Founded in 1853, Cheltenham Ladies’ College was established to provide “a sound academic education for girls”.
Initially, there were just 82 pupils, almost all of whom were day girls. In 1858, Dorothea Beale was appointed as Principal. Only 27 years old at the time, Miss Beale would go on to devote nearly 50 years of her life to College and it was under her leadership that College began to prosper.
In 1873, College moved to its present location, the site of the original Cheltenham Spa. Initially the site consisted of only a boarding house (previously boarders had resided with private landladies), the Lower Hall and a few classrooms, but as years went by the growth of the school and the need for specialised facilities prompted further expansion, including classrooms, music rooms, a library and laboratories.
Miss Beale introduced subjects such as maths and science, despite parental opposition that these were not suitable or necessary for girls, and promoted the fact that her pupils could gain qualifications.
External examiners were brought into College as early as 1863 and, over time, girls were encouraged to take public examinations, notably the Oxford Senior and the Cambridge Higher Local, which were broadly equivalent to today’s GCSE and A Level qualifications. For those who wished to study further, Miss Beale also founded St Hilda’s College, Oxford, in 1893.
As College grew, its reputation spread both in this country and, eventually, throughout the British Empire. By 1900, the small and initially struggling day school had become a thriving community of over 1,000 pupils, with boarders, day girls and part-time students, studying from Kindergarten to Degree level. Miss Beale also established a teacher training school and by the end of her life in 1906, most of her teaching staff were former CLC pupils, as were 40 Head Teachers of girls’ schools in Britain and around the world.
Since the turn of the 21st century, College has continued to develop and follow in the innovative and pioneering footsteps of College’s early Principal, Dorothea Beale. The Parabola Arts Centre with a 325-seat auditorium, gallery and teaching spaces, opened in 2009 to further enrich the artistic and dramatic life of College and the community. More recently, under our current Principal, Eve Jardine-Young, the 2015-16 academic year saw engineering added to the curriculum, with the launch of a new Engineering, Enterprise and Technology Department, and the introduction of a formal Wellbeing Programme to help prepare girls for the challenges of the current generation.
Following this, the new Health and Fitness Centre was opened in 2018. The facilities include two sports halls, a climbing wall, a refurbished 25m swimming pool, a multi-purpose activity studio, dance studio, five squash courts and a 58-station fitness gym with free weights, spin, rowing and erg areas.