History of the school

Bloomfield Collegiate Preparatory Department

Bloomfield Collegiate School opened its doors to pupils on Monday 4 September 1905 and became one of a plethora of small private schools in the East Belfast area. Bloomfield is one of the very few still surviving today.

The school was founded in a house named ‘Merchiston’ at 443 Beerbridge Road but moved to ‘Hawarden’ at 163 Upper Newtownards Road, close to the junction with the North Road, in 1906.

By the 1909/10 academic year there were forty-nine pupils, increasing to sixty in 1910/11 and sixty-two in 1911/12. At that time the school was co-educational, enrolling boys as well as girls. Boarding pupils were accepted.

From the beginning there were specialist teachers for elocution and music with Saturday morning violin classes taking place. At public events the programme often included singing, dancing, recitation, drill and plays.

The school expanded to seventy-eight pupils in 1913/14 and seventy-six in 1914/15. That year, boarding was discontinued.

At this time there was no school lunch; sandwiches and an apple or banana were carried in the front pocket of a pupil’s leather schoolbag. Often these were rather squashed by lunchtime!

In August 1924, ownership and control of the school were transferred to a Governing Body and the Ministry of Education for Northern Ireland. Prior to this the school was owned by the Headmistress.

As the school grew in size the premises at ‘Hawarden’ fast became inadequate; in November 1930 Bloomfield Collegiate moved to ‘Hillview’ at 144 Upper Newtownards Road. The cost of removal was £3.

Dorothy Andrews was appointed as the first Head Girl in 1934. Upon leaving, she presented the school with a silver badge in the shape of the school crest which has subsequently been worn by every Head Girl during her year of office. This tradition still holds and our current Head Girl wears the badge every day in school.

The number of pupils attending the school rose to one hundred and six by 1936/37.  At that time, six full-time and seven part-time teachers were employed.

During World War II, school life was inevitably disrupted. In 1941, an air-raid shelter was built and parents asked to pay an additional 2/6 [121/2p] each term to cover the cost. The same year pupils were given the option of evacuating and forty pupils moved to ‘Ballinluig’ in Glenariff, Co. Antrim with some of the teaching staff.

After the war, pupil numbers began to increase again.  In1945/46 there were one hundred and forty-three pupils; by 1947/48 this number had risen to two hundred and ninety. By 1949/50 and there were three hundred and sixty pupils in the secondary and preparatory departments together and the number of applicants for places in the school exceeded supply. By 1961/62 numbers had risen to three hundred and ninety-six.  The first school magazine was produced in 1952.

In 1957 a new site of 41/2 acres was purchased upon which to build a new school. This area in Astoria Gardens was known as Magee’s Nursery where Miss Elizabeth Walker, a former Headmistress, laid the foundation stone on 30 March 1961.

The new building was officially opened on Saturday 20 October 1962 by the Lady Mayoress of Belfast but was already filled to capacity by the three hundred pupils enrolled in that year.

A new, purpose-built Preparatory Department was opened on 30 October 1968.  At that point, the Prep. was moved from its location in Bloomfield Presbyterian Church hall and all pupils were united on a common site.

An extension to the Grammar School soon became necessary and was completed by 1973.

As the school grew in size, portacabins were added to supplement accommodation and it became clear that further campus development was required.

In 1994, following a major fund-raising campaign, a new classroom block was opened providing much-needed additional space.

In 1996, a new Sports Hall was opened by Dame Mary Peters which enhanced the facilities still further.

As the school entered the twenty-first century, there were around seven hundred and ten pupils in the senior school and sixty girls in the Preparatory department. The School celebrated its Centenary year in 2006 with a series of memorable events including a Former Pupils’ Dinner in the opulent and appropriate surroundings of the banqueting room in the City Hall, a book launch of ‘100 Years of Memories’ in the presence of the Lord Mayor Cllr Wallace Brown and a  splendid Waterfront Concert which provided a magnificent showpiece of musical talent, verse-speaking and art in a worthy setting.

Sadly, the Preparatory Department closed its doors for the final time in June 2011 as falling enrolment meant that the school was no longer viable. This momentus event was marked with a day of celebration entitled ‘Midsummer Memories’ on 21 June 2011.

The facilities in the Grammar School have continued to develop apace with a state-of-the-art Technology and Learning Centre opening in 2009 and a welcoming and modern refurbished canteen added in 2010. In 2011 new outdoor athletics facilities enhanced the onsite sporting provision. The School has plans to use the existing Preparatory Department buildings to enhance the Grammar School accommodation.

Although relatively young in terms of the school’s history, our mission statement reflects the aims promoted by the school since its inception one hundred years ago. As we face our second century, our mission remains:

‘Excellence in a Caring Community’.