Queen's Academy, Victoria, B. C.

Queen's Academy, c. 1908. Click on the image to enlarge it

Queen's Academy, an independent school for girls, operated in Victoria from 1904 to 1910. The school was founded and conducted by Stephen Daniel Pope, one of British Columbia's most prominent educators. A former principal of Victoria High School (1876-1878), Pope had held the highest post in the provincial public school system from 1884 until 1899. Pope was also a controversial figure. He had been dismissed from his position as principal of the province's first high school after quarrelling with parents and the Board of Education, and he resigned as Superintendent of Education following a dispute with the government over a reduction in his salary. Despite the controversy that marked his career, Pope was regarded as a competent school administrator and a good school teacher. His abilities as an administrator and his skills as a teacher contributed to the success of his private school for girls.

In the late nineteenth century, families who wished to send their daughters to an independent school in the provincial capital had a very small range of choices. They could enrol their daughters at St. Ann's Academy (1858), a boarding school and day school run by the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Ann, or they could patronise Angela College, a prestigious day school affiliated with the Anglican Church. When Angela College closed in the 1890s, middle-class families who preferred a "private," as opposed to a "public," educational system had to send their daughters to boarding schools on the Mainland, or to distant parts of Canada and the United States or overseas.1 As Jean Barman has noted, "the closing of Angela College had left a vacuum" which was not be filled until the early 1900s, when several independent schools for girls were opened in Victoria.2 Queen's Academy was one of these schools.

The academy was originally located in a large house in Victoria's Rock Bay District, at 78 Henry Street [now lower Hillside Avenue], near the corner of Rock Bay Avenue. The school was first advertised on 5 September 1904 in the Victoria Daily Colonist: "Queen's Academy -- Cor. Henry St. and Rock Bay Ave. A Day School for girls of all ages. Course of study the same as that prescribed for the public schools. Principal, S. D. Pope, LL.D. Private tuition given in all branches taught."

About two dozen students were enrolled during the school's inaugural year. The students included Madge Wolfenden, Genevieve Bone, Nora Lugrin, Etheldred and Edythe McEihiany, Jocelyn and Gwenydid Bridgman, Rosalie Newman, Ruth and Nora Jones, and Dorothy Lucas. They were the daughters of some of the city's most respectable families. They were provided with a curriculum that included drawing, writing, dictation, spelling and grammar; geography, British history and Canadian history; Latin and English literature. During the first year, Dr. Pope taught the senior classes, while his daughter, Gillies, looked after the juniors.

When Pope was principal of Victoria High School, he encouraged students to produce a school paper and literary digest. He carried on that tradition at Queen's Academy. The Academy Journal was intended not only as a source of local news and entertainment, but as a vehicle to help student's improve their writing and grammar. A review in the Victoria Daily Colonist noted that the Academy Journal included "artistic representations" and was "brightened with conundrums [and] charades" (27 June 1907, p.7). Eventually, two companion journals were produced each month at the school. Girls in the senior class were responsible for one of the journals, girls in the intermediate and junior grades for the other.

As the school became better known, enrolment increased. By 1907 nearly seventy students were enrolled in Queen's Academy. In order to accommodate the students, and to provide a broader academic programme, Pope built a large school building on the lot adjacent to the house on Henry Street. A large rectangular building — which still stands at 2725 Rock Bay Avenue, near the corner of Hillside — was erected during the 1907/08 school year. In September 1908 it was described as a "thoroughly modern, up-to-date structure, filled with the latest improvements in the way of desks, seats, blackboards, etc." The school also boasted a "commodious" playground.3

The teaching staff at Queen's Academy then consisted of Dr. Pope, who taught the Senior Division; Pope's daughter, Beatrice, who replaced her sister Gillies as the principal's "1st Assistant" and who taught the Intermediate Division; Miss L. E. Lugrin, 2nd Assistant, responsible for the Junior Division; and a Miss Gryll, who taught singing and music. By that time, the school was offering an extensive curriculum from kindergarten through to senior matriculation. According to the Victoria Daily Times, the quality of instruction was high. Girls enrolled at Queen' Academy, the newspaper noted, were "thoroughly instructed in learning in all its branches" (12 September, 1908, p.3).

In 1910, the Vancouver Province described Queen's Academy as "one of the most successful schools" in Victoria. Indeed, the school enjoyed an enviable reputation and Dr. Pope was able to attract students from some very prominent families. His pupils included the daughters the provincial premier, Richard (afterwards Sir Richard) McBride. However, the school was not able to develop its potential. The founder and principal of Queen' s Academy died unexpectedly on 17 December 1910, at the age of sixty-eight.

For reasons which are still unexplained, Pope's daughters were not willing or able to continue with the school. Possibly they did not have the time or the financial resources to maintain it. Possibly they did not want to compete with some of the new private venture schools for girls in Victoria, notably St. George's School (1907) and St. Margaret's School (1908). Or it may have been that the school's reputation relied solely on Dr. Pope and parents of children enrolled in the school did not feel confident without him at the helm. Whatever the case, when Dr. S. D. Pope died, Queen's Academy died, too.

Researched and written by Brad R. Morrison; edited by Patrick A. Dunae
Photograph courtesy of Graeme S. Balcom, May 2003. The picture shows the school in its original location at 78 Henry Street (now 600 block Hillside Avenue) sometime before September 1908.


1See Jean Barman, "Marching to Different Drummers: Public Education and Private Schools in British Columbia," British Columbia Historical News, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Fall 1990), 2-11; and Barman, "Separate and Unequal: Indian and White Girls at All Hallows School, 1884-1920," in Jean Barman, Neil Sutherland, and J. Donald Wilson (eds.), Children, Teachers and Schools in the History of British Columbia (Calgary: Detselig Enterprise, 1995), pp. 337-357.

2Barman, Growing Up British In British Columbia. Boys In Private School (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984), p. 202, note 21.

3"Girls' Academy is Making Progress," Victoria Daily Times (12 September 1908), p. 3.

4 Vancouver Province (19 December 1910). Professor Thomas Fleming may have underestimated Queen's Academy, which he called "a small and unsuccessful school for girls," in his essay, "In the Imperial Age and After: Patterns of British Columbia School Leadership and the Institution of the Superintendency, 1849-1988," BC Studies, No. 81 (Spring 1989), 57.