The clergy daughter school was founded in 1832 by a local Reverend, Reverend Carus Wilson. The Reverend acknowledged the success of the school and thought that there should be something similar created in the south. He reached out to Reverend Henry Venn Elliott, who visited the school and quickly saw the benefits of creating a similar institution in the Brighton area. This area boasted a large number of wealthy families that were looking for governesses. With this idea, St. Mary’s Hall was created.
Henry Venn Elliott was a persuasive man with many connections and much influence in the Brighton area. This helped augment the initial success of the school. The school was even built on a land that the Marquis of Bristol had donated which is where the school was built. In addition, Elliot persuaded renowned architect George Basevi to construct and provide a plan and idea for the school’s main Hall. The plans were even donated free of charge and resulted in the donation of funds by generous and influential supporters, one of which was Queen Adelaide herself.
The school required that the attendees and the girls enrolled bring their Bible, their prayer book, a new umbrella as well as petticoats and proper silverware (spoon and fork). The school provided the frocks, tippers and shawls. Later, the school also began providing undergarments for the girls as well and allowed trousers but no jeans. The dress code on Sundays included the restriction to skirts and the girls’ Sunday best only; no trousers were permitted on this day.
The Education provided by the school was excellent and the school quickly gained a reputation for being an advanced educational institution. The school taught more than was common to the schools of that era, including science, and took the training of their Governesses seriously. Girls were enrolled at the age of 8 and became pupil teachers as young teenagers, and worked until they were qualified by their late teenage hood. Impressively, St. Mary’s Hall was one of the first schools to take on the Cambridge Public Examinations.