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St John's College, Johannesburg

St John's College is a private school for boys in South Africa founded in 1898. The college, originally established as an Anglican school for boys, accepts boys and girls at various levels of education: Bridge Nursery, Pre-Preparatory, Preparatory, College, and Sixth Form. St John’s College campus is located in Houghton, Johannesburg, and it is a part of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa. The Old Johannian Association is the official St John's College alumni organization.

St John's College
St John's College Bell Tower. JPM.JPG

South Africa
MottoLux vita caritas
(Light, life, love)
FounderJohn Darragh
PrincipalPaul Edey
GradesPre-Preparatory (0–3) Preparatory (4–7) College (8–12) Sixth Form ( Cambridge A Levels)
Colour(s)Navy blue and maroon
RivalKing Edward VII School, Parktown Boys' High School, St Stithians Boys’ College, St David’s Marist Inanda
Dayboy HousesThomson, Alston, Clarke, Fleming
Boarding HousesNash, Hill, Clayton, Hodgson, Runge
FeesR 201,000 p.a. (tuition and boarding)
R 125,000 p.a. (tuition only)


Early historyEdit

St John's College was founded in Johannesburg on 1 August 1898[1] and is an Anglican school[2]. It was founded by the Revd Mr John Darragh, rector of St Mary's Anglican Church, Eloff Street, Johannesburg[3]. He persuaded his parish council of the need to establish an Anglican school for boys. His curate, the Revd Mr J L Hodgson, was appointed the first Headmaster.[4] The first classes started in a house in Plein Street, Johannesburg with two desks and seven pupils aged six to 14. However the school was forced to close at the end of 1899 due to the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War. St John's re-opened in 1902 two months after the signing of the peace treaty, and grew rapidly under Mr Hodgson and eight staff.[citation needed]

Soon there were 180 boys, which was too many for the Plein Street premises, and St John's moved to larger premises in a wood and iron building near the Union Grounds between Joubert Park and the old Wanderers (now Johannesburg's main railway station). However, the British colonial government under Lord Milner was ideologically opposed to private schools believing that they were not beneficial to society. In order to Anglicize the Transvaal area during the Anglo-Boer war, Milner set out to influence British education in the area for the English-speaking populations. He founded a series of schools known as the "Milner Schools" in South Africa. Over the next few years the school's enrollment plummeted as a result of policies introduced by the Transvaal administration, including the creation of public schools (such as King Edward VII School) within a short distance of their private counterparts.[citation needed]

In 1904, the parish was relieved of the responsibility for St John's College, which became a diocesan institution. However, by 1905 St John's was facing closure, and an approach was made by the diocesan board of education to the Community of the Resurrection (an Anglo Catholic order of missionary priests and lay brothers) to take over the school, they would later establish what is now St. Martin's School. In 1906 Father James Nash became the new headmaster and oversaw the move north out of the city to the current site on 23 hectares (56 acres) across Houghton Ridge.[citation needed]

In 1907 the school had opened in Houghton and accepted its first boarders. By then it had 100 boys, and four college houses had been instituted: Nash, Thomson, Alston and Rakers (which became Hill in 1910).[citation needed]

Expansion and growthEdit

The Community of the Resurrection relinquished control of the school to the Diocese of Johannesburg in 1934.[5] In 1935, Rev S.H. Clarke began his two decades as Headmaster. In 1954 Deane Yates became the first lay headmaster. By then there were 664 boys, 375 in the college, 100 boarders in the Prep. During Yates’ headship St. John's College has widened in interests and outlook. Boys and masters move towards a broader and more modern concept of education and an appreciation and critical understanding of the rapidly changing life of Johannesburg, of South Africa, and of the world at large.[citation needed]

In 1972 Jan Breitenbach becomes the first South African Headmaster. Cadet corps ceases to exist. The first female is accepted into Sixth Form. In 1973 at 75 years old the school becomes a three-term school.[citation needed]

In 1977, the first computer on campus was installed in Pelican Quad.[citation needed]

In 1984 under the guidance of Headmaster Walter Macfarlane (OJ) 17 ‘legal’ versions of the school uniform are whittled down to two: Number Ones and summer khakis. Sixth Form girls are given a uniform. Electric bells take over signalling the end of periods from the bell manually rung by School Orderly Abie Moroane. A new school constitution, including the composition of council, becomes effective and lasts until 1998.[citation needed]

In 1994, Macfarlane retires as Headmaster, and Robert Clarence is appointed in his place.[citation needed]

During 1997, Robert Clarence departs as Headmaster. Alan "Takkie" Wilcock replaces him as acting Headmaster, and fully moves into the post the following year.[citation needed]

In 1998, the school celebrated its centenary year. The 100-year celebration was commemorated by a mass of thanksgiving held on Burger Field for all three schools, staff, parents past and present, former pupils and friends of the school. During the year, the school celebrated with a ball, a race day, a golf day, a pageant, an arts and crafts fair, a centenary rose, basketball, cricket, hockey and rugby festivals, and multiple musical and theatrical performances. Commemorative gifts are presented by Jeppe, St Mary’s and St Stithian’s schools. The celebrations ended with a massed Carols by Candlelight service and fireworks display on Burger Field in November.[citation needed]

The Fred England Technology and Media Centre in the Prep opens in 1999. Sixth Form girls receive boarding. In March 2000, a move to establish St. John's College as a parish is formalised. Te Deum by Péter Louis van Dijk, commissioned for the school’s centenary, has its world premiere. The school museum is moved to the armoury with financial assistance given by the Old Johannian Association (OJA). A strategic review is undertaken by council and senior staff which results in the following mission statement: To be a world class Christian school in Africa.[citation needed]

In 2001 the Centenary Venture tops R17 million. St John's College introduces a seventh house: Hodgson, a boarding house. The school has 1234 pupils with an annual budget of R44 million. The synthetic turf hockey field and the sports pavilion linking the hockey and Burger Field are completed. Sixth Form boarding school for girls is expanded with the acquisition of 14 St David Road. St. John's College and St Mary's School jointly sign a lease for Kloofwaters, an outdoor adventure camp in the Magaliesberg. St. John's College hosts three debates during the World Schools Debating Championships. Outreach continues with school support for the Yeoville Community School, Mother Theresa’s, educator workshops, the Toy Boyz project.[citation needed]

In 2003 The Bridge Nursery School, a partnership between St. Johns College and Roedean School, opens its doors. The actual bridge linking the two schools is constructed over Houghton Drive during the Easter weekend.[citation needed]

View of the North Facade, designed by Sir Herbert Baker.


Today there are five stages to a St John's education:[6]

  • The Bridge Nursery School offers two classes for the three to five years old.
  • The Pre-Preparatory School is for boys who start Pre-Grade (Grade 0) at the beginning of the year in which they turn six.
  • The Preparatory School is for boys typically until they are 13 (end of grade 7)
  • The College for boys, where the main point of entry is at Remove (Standard 6, now Grade 8) typically at the age of 13 (although a few vacancies do become available at other levels from time to time) and boys typically leave at the age of 18. There is an entrance test, and the applicant's interests and cultural activities, sporting achievements and general demeanour are taken into consideration. A confidential report from the pupil's preparatory school Headmaster/Headmistress is requested. Special consideration is given to siblings, sons of Old Johannians, sons of Clergy and those who come from a disadvantaged background
  • The VIth Form for both boys and girls offers a Sixth Form year to enable students to focus on three subjects of his/her choice in preparation for Cambridge A-level exams (written in November); the class numbers average between 60 and 90 boys and girls a year.[citation needed]

Test PerformanceEdit

The IEB is a standardized assessment used in South Africa to test quality of schools and education.[7]

IEB Results 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2015
Number of candidates 120 124 127
Number of failures 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
University endorsement (%) 97 97 95 92 98 94 100
A aggregates (%) 27 35 33 30
A-B-C aggregates (%)
Subject distinctions 158 247 220 220 338
Number in top 50 7 2 2 3 3 3


St John's College was ranked 11th out of the top 100 best high schools in Africa by Africa Almanac in 2003, based upon quality of education, student engagement, strength and activities of alumni, school profile, internet and news visibility.[8]


St John's College main Chapel.

The college has eight college houses: Alston, Clarke, Clayton, Fleming, Hill, Hodgson, Nash and Thomson. Sir Herbert Baker designed the new Houghton school buildings and initially used rough-hewn quartzite quarried on the site, but subsequently rock was sourced from Krugersdorp and hand-chased by Maltese craftsmen. The school is arranged around a number of quadrangles, each with its cloisters. Leonard Fleming[9] later worked with Baker on certain of the buildings.

The college has two chapels, a main one and a crypt chapel. Construction began in 1915 on the Crypt Chapel designed by Fleming as a foundation for the main chapel. The Crypt Chapel seats about 100 pupils, and is adjacent to the Garden of Remembrance. Each House of the college has a week in which it is to attend the chapel service in the crypt. Above the Crypt Chapel is the War Memorial Chapel. The superstructure was completed in June 1924 and dedicated in 1926 to commemorate staff and pupils who fell in battle. Inside the War Memorial Chapel is the Delville Wood (All Souls) Memorial Chapel, which houses one of only five Delville Wood crosses in the world, entrusted to the school by the 3rd Regiment South African Infantry. It seats about 500 pupils, including staff, and has a fully functioning pipe organ and a choir gallery at the rear of the chapel above the main entrance. Its pipe organ is the largest of its kind in South Africa.

The Bell Tower completed in 1933, houses one of the largest bells in South Africa. It also has the largest clock in South Africa, the only other one comparable to it in size was in the Rissik Street Post Office. The flag at the top of the bell tower is changed every day, from the South African flag, to the St Johns College flag, to the flag of St George. The Headmaster during 1930-35 was Rev Charles H.S. Runge DSO MC*, who had served in France from 1914–18, before being ordained in 1922. His name is remembered as that of Runge House at the school today.[citation needed]

Notable alumniEdit

Old Johannian AssociationEdit

The Old Johannian Association (OJA) was created in 1903. An elected committee oversees the association and is elected every year at an annual general meeting. This committee meets monthly, and is divided into different specialized sections: finance, administration, reunions, sport and communication.

According to the official OJA website, this association "seeks to provide Old Johannians with social and recreational facilities for the use and benefit of all members."[18] The OJA supports Old Johannian sports teams and maintains a social club for members. The OJA also funds scholarships for students of St John's College.

Events hosted and attended by the OJA include the OJ Annual Dinner, Gaudy Day and annual OJ sports events. Officers within the OJA also organize reunions for Old Johannian members.[19]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "History of St John's College". St John's College. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  2. ^ "College". St John's College. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  3. ^ "History of St John's College". St John's College. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  4. ^ "History of St John's College". St John's College. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  5. ^ "History". St John's College. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Home". St John's College.
  7. ^ "About Us". IEB. IEB. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  8. ^ "top20highschools". Africa Almanac. Africa Almanac. 1 October 2003. Archived from the original on 14 January 2007. Retrieved 24 July 2016. The research leading up to the publication of the 100 Best High Schools in Africa began with the launching of the website in December 2000.
  9. ^ "FLEMING, Francis (Frank) Leonard Hodgson". Artefacts.
  10. ^ Who's Who of Southern Africa Media24 Digital 6 January 2008
  11. ^ Beresford, Belinda (29 May 2008). "Craig Williamson: Apartheid careerist". The M&G Online. Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  12. ^ "Hugh Lewin".
  13. ^ "Find a grave".
  14. ^ "'People are going to be outraged by a lot said in this book'- Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh". News24. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Maps Maponyane to host new local entrepreneurial show". Channel. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  16. ^ SA Consulate article on Xuza
  17. ^ "Spedding's tears of joy for France". Planet Rugby. 2 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  18. ^ "About". Old Johannian Association. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  19. ^ "About". Old Johannian Association. Retrieved 13 March 2019.

External linksEdit