The origins of Clarendon

Founding Headmistress of Clarendon Presbyterian Ladies College, Mrs Elizabeth Kennedy, was born in County Down, Northern Ireland, in 1838.

In 1876, Mrs Kennedy established a cottage school in Lydiard Street North for her son, Thomas, and children of family friends. This quickly expanded and, in early 1877, the Kennedys purchased a property on the corner of Clarendon and Armstrong Streets in Soldiers Hill, which became Clarendon Presbyterian Ladies College.

The college was Ballarat’s largest school for girls with enrolments peaking in 1884, by which time Mrs Kennedy cared for over 152 students from Prep to matriculation, including 50 boarders.

Mrs Kennedy and her husband, Reverend Robert Kennedy, were Principals of the school for many years and, their son, David, studied at the school before becoming a teacher of Latin and English.  Following his father’s death in 1896, David was appointed Vice Principal.

In 1902, aged 64, Mrs Kennedy retired and relinquished the school to Miss Lillie Crump, who continued Mrs Kennedy’s values of providing a well-rounded education for young ladies in the Ballarat district.

Upon her retirement, Mrs Kennedy travelled to the UK, where she lived with her daughter, Mary, until her death in April 1918. Mrs Kennedy is remembered in Ballarat on her husband’s grave in the Ballarat New Cemetery.

In a tribute to the late Mrs Kennedy, published in the Ballarat Star on 20 April 1918, it was noted that ‘Not only was Clarendon College widely known as a strong educational force, but also became a vital centre of moral and Christian culture that gave beauty and grace of character to its students’.

The Archives Department is indebted to the tenacious research of Old Collegian, Dr Helen Besemeres (1954) and Ken Crompton in compiling this potted history.

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