of the Highest
STAHS opened in a converted hospital on Holywell Hill on 2 May 1889. Local parents, encouraged by the Abbey’s Reverend Dr Deed, persuaded the Church Schools Company to open a girls’ school in St Albans as the city at that time lacked any facility for the advanced education of girls (beyond the age of 12).
As proof of local interest, the Company required a minimum of one hundred shares to be taken up. In typical St Albans style, the community immediately coalesced and one hundred and twenty shares were subscribed for within three days of the notice.
The School’s intention to provide ‘an Education of the Highest Stamp’ was supported by a robust curriculum including Reading, Writing, English Grammar and Composition, English Literature, French, German, Latin, History, Geography, Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, Higher Mathematics, Physical Science, Calisthenics, Domestic Economy, Needlework, Drawing and Class Singing.
The School’s first pupil was the daughter of the Archdeacon, Walter John Lawrance, the Rector of the Abbey Church and later the first Dean of St Albans. In his speech during the School’s opening ceremony, Archdeacon Lawrance shared his hope that the High School would provide for girls an education equal to that provided by the Grammar School for boys. This is remarkable considering that, less than 25 years earlier, the authors of the Schools Inquiry Commission of 1865 remarked that although the state of girls’ education was ‘on the whole, unfavourable’, there was nothing wrong in educating girls as ‘decorative, modest, marriageable beings’!
The hospital was never suitable accommodation for the School, and on 21 September 1908, the School opened its premises on Townsend Avenue, where the original building still occupies the heart of the campus. The Prep School moved to its home in Wheathampstead in 2003.
At its founding, the School provided religious instruction ‘in accordance with the principles of the Church of England’. STAHS remains a Church of England school to this day, although we warmly welcome families of all faiths or none.
Throughout its more than 130-year history, the High School has seen world wars, pandemics, twelve headmistresses and a dramatic shift in athletic attire (the girls used to wear ankle-length woollen skirts and cotton blouses for sport). Through it all, we’ve retained that spark that set us apart at our founding and we continue to pride ourselves on providing an Education of the Highest Stamp.