The Founding


1881: Portsmouth needs a good girls' school


In the 1870s there were many small schools for girls in Portsmouth and Southsea. They were private schools for young ladies, whose advertisements stressed accomplishments rather than academic achievement. Eminent men in the city, many of whom had daughters, had heard of the Girls' Public Day School Company, which stated that it would open a school in any district where 400 shares had been subscribed for. Prominent among these men were Mr W Edmonds, a member of a local firm of accountants, and Canon Grant, Vicar of Portsmouth. They negotiated with the GPDSC, raised 560 shares, and looked around for a suitable house to start a High School in. What they found was Marlborough House, a large semidetached villa in Osborne Road, which then had a view over Southsea Common to the sea.

In late 1881 Miss Alice Ledger was appointed as Head Mistress, and the school began to take shape. It was not quite ready by the beginning of the Spring Term, but opened at half-term, on February 21st. There were 32 pupils to begin with, and this very soon grew to 100, when the adjoining house, Burlington House, was added.


"In September 1882, in order to accommodate the increasing numbers, the council of the GPDSC ….. were fortunately able to add to the premises the adjoining house. By suitable arrangements and by the employment of a somewhat unusually abundant staff of teachers, it has been possible to carry on the school successfully in these two houses. Some temporary inconvenience is involved inasmuch as it has not been thought well to incur expense in linking adjacent rooms or in making many structural alterations in the additional house."
From the report of the 1883 prizegiving


The structural alterations were not considered necessary because the school was growing so fast that a new building was needed.

In 1883 came the excitement of the purchase of the site in Kent Road."... the Council, with the assistance and advice of the local Committee, have secured an eligible site, upon which a building with increased accommodation is to be erected." A schoolmaster living in Trapezium Cottage, 25 Kent Rd, was declared bankrupt, and the school bought it and let it until building could start. The 'land not required' was sold - an incomprehensible decision in these days when there is a constant need for more space.

Marlborough House became the Marlborough, and later the Albemarle Hotel, and is now Albemarle House.


Marlborough House is the right-hand side of the central block
in this photograph of Osborne Road in 1890.
Burlington House is the left-hand side.



"Miss Ledger had at first 3 Assistant Mistresses, Miss Marsland, Miss Thompson and myself, and we were rather horrified, Miss Marsland especially, at the small amount of Knowledge the girls possessed – in Arithmetic only one pupil had reached Vulgar Fractions!"
From a letter from Miss denham, one of the first mistresses, 1922


Miss Alice Ledger


Newspaper account of the opening of Portsmouth High School

Details of the new building

Southsea Map, 1873


Marlborough and Burlington Houses today