Malcolm Farnsworth
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Mandeville Hall as a Loreto School

The Indian Room converted into the Library, from Mandeville Hall Greetings 1938.
(From the Collection of Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission.)
The Loreto Order of nuns, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was founded by Mary Ward. She was born in Yorkshire in 1585. With seven companions, she founded the first school at St Omer, Flanders. At first modelled on the Poor Clares, the order then followed the rule of the Society of Jesus. A house was founded in London in 1611 and the success of the order soon spread through Europe. But in 1631 a Bull of Suppression was issued by Pope Urban VIII even though he encouraged Mary Ward soon afterwards to open schools in Rome. She was arrested and, for a time, she was imprisoned in or, at least, confined to the Anger convent in Munich. On her release Mary Ward returned to England where she died in Yorkshire in 1645.

Mother Frances Bedingfield, a companion of Mary Ward, opened the Micklegate Bar convent at York in 1686, the first convent founded in England after the Reformation. In 1703 Pope Clement Xi granted full approval to the rule. Frances Ball entered the York community in 1814 and, in 1821, became foundress of a house of the same order in Dublin, Ireland.

In 1875, Mother Gonzaga Barry, IBVM, brought a group of Loreto nuns to Australia from Ireland and established the first Loreto foundation, Mary's Mount, in Ballarat. In the next forty years, under Mother Gonzaga Barry's leadership, Loreto schools and convents were established around the country together with a teacher-training college in Albert Road, Albert Park, Melbourne.

By the 1920s, the school at Albert Park had expanded and was in need of more space. At the same time, Archbishop Daniel Mannix asked the Loreto nuns to establish a Catholic School for girls at Toorak in order to cater for the needs of Catholic families who lived in that area.

Thus it was that Loreto came to Mandeville Hall. The stately mansion was purchased with the sale note being signed some time in August 1924 and concluded in September. Loreto Mandeville Hall opened its doors as a school on September 24, 1924. The historic house was devoted to classrooms, dormitories and a temporary chapel in the former dining room. The former ballroom became the school hall and was used for physical education classes. Excepting the nuns who were responsible for the boarders, the religious community resided in the stables. The garden was wild and overgrown and in need of attention. Some of its features were retained, such as the gully and the umbrella tree, to become fond memories for thousands of Mandeville Hall girls. A stained glass window in the back hall was relocated from the Albert Park buildings.

Many large houses were converted into institutional use at this time. Beaulieu, a house and garden comparable to Mandeville Hall and formerly the home of Mars Buckley, an heir to the Buckley and Nunn fortune, became St Catherine's girls' school, for example. Rupertswood which had direct connections with Mandeville Hall's earlier history became a Salesian boys' school in the later 1920s. The Catholic Diocese purchased Werribee Park as a seminary. Dr Mannix himself had moved into Raheen.

A building program started almost immediately. New classrooms designed by the architect Robert Harper were built in 1925 and junior school classrooms were added in 1927. The foundation stone of the new Chapel of Christ the King was laid by His Grace the Archbishop, Daniel Mannix, on 25 September 1927. It too was designed by the architect Robert Harper. Its combination of the Romanesque and Baroque styles was typical of the Catholic Church at that time, especially the work of the Diocesan architect, A A Fritsch.

In 1932 the art and music rooms were added. The Kindergarten was opened in 1935 and the classrooms were extended later that year. The whole of the Junior School was moved to the area south of the front lawn in 1940 onto land formerly part of the Mandeville Hall estate but subsequently owned by the Brash family. The Senior and Junior Schools and the Kindergarten continued to expand after the Second World War.

Soon after the umbrella tree, which had been the focus of the front lawn since at least the turn of the century but a real problem when playing sports, was removed to improve the sporting amenity of the lawn area. The decision to remove it was controversial but a necessary one, if the school was to meet its evolving educational needs.

Now, as then, Loreto Mandeville Hall continues to grow and develop in response to the need to maintain its high standards as a Catholic school for girls from Prep to VCE. | | | | © 2002-2003