“From 1897 classes were held in the Day School which was demolished in 1970 to make way for the present Kingswood Junior School. Classrooms surrounded a hall which was used for assemblies, entertainments, including the usual ‘breaking-up concerts’ and prize distributions. It was also used for gym classes, when equipment was acquired, and it was then no longer necessary to use the Kingswood facility.

“In 1903 the second hostel was built and named Walton House after the Principal. The Kindergarten, which served Kingswood as well in an unofficial capacity, was moved to the ground floor.[5]

“The rest of the building was used to house girls who had gone on to the newly-established Rhodes University College, and some senior girls called “parlour boarders” who did not take the normal academic courses but specialised in music and art.[6]

“At this stage the records show there were 101 boarders and 126 day scholars. The number varied from time to time, and in 1921 there were 120 boarders but, with the depression, these dropped until eventually it was uneconomic to continue. The school closed at the end of 1928.

“There was no choice of subjects. English, Dutch or French (until Afrikaans was introduced) and, of course, Scripture lessons. Girls in Form V wrote the School Higher (later Junior Certificate) and in Form VI the Matriculation examinations of the University of South Africa.

“Great emphasis was placed on music – piano, violin, solo and class singing – drawing and art and there were frequent concerts by both girls and staff.

“Tennis and hockey were played regularly, but at times cricket (with occasional matches against the Prep boys). Netball, basketball and lacrosse were introduced.

“Botany expeditions and picnics were popular, and senior girls were often allowed to go to entertainments in town.

“Each Sunday the girls would go to Commemoration Methodist Church in ‘crocodile’ [walking two abreast down the pavement] and when taken for walks would go in similar procession.

“There was no chaplain, but the spiritual needs of the girls were attended to by the Methodist minister who occupied The Manse in Burton Street on the site where the Administration Block[7] has now been built.

“The staff were all ladies, many recruited from overseas, with the result that there were constant changes as contracts expired or teachers married. There were some exceptions. In the Music department the Commemoration Church organist usually taught both WHS and Kingswood, and masters helped out in emergencies.

“The mutual interest between scholars of both schools was certainly maintained, although there was nothing like the personal contacts there are now. There were no such things as dances, but the girls could attend Foundation Day cricket games, athletics and various entertainments. Some would have the opportunity of meeting when the girls were invited out to approved houses on ‘visiting Saturdays’ or Sunday afternoon tea, and means were always found to send notes surreptitiously from one side of the street to the other – probably through day boys and their sisters.

“This mutual interest possibly had its culmination in 1917 in the marriage of the WHS Principal (Miss Marion C Hargreaves) and Mr (later Dr) George F Brockless, organist of the Commem and Music master at both schools. (Her predecessor, Miss Amy V Burgess, announced her engagement to Kingswood’s Dutch teacher, Mr E Bezemer, just after her departure.)

“Interest in coeducation goes back as far as 1916, when the subject of a debate was: ‘Is coeducation good and ought it to be encouraged?’ [The result], nine for and six against. That same year the following appeared in the WHS magazine: ‘The number of weddings between Old WHS Girls and Old Kingswoodians recorded in this magazine is quite noteworthy, as they were all contemporaries respectively, and it is remarkable when one remembers the rigid and galling discipline to which we were subjected whilst at school!’

“Another paragraph in the magazine states: ‘We have two visiting Masters from KC for Dutch. Truly, on certain mornings of the week when Mr Williamson is also giving instruction in Bookkeeping, it is not surprising that some girls fondly imagine themselves across the road imbibing knowledge among their (ahem!) brothers.’

“In 1904 an Old Girls’ Association (the OGA) was formed and was responsible for raising funds for improvements, such as additional tennis courts, a piano, a wing including a stage and side rooms for the Day School and a swimming bath which, however, never materialised. Reunions were held triennially and the school magazine, Past and Present, started the same year and continued until the closing of the institution. Unlike Kingswood, Foundation Day was never observed.

“The Principal’s speech at the prizegiving of 1928 set forth the following reasons for closing: ‘No annual income from any source whatsoever than fees. It has no endowment, no regular subscriptions, no investments and, moreover, the Wesleyan Methodist Church has no funds whatever for the upkeep of European education – we close for lack of assured and continual financial support, but we close clean financially and on a successful note scholastically.

“Throughout the ensuing years many have remained loyal in spirit to the old WHS and on 20 November 1966 the WHS Stained Glass Window was unveiled in the Kingswood Memorial Chapel.”


Coeducation at Kingswood:

In 1973, seven years after the unveiling of the WHS window, Kingswood became a co-educational school.

Kirkby notes that the girls’ school’s name was changed in the second half of 1926 to Walton High School, but has to speculate on the reasons – “Whether this was done simply to honour the founding Principal or to mask the fact that it was a Wesleyan foundation – in the hope that the school would appeal to a wider market than the Wesleyan Connexion – is not known.”

He notes that it had always welcomed children from “confessions other than Wesleyan”.

“Unfortunately, the change of name wrought no miracle and the school closed before it could celebrate its jubilee in 1930, a great disappointment to members of the OGA preparing for the celebration.”

Jacques House, Kingswood College (formerly Wesleyan High School main building)

Kirkby also notes: “In a trenchant criticism of the [Methodist] Board of Education and the Conference – that Melville Dold[8] shared with the author – he contended that the money that had been spent by the church on winding down the affairs of WHS had only been given to the school in all probability it would not have closed down.”

Kingswood head H T Crouch proposed, following the closure of WHS, that a new girls’ school be established, or that Queenswood High School (a Methodist school for girls in Queenstown) be moved to Grahamstown. However, Queenswood was under the control of the Queenstown District Synod of the Methodist Church, which was unwilling to hand over control to the Grahamstown District Synod.[9] In 1932, Queenswood also fell victim to the economic conditions of the time and closed.

Rev G H P Jacques, president of Methodist Conference in 1929 and chairman of the Kingswood College council from 1930 to ’46, persuaded the Methodist Conference to sell the WHS buildings to Kingswood for “the modest sum of £12 500”.

The main WHS building was named Jacques House and served as the junior boys’ hostel until 1976, when the boys were moved out to make way for the girl boarders. Since the building had been designed for the use of girls in the first place, this was an eminently suitable move, and a fitting postscript to the history of WHS.

In closing, Kirkby remarks of WHS: “If it had survived coeducation might have come sooner to Kingswood. On the other hand, Kingswood might have continued to exist as separate schools, for which both would have been much poorer. What is important is that the cause of coeducation has ultimately triumphed.”


Afrikaanse blasoen:

Die wapen mag in Afrikaans so geblasoeneer word:


Wapen: In goud, ’n linkerskuinsbalk tussen vyf mantelskulpe, 3 en 2 geplaas, alles in blou. Bo-op die skild is ’n kroon van goud, waarbinne ’n heerlikheidsmus van blou, hermelyn gevoer.

Leuse: Op ’n blou lint in letters van silwer, IN DEI GLORIAM ET IN USUM ECCLESIAE.

[1] Smith’s blazon is quoted from notes by Muriel Robb – see below.

[2] In Still on a Frontier: A History of Kingswood College 1892-1993 by Howard and Joyce Kirkby.

The Rev Howard Kirkby was a pupil at Kingswood from 1934 to matriculation in 1938. He served more than 20 years as chaplain of the school and 21 years as president of the Old Kingswoodian Club.

This book, written with his wife, is my sole source of information not only on Wesleyan High School but also on Shaw College.

The paragraphing of Muriel Robb’s notes is my own, and I have omitted small parts.

[3] Muriel was the daughter of the Rev James Robb, who became housemaster of the New Boarding House (now Jagger House) at Kingswood in 1915, at which point it became a preparatory boarding establishment.

Kirkby notes that she had sisters, one of whom was named Marjorie, and a brother. Aside from the fact that Muriel and Marjorie, her elder sister, shared a house in Grahamstown, where they cared for their bedridden mother, he makes no other mention of the Robb siblings.

Matriculating at WHS in 1921, Muriel worked at a legal firm until 1941, when she volunteered for wartime service with the Women’s Auxiliary Army Services (WAAS). She was eventually promoted lieutenant and personal secretary to the General Officer Commanding Northern Command, Union Defence Force, at Roberts Heights (later Voortrekkerhoogte, now Thaba Tshwane), Pretoria.

Demobilised in 1949 she stayed in Johannesburg for a year, then returned to Grahamstown, becoming part-time secretary to Mr Justice Percy Gane, brother of long-serving Kingswood headmaster Col E G Gane.

In 1955 she became headmaster’s secretary at Kingswood, serving under six heads until her retirement in ’82. In ’65 she was elected an honorary Old Kingswoodian. She died in 1988 at the Port Alfred retirement home Damant Lodge, where she had lived since ’85.

The WHS memorial window in the Kingswood Memorial Chapel was Muriel’s own project. She collected funds from fellow old girls to have it erected, and contributed generously herself.

[4] This hall was built for Shaw College, also a Methodist school, which operated in Grahamstown from 1854 to ’61. The hall was used in 1864 for the sole session of the Parliament of the Cape Colony held outside Cape Town.

Since Shaw College was founded under the auspices of the Commemoration Methodist Church, the hall has remained the property of that church and functions as the church hall.

[5] It has in the past been common practice in the Eastern Province for boys to attend Sub A to Std 1 (now Grades 1 to 3) at a girls’ school, frequently wearing the uniform of the brother school, and then to join the boys’ school.

In Grahamstown this arrangement applied at, among others, Victoria Primary School (accommodating Graeme College boys) and at the Diocesan School for Girls (St Andrew’s Prep boys). Graeme founded its own kindergarten in the 1970s.

In Uitenhage today, small boys and girls attend College Hill Preparatory School before going on to Muir College (boys) and Riebeek College (girls).

[6] Kirkby adds a note to say that theatre entrepreneur Taubie Kuschlick was a parlour boarder.

Before Rhodes had its own residences, all the Grahamstown schools provided accommodation for past pupils who were students there.

[7] That is, Kingswood’s accommodation block.

[8] Lorimer Melville Lorimer Dold (1888-1979) was the son of a founder of Kingswood College.

He was a pupil at the school from 1897 to 1907 and followed his father into the family law firm. He served on the college council from 1919, retiring at the age of 82, having been chairman for many years as well as president of the Old Kingswoodian Club.

[9] A Methodist district is roughly equivalent to an Anglican or Catholic diocese. In the 1980s the Methodist Church of South Africa resolved to change the title of district chairman to bishop.

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Image of arms created using MS Picture It! Illustration of WHS memorial window and of Jacques House from Still upon a Frontier, by Howard and Joyce Kirkby.

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