Proud history of boarding


Wollumbin boarders, 1916.

Abbotsleigh has a long, proud history of boarders – or House girls, as they were initially called. Our first location at North Sydney had boarders, and our records show that a small nucleus of House girls made the transfer from our second site at Parramatta to Wahroonga, when we opened on this site in 1898 with 13 boarders and ten day girls.

The girls at Wahroonga made their home in School House. This house was purpose-built according to Miss Clarke’s instructions: downstairs held the dining room, kitchen and classrooms; upstairs the private spaces. As the need for more rooms arose, School House grew in size, but eventually the boarders grew too numerous, and a second house was required: Wollumbin, located just across the highway (then known as Lane Cove Road), near the steps of today’s overpass.

Wollumbin was leased in 1914 by Abbotsleigh’s second Headmistress, Margaret Murray. This new property allowed for more rooms to be allocated for teaching, and also offered a new tennis court and a flat lawn, where physical culture classes could be held. For the first time in Abbotsleigh’s history there was inter-house rivalry – School House Reds and Wollumbin Blues.

Even with the all the new spaces offered by Wollumbin, we had need to use Wollumbin’s neighbouring property Terranora for even more House girls. Terranora was the home of a local GP, Dr Gother Robert Carlisle Clarke – interestingly, the brother of one of Abbotsleigh’s first male pupils, Mordaunt Lindsay Clarke, and both foundation students at Shore. An overflow of House girls lived in Terranora with Dr Clarke’s housekeeper until 1917/18, after Dr Clarke’s death in Belgium during the First World War, and the house and medical practice were taken over by another doctor.

In 1925, the lease on Wollumbin was terminated after the 1924 purchase of a property belonging to an old Abbotsleigh family, the Mander-Joneses. This house, known as both Sherbrooke and Boonara, was subsequently called Murray House in honour of our second Headmistress. The relocation of the girls from Wollumbin to Murray House was welcomed as it removed the division of the Boarding School over two properties and across an increasingly busy main road, which the girls had to cross several times a day for classes and meals.


boarding Marian Clarke Wing c1930 CROPPED

A dormitory in the Marian Clarke wing. This addition to the School was opened in 1929.              


Murray House was demolished in 1963 to make way for Abbotsleigh’s Chapel – although a remnant of the Mander-Jones family home has remained in the form of Highway House, the small, long house on the side of the Chapel, which housed the staff when the house was owned by the Mander-Jones family.

While other boarding houses have either been purchased, purpose-built or indeed re-purposed and still remain part of the landscape – Vindin, Read, (new) Murray, Lynton, Poole, McCredie and Wheeldon – others have been lost to the past.


Old Murray House c1930 CROPPED

Old Murray House (1927 with Junior School girls) was used as both a boarding house and as the Junior School. It is now the site of the Chapel.

Poole House 1950s CROPPED

Poole House in the 1950s. Everett House can be seen in the background. Poole House is named in honour of Abbotsleigh's third Headmistress, Dorothea Poole.


Marian Clarke Wing was opened in 1929 and was built to complement School House. The upstairs rooms in this wing were designed as dormitories, as opposed to the small rooms in School House. These rooms are now used as offices and contain the Learning Support Department.
Dodgson House, located directly behind the Junior School, opened in 1973 as a boarding house, initially as a residence for 10 Sixth Years. By the following year the youngest boarders were living there, but it was demolished in 1985 to make way for the new Sydney to Newcastle freeway. The house took its name from the previous owners who had a familial connection to Charles Dodgson, more popularly known as Alice in Wonderland’s Lewis Carroll.


Read House view c1934 CROPPED

Read House view, c1934.  


Hirst Cottage was opened and named in honour of our fifth Headmistress, Ruth Hirst, who returned to the School in 1985 to open the house. The boarders moved from this cottage in 2010 when Wheeldon House was opened.


SchoolHouseRoom1924 CROPPED

School House room, 1924.

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