When Peterhouse was founded, as a boys-only secondary school, by Fred Snell in 1955 there was no intention of it becoming the Peterhouse Group of Schools (a boys’ school, a girls’ school and a preparatory school). In the early 1980s, however, it became apparent that there was a demand for the re-opening of Springvale School (under the name Springvale House) and the establishment of a secondary girls’ school.
Springvale House was opened in 1985 and Peterhouse Girls two years later.
Peterhouse Girls admitted 28 pupils in its first year who were accommodated at Springvale House while the girl’s dormitories were being made ready. At the end of that first year the Prime Minister, the Hon. Robert Mugabe stated, “I am particularly pleased that you are expanding into the field of girls’ education…. For too long we have tended to think that the education of girls is an expensive luxury”.
The Headmaster for the early years of the life of Peterhouse Girls was Michael Hammond who was a wise unflappable man, with a long acquaintance with the Springvale Estate. He set about the task of establishing the new school. By the end of 1993, when he retired, Peterhouse Girls was well established and the first seven cottages on Williams Field had been built.
O and A Level exams were being sat and largely passed and fixtures in a wide range of sporting disciplines were being played and largely won.
In 1994 there was a significant shift of Heads within the Peterhouse Group of Schools. Dr Alan Megahey, Rector of Peterhouse Boys, returned to England; Michael Hammond retired; and Jon Calderwood, Headmaster of Springvale House moved to be Headmaster at Peterhouse Girls.
A dynamic and forceful leader, Jon Calderwood rarely took ‘no’ for an answer; things happened! Three more cottages were built on Williams Field; a user-friendly boarding house was built to accommodate the girls of B Block (Form 3); all-weather courts were laid down; the Chapel and the Art room were extended and in 2001; as a fitting finale to Jon Calderwood’s tenure of office, a new Library was opened. But close to the heart of Jon Calderwood was the need to make it easier for girls to grow up in the right way: a Tutor System was introduced, as was counselling, and courses in the bush and in the mountains were organized – induction courses, adventure courses and leadership courses.
In 2002, when Jon Calderwood was appointed Rector of Peterhouse Boys, he was replaced by Mrs Sue Davidson, the school’s first Headmistress. Despite her softer and more feminine touch, academic, sporting and cultural success were maintained, even improved; and two laboratories and a striking new Music School were built. Her greatest achievement was to make Peterhouse Girls a friendly, happy place. Her door was always open to the girls, the staff, and the parents.
At the beginning of 2010, John Bradshaw was appointed Headmaster following Sue Davidson’s retirement. The Board took the opportunity to respond to the increasing demand for places and initiated the expansion programme which is now well underway. To date, three new modern boarding houses have been built and named in honour of the wives of past Rectors and Headmasters associated with Peterhouse and Springvale School; Kathleen House, in memory of Kathleen Grinham, wife of Canon Robert Grinham, founder of Springvale School; Margaret House, in memory of Margaret Snell, wife of Fred Snell, founder of Peterhouse; Elizabeth House, in honour of Elizabeth Megahey, wife of Alan Megahey, who established the Peterhouse Group of Schools. In addition to the expanded accommodation new sporting and teaching, facilities have also been built.
Mrs Tracy Blignaut was appointed Headmistress of Peterhouse Girls in January 2015 after Dr Bradshaws retired at the end of 2014.
The expansion has increased our D Block (Form 1) intake from 52 pupils to 80 pupils and now completed Peterhouse Girls can accommodate approximately 480 pupils.
On the 19th of April 1956, Peterhouse was given its name. Then, as Fred Snell recorded, much thought and discussion were put into the choice and design of the “Coat of Arms” for the new school. Its name linked it with Michaelhouse, but its symbols – the cock, the cross and the crown, honoured St. Peter.
The cocks are shown crowing, as they did to signal Peter’s so-human denial of his Master; they stand as a reminder of our no less guilty denials of duty and allegiance to the same Lord.
The cross is there as a symbol of the patient and courageous – self-sacrifice by which Peter, like his Lord, was called to share in the costly process of redemption. For us too, the cross is a reminder of the costliness of our calling. The type of cross used on the Peterhouse badge is a different heraldic device from that used by Ruzawi, Springvale and Bishopslea, but it reminds us of our fellowship with these schools.
The crown is of the design known in heraldry as the martyr’s (or celestial) crown. Thus to the symbols of sin and redemption is added one of joy and triumph. This crown is also depicted on the school flag.
The badge is completed by its motto: “Conditur in Petra”, meaning “it is founded on the Rock”. The motto derives from the words in St. Matthew’s gospel describing the house which was “built on rock”. This is particularly appropriate to a school created from granite mined from the estate, but the motto also includes a play on the words of Matthew 16: ”Thou art Peter, and upon this rock (Petra) I will build my church.” The rock is the rock of faith, and, as Fred Snell declared, “building on faith” must be something continued always in the present, and not just a tombstone from the past.