Boarding school opened in August 1836

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

Opened on 1 August 1836, St Mary’s Hall was founded as a school for one hundred boarding daughters of clergymen by Revd Henry Venn Elliott, the curate of St Mary’s Church, and was erected on nine acres of land given by the Marquess of Bristol. Costing £4,250, Elliott himself gave £2,250 and a thousand books to the new school. St Mary’s Hall is now the oldest school in Brighton with a continuous history, and the main building, which was designed by George Basevi in Early Tudor style, is now listed; it is stuccoed with mullioned windows and a cross above the central gable. The Marquess also presented other portions of land and buildings for the school’s use, including a cottage and half an acre of land at the north-western corner for the establishment of an infants’ school.
St Mary’s Hall was extended in 1920 to admit the daughters of laymen, and in more recent times to include a new hall (1969), a classroom block and swimming-pool (1976), Venn House for sixth-formers (1981), a junior school block (1983), and a pre-preparatory block (1989). It now has over 400 pupils, both day-girls and boarders; the boarding girls are accommodated in Elliott House, and in St Hilary House at 21-22 Sussex Square.
The school’s chapel and concert hall is the former St Mark’s Church in Eastern Road. Commenced in about 1840, it was built for the Marquess of Bristol on land he had given to St Mary’s Hall, but it was eight years before the church was completed and consecrated on 21 September 1849. Faced in a roughened stone, it was designed in Early English style by Thomas Shelbourne and has an 1860 memorial window and monument to the Marquess. Additions on the northern and southern sides were made in 1892 by W.Gilbert Scott. Originally intended for the servants and less wealthy inhabitants of the Kemp Town area, St Mark’s was made Kemp Town parish church in 1873 but pew rents were not abolished until 1930. In 1985 it was made redundant and taken over by the school. St Mark’s Church Institute was in the former St Mark’s School in Chesham Road now used by the Nautical Training Corps. {1,45,64a,83}

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

The following resource(s) is quoted as a general source for the information above: 6,44,45a,64a,123,203a

Comments about this page

  • I am 70 years of age and was educated at this school from 1948 upwards.  My head teacher was Miss Conrady.  I have visited the school twice in the last few years.  My maiden name was Peggy Jane Barnwell.  Good to see it is still going.

    By Peggy Friend (25/04/2008)
  • I remember a girl from this school called Alice Baxter. Her father was a priest in Newbury Berks. The girls used to come to our Ranger Unit at Elm Grove Girls School and my Mum and I had to escort them back to the school after the meetings. They always enjoyed the cream sponges my Mum used to make. I often wonder what happened to Alice, Tooms and another girl whose name escapes me.

    By Yvonne Taylor (11/12/2010)
  • Does anyone out there remember my mother Patricia (Pat) and her sister Wendy McCabe?  Don’t know exact dates but guessing they attended St Mary’s Hall between approx. 1930 and 1940.  Both lived with their parents in East Drive, Queens Park, Brighton.  Brothers Timothy and David attended Brighton College.  Please let me know, I’m experiencing a genealogy crisis.  Thanks

    By Frances Hymas (13/07/2016)
  • I was a boarder at St Mary’s Hall, Babington House, from January 1961 to 1966. The headmistress was Miss Conrady, then Miss Davies. I have many and varied memories. I have returned to visit the school a couple of times. The first was a reunion visit and we were guided around by the current pupils. I remember being impressed by how happy they were at the school. A more recent visit was after the school closed and work was being done on site.

    By Jane Swann (07/01/2021)
  • I was at the school from 1948 to 1958. I was a boarder at Hillary House and Babington. Remember Miss Conrady and Miss Davies well. Also Miss Jackson and Miss Demishki etc. Best friends were Christine Heaton and Nina Hakim. Anyone out there remember?

    By June K Jsnnsen (Munzing) (26/03/2023)

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