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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.

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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