130 Years of History

Walford has been shaped by many people in our 130-year history. This series explores those people who have lent their names to the built structure of Walford, to significant parts of the Walford experience, who have set an example for students to come, or have contributed something towards what makes Walford the school it is today. Their faces will be appearing around the School on or near the things relevant to them to give a human face to the history of the school. Each term through our 130th year, new faces will be added to the series.

Lydia Adamson – Headmistress 1893-1912

Lydia Adamson was born in 1861 in Kapunda. At 22 years old in 1883, she opened her first school in a church hall in Kensington. Moving her school several times, she eventually moved it into her parent’s home in the Malvern-Unley area in 1893. There in her parent’s front room she opened her school as the ‘Collegiate School for Girls, Malvern’, which was the foundation of the school that became Walford. Many of her pupils achieved success in scholarship, music, and art. It is claimed that the philosophy of education of Walford did not depend on its location but on the women who controlled it. Lydia Adamson wanted an education for girls that was not merely a matter of academic achievement but of other forms of excellence of which only one’s best efforts were good enough. Lydia Adamson built school rooms on Fisher Street with the help of her father to accommodate her expanding student numbers. Shortly before her death in December 1912, she changed the name of the school to “Walford School, Malvern”, referencing the name of the English village that was the home of her forebears.

Ellen Benham – Headmistress 1913-1917

Ellen Benham was the second headmistress of Walford. She “laid the groundwork for a modern Walford”. She introduced sport, a school uniform, and the school badge with its motto.  Ellen was born in 1871 at Allen’s Creek, near Kapunda. Fortunate to have attended the Advanced School for Girls in Adelaide, her success saw her enrol at the University of Adelaide where she graduated in 1892 as the sixth woman in South Australia to gain a science degree. She became the first female lecturer at the University of Adelaide and was a foundation member of the Women Graduates’ Club. In 1912 with failing health, she reduced her tertiary teaching load and returned to her school teaching roots. The philosophy she brought to Walford was to provide an education ‘that will develop the capacity of every girl and help her become a useful and effective woman in whatever position she may have to fill’.

Mabel Jewell Baker - Headmistress 1917-1956

Mabel Jewel Baker became the third headmistress of Walford when there were only forty-eight pupils. Her parents bought for her “Woodlyn”, the 1870s two storey bluestone mansion on an acre of land located on Unley Road to help expand the school. It became the school’s boarding house as well as a home for Miss Baker and her sister, Amy. By 1936 the entire school had moved from the Fisher Street site to the Woodlyn site and by the mid 1950s, Miss Baker had bought several more adjoining homes that were converted into classrooms. Choosing her staff wisely, her best teachers stayed for decades, enhancing Walford’s academic reputation. In 1955, she sold her school, then with 450 pupils, to the Anglican Church for £30,000, and then retired. Awarded a well-earned OBE in 1956, she died in 1967.

Nina Morrison – Headmistress 1956-1973

Nina Morrison was appointed the fourth headmistress of Walford after Mabel Jewell Baker had sold the school to the Anglican Church. During her seventeen years, the school bought neighbouring properties as they were available, including the former private hospital that became the main building for the Junior School.  During this time, the Robin Wing and new Boarding House at 35 Commercial Road were also built, along with new science laboratories and a new library. Wise to increasing student unease during the 1960s, she gave the pupils responsibility in decision-making and created a student representative council.

Helen Reid – Headmistress 1973-1992

Born in Edinburgh, Helen Reid was Walford’s fifth Headmistress, a role she held for eighteen years. She was awarded a doctorate after her retirement and an AM in 2004. Initially appointed as a senior mistress after an interview in England, she arrived in South Australia in 1971. Then when Miss Morrison announced plans to retire in 1973, Miss Reid was invited to take over as Headmistress. Miss Reid’s aim was always to shape girls into well-rounded young women by being fully aware of the contemporary world around them and the contribution that they should make to the world. Keeping academic standards high, she maintained a healthy balance of cultural interests, physical sporting activity, development of personal and social maturity, and an obligation of social service to those in need. In her time, the Morrison Building and Helen Reid Hall were built and several more properties were bought for future redevelopment. As a very much-loved Headmistress, when she retired in 1992 she maintained very close ties to Walford. It was a very sad day indeed for all who knew her when she died in 2010.

Marilyn Haysom – Headmistress 1992-2004

Marilyn Haysom was born and educated in Queensland. She was the youngest Deputy Principal in a Queensland school and went on to become Headmistress of Mitcham Girls High School in South Australia. After her first year at Walford as Headmistress, she proved herself to be an outstanding successor to the five that preceded her. In her twelve years, the large two storey administration building was constructed and opened in May 1999 and two students who were at Walford during Mrs Haysom’s period, went on to be Rhodes Scholars. Marilyn was the last Principal to live on the school grounds in the Principal’s house at number 8 Commercial Road. The house is now the Design and Technology Centre.

Helen Trebilcock – Principal 2004-2012

Before her appointment as Principal in 2004, Helen Trebilcock taught in co-educational and single sex schools and was Principal in one of the largest boarding schools in the southern hemisphere, the New England Girls’ School in Armidale in NSW. When Mrs Trebilcock took up her appointment, Walford had recently embarked on the IB Programmes throughout the school. Helen Trebilcock preferred a non-gendered title for her role and became Walford’s first leader to be known as Principal. She also revitalised the House system to generate more House spirit and student connection across year levels. She also oversaw the construction of two significant buildings. One was the new Boarding House complex in 2007 and the second was the multi-purpose hall/gymnasium that was opened in November 2010. The Walford Early Learning Centre was reopened in May 2012 after significant additions. She left a proud legacy.

Rebecca Clarke – Principal 2012-2022

In October 2012, Rebecca Clarke accepted the invitation of the Council of Governors to become the eighth Principal of Walford. Rebecca returned to Walford having been the Head of Middle School 2002-2005. Rebecca encouraged many innovations to the curriculum, with a vision to preparing students for a rapidly changing world that requires new skills and abilities. One of her students went on to become a Young Australian of the Year. During her tenure, the campus also developed with a refurbishment of laboratory facilities in the Ellen Benham Science Centre, the opening of the Design and Technology Centre, the new Pavilion at Parks Playing Field, and the first stage of The Heart of Walford.

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Bishop Bryan Robin – Chair of Council 1955-1956

Bishop Bryan Percival Robin was the first Chair of Walford’s Council. The Council formed in November of 1955 to administer Walford which was being transferred to the Church of England from Miss Baker. On 19 December 1955, the transfer was finalised, and the school became known as Walford Church of England Girls’ Grammar School Incorporated. Bishop Robin retired from his role as Bishop of Adelaide and from the Council at the end of 1956.

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Bishop Thomas Reed – Chair of Council 1956-1969

Bishop Thomas Thornton Reed succeeded Bishop Robin as both the Bishop of Adelaide and as the Chair of Walford’s Council. At his first meeting in 1957, the Council approved the purchase of the Unley Private Hospital building which is now Reed House. He also presided over the acquisition of 316 Unley Road, 35 Commercial Road, and additional land for a playground adjacent to Robin Wing. He also received the wonderful gift of Parks Oval, given to the School by Alton Parks.

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Marthe Wait - Teacher 1922-1964

Marthe Wait taught French at Walford for forty years. She was also Senior Mistress (equivalent of Deputy Principal in today’s structure) and acted on several occasions as the Headmistress. Marthe Wait commenced teaching at Walford when Miss Baker was the Headmistress. She was active in School clubs and sporting activities and she frequently visited the Boarding House to dine with the students. When Nina Morrison commenced as Headmistress in 1956, Marthe Wait was a great help to her in transitioning the School from private ownership to Church School. Nina Morrison wrote on Marthe’s retirement “I can never be sufficiently grateful for her loyalty, her understanding, her patience with my mistakes, and her friendship: all of which she gave to me most generously… Her devotion to the School will always be an inspiration…”.

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Peg Dowie (nee Burden) - Kindergarten Teacher 1938-1945

Peg Dowie (nee Burden) was a much loved teacher when she taught at Walford’s Kindergarten between 1938 and 1945.  Old Scholars from this period state that she “taught us the value of love, learning, friendship and play”. One of her students recalled “Peg was not only a good teacher, but she was also a very brave young woman. When we were in her Kindergarten class, the world was at war, and she had married a soldier. In the midst of her personal anxieties about Don, she never wavered in her calm cheerfulness. Amid all the turmoil that was going on in the world, she gave us a sense of peacefulness and security.”

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Hyaline Chewings - Student 1908-1910; Kindergarten Teacher 1917-1964

Hyaline Chewings was one of Lydia Adamson’s students. After her school education, she trained at the Kindergarten Training College and completed her third-year practical training back at Walford’s kindergarten under Maude Leicester, one of the original eleven graduates of the Kindergarten Training College and Walford’s first Kindergarten teacher. Hyaline Chewings joined Walford’s staff in 1917 and ran the kindergarten for over forty years. She introduced Montessori ideas to Walford and one of her students recalled “her calm self-control gave a sense of balance and her mother-like devotion to each of her children induced the most pleasant atmosphere for the pursuit of physical and mental discipline and development. Her fairness in work and play allowed a child more easily to accept self-discipline as a necessity for successful social living and hurts and frustrations were smoothed over by her gentle understanding. Latent needs were nourished by her, and children were given the opportunity to develop a basic thirst for knowledge.”

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Rosalie-Anne Engelbrecht (nee Taylor) - Student 1941-1947

Walford received a substantial bequest from the estate of Old Scholar Rosalie-Anne Engelbrecht (nee Taylor) that funded the construction of the Year 12 centre which opened in 1983. Rosalie was quiet and reserved by nature but was interested in many facets of school life, becoming a prefect in her final year. She held her school days in high regard and by investing her bequest in infrastructure, Walford ensured her generosity is shared by many scholars past, present, and future.

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Elizabeth Cleland - Student 1920-1927; Teacher 1932

Elizabeth “Betty” Cleland moved to Adelaide from Sydney as a child with her family. Of the five Cleland children, three attended Walford. Her sister Margaret and brother William both only attended for a short time as Margaret’s schooling was nearly concluded when they moved, and William only attended for as long as little boys were permitted. Elizabeth attended for seven years.  Elizabeth had varied interests at school and in her final year was a prefect, on the A hockey team, was a member of the music club committee and was a part of the magazine committee. Elizabeth attended university and earned her First-Class Honours degree in Zoology in 1932, and her Master of Science in 1935. She was an avid researcher and published many scientific papers on nematodes. During her honours degree year, Elizabeth returned to Walford to teach sciences. In 1991, a generous donation from Elizabeth enabled the school to convert a classroom to a dedicated geology teaching laboratory, and in 2019, an equally generous donation from her son in her memory enabled the Elizabeth Cleland Chemistry Laboratory to open. Cleland House is named in part for Elizabeth Cleland and her extraordinary contributions to science and to the school.

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Helen Burge (nee Hamilton) - Student 1961-1962; Past Parent; Past Council of Governors

Helen has had a long association with Walford, first as a student, then as a parent, member of the Old Scholars’ Association, and as a member of the Council of Governors.

Following her school days, Helen trained as a hairdresser and by the age of 21 years she owned her own salon. She spent seven years lecturing at TAFE and passing on her hairdressing skills. Her career path took a different turn when she met Grant Burge and following their marriage, Helen and Grant launched Grant Burge Wines in 1988. Helen was a driving force in the marketing and promotion of the business, even designing the distinctive wine label herself. In 1993, Helen was awarded a Small Business of the Year Award. Helen and Grant have evolved their business to become Burge Barossa, a family business offering consultation on all aspects of wine and tourism services in the Barossa. Helen’s achievements were recognised with a Walford Alumni Award in 2012.

The dance studio is named the Burge Studio to honour the remarkable service and sponsorship that Helen and her family have provided to Walford over many years.

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Pamela Martin (nee Hammond) - Student 1953-1965; Chair of Council 2007-2021

Pamela has dedicated much of her time to supporting the Walford Anglican School for Girls community through her many roles and she has recently retired as the Chair of the Walford Council of Governors after fifteen years of service. Pamela attended Walford as a student and was School Captain as well as president of the Debating Club, recipient of the Mrs Fletcher Prize, and recipient of both a commonwealth and a secondary scholarship for her leaving year. She was the recipient of a Walford Alumni Award in 2013.

Pamela was also a practicing solicitor and held the role of Director of Commercial Advice with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, in which she advised the government on intergovernmental relations and managed complex project work. She was awarded a Public Service Medal “for outstanding public service in the provision of legal and commercial advice on major projects” in 2014. She has also been the Deputy Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, a Director of the South Australian Film Corporation, and she helped establish the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus) in Adelaide.

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Alton Parks - Donor

Alton Edwin Parks grew up and lived on the site of Parks Playing Field. His father, Edwin Parks (pictured), purchased the house and two acres of land in 1888 and it was the Parks family home from then until Alton’s death in 1967.

Alton ran a dairy stud in the paddocks surrounding the house when he wasn’t working for his father in the family bakery on Rundle Street. Inglewood Stud produced prize-winning jersey cows, show horses, racing pigeons and chickens. When the stud started it was in a semi-rural area, but by the 1950s it was a small open space in a growing and flourishing suburban environment. Many generations of Walford girl on their way to school would pause and speak with Alton and his animals. This left an impression, and in the early 1960s when Alton’s health was in decline, he was anxious to see his fields preserved as open space, so he chose to leave the land in trust for Walford in perpetuity for students to use as long as they wished providing the land was kept open and it was actually used by young people.

In 1971, Mr Justice C. H. Bright formally named the area the Parks Playing Field and revealed the memorial plaque. In his speech he said “I think it is a tribute to the girls of Walford House school that by their acts of kindness to an old man they have enabled this wonderful provision to be made for school playing fields. It is a tribute to Mr Parks that he had sufficient vision, as an old man, to cling to the belief that there ought to be open areas even in the most crowded places.”

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Margaret Taylor - Head of Junior School 1996-2009

Margaret Taylor came to Walford to take up the role of Head of Junior School after being the Co-director and Director of Judging at Tournament of Minds (SA) for nine years. She brought with her a special interest in educating girls in mathematics, and a wealth of experience in primary teaching.  Margaret initiated the IB Primary Years Programme, designed the Peace Garden, created new learning areas, and oversaw the enlargement of the Junior Library to accommodate additional books, displays and technology. When she retired, Margaret was recognised as “one of a kind” and her work to establish an environment where students felt known, safe, and valued and felt comfortable taking learning risks was acknowledged. In the farewell speech to Margaret Taylor, then principal Helen Trebilcock said, “the creative and warm nature of the Junior School ad its great success is testament to [Margaret] and her ability as an educator.” In 2010, the Council named the Junior Library in her honour, and to recognise the occasion, Margaret donated several books that reflected her own love of reading and gardens to the library including “Beatrix Potter: A Journal”, “How to Find Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker”, and “The Annotated Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett”.

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