Great lives start at Southwell

Our History

Our History

Humble Beginnings to World Class

Southwell School was founded on the vision of one man, Mr Cecil Ernest Ferris, who was born in 1877 in the York suburb of Clifton, Yorkshire England. In 1883 the Ferris family relocated to Nottingham when Cecil’s father, Reverend Thomas Ferris, was appointed as the rector at St Matthew’s Church in the city of Nottingham which is in the Diocese of Southwell (pronounced locally as Suthall). Little is known of Mr Ferris’ early life in England, however in the 1890’s it is recorded that he moved to Australia. At the outbreak of the Boer War Mr Ferris enlisted in the NSW Lancers and fought in South Africa for a nine month period during which time he met New Zealand mounted riflemen. After the Boer War he returned to Australia, then decided in 1910 to move to New Zealand to start a new life. He was in Auckland for a short time then moved to Hamilton and was the Lay Reader for the Parish of St Peter’s. In his travels around the Parish Mr Ferris realised the need for a church school in Hamilton where boys could have a “fuller” education than that which was provided by the country schools. Encouraged by the Vicar, Mr Ferris announced he would start a private school for boys and call it Southwell School.

In November 1911, Mr Ferris founded Southwell School at Allington Homestead (now the site of Melville High School) with one student, Robert Oliver, who was later joined by Vernon Wilkinson. As the roll grew, Southwell moved to a number of sites around Hamilton. In 1917 after six years as Headmaster Mr Ferris was called up for WWI military service and said goodbye to his students and Southwell School closed. 
“My dream of 6 years had come to nought. On my last morning I stood by the door as the boys, each with his books under his arm, filed past me, shaking my hand in turn, till the last boy had gone and the door was shut” – Headmaster, CE Ferris describing the final day of school prior to his departure for military service.
After being closed for two months, seven of the parents decided to re-establish Southwell School under the trusteeship of three fathers, Mr HS Hawkins as Chairman, Mr George Boyes as Secretary and Mr H Shaw. One of the parents, Dr Brewis, offered to lease his private hospital “Opoia” on River Road. By 1 November 1917 the school was ready to re-open and Mr Henry Godfrey Sergel was appointed Headmaster
In 1921 Mr HG Sergel bought Southwell School from the parents and moved with his family to the school’s current site at 200 Peachgrove Road. In 1948 Mr Sergel handed the School over to his children to manage and operate. The School continued to be privately owned until 1963 when the Sergel family gifted the School to become a non-profit making Education Institution administered by a Trust Board. 
Southwell was a boys only school from 1911 until 1999. In 2000 Southwell School became fully co-educational and in 2011 celebrated its Centenary. From one staff member and one student in 1911 the school now has over 600 students and around 100 staff. Southwell’s current all-round education cherishes its traditions, history and the people who over time have made it the great school it is today.

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