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Our Community Our History

Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School was first established in 1903 by Mrs Frances Lowe. Ever since then, the School has provided an exceptional education for girls and young women.

Early days

In July 1903, Miss Frances Lowe established Cooerwull, a private school for girls, in a house on the corner of Marshall Street and Sherwood Road (opposite the present Junior School).

In 1907, the School and its 36 students, moved to its current location when Miss Lowe purchased a Victorian house called Hillsley on the current site of the School gymnasium.

A kindergarten, called Girton, was established in St James’ Church hall for both boys and girls. Miss Lowe took over this kindergarten in 1920 and it was run by the School until the early 1960s.

Miss Lowe, a member of the St James’ Church, sold the School to the Vestry of St James’ in May 1922 and the School became Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School in the beginning of 1923.

At that time the School had 98 students and was located in the school house in Noel Street. The first new building was constructed in 1929 at the corner of Noel Street and Upper Heidelberg Road. The School gradually acquired more property as student numbers increased and there was a major period of expansion in the 1970s.

Computer Club 1987

Growth and expansion

In the 1980s and 1990s there was a considerable redevelopment of the School property to provide improved facilities. The Junior School was relocated in 1981 from the corner of Noel Street and Upper Heidelberg Road to its current location in a series of Edwardian houses in Marshall Street. Other developments included the John Shilliday Physical Education Centre with its gymnasium and indoor swimming pool, the Doris Walker Centre which housed the Frances Lowe Library and VCE Centre and the Collins Wing Science laboratories.

The Performing Arts Centre was built in 1995 on the corner of Upper Heidelberg Road and Noel Street. St James’ House Early Learning Centre was opened in 1998 for girls aged 3 to 5 years. Hillsley – the former Knox Presbyterian Church, was opened at the end of 2001 as the Visual Arts and Hospitality Complex.

The Cooerwull Centre, opened in 2010 by Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, was the biggest building project ever undertaken in the School’s history. It incorporated a new Library with Senior and Junior School areas, ICT and audiovisual departments, Staff Centre, a Café, and a terraced recreational area. 

In 2011 Sharwood House was re-opened after extensive renovations which provided state-of-the-art teaching spaces, a central Atrium area and excellent new outdoor sporting facilities and play spaces.

Looking to the future

In 2015, the Doris Walker Centre was redesigned and reconfigured. The Centre is named after the School’s longest serving Principal, Doris Walker, who was the Head for over 34 years from 1929-1963. The Centre houses a 156 seat lecture theatre with a large foyer, a versatile stage area, video conferencing facilities, and flexible learning spaces for VCE students. 

Most recently, the Cooerwull Centre was extended to allow for a new Principal's office and Boardroom, while the Senior Library was reconfigured to make space for the Innovation Station, a state-of-the-art maker space and technology hub.

After well over a century of evolution, Ivanhoe Girls' continues to develop vibrant educational spaces to enable innovative learning programs. 

Principals of Ivanhoe Girls'
  • Miss Frances Lowe 1903 - 1922
  • Miss Agnes Bevington 1923 - 1926
  • Miss Katherine Bedford 1927
  • Miss Sydney Knox 1928
  • Miss Doris Walker 1929 - 1963
  • Miss Elizabeth Pike 1963 - 1968
  • Miss Marian (Valerie) Beers 1969 - 1970
  • Mr Glyn France 1971 - 1977
  • Mr John Shilliday 1977 - 1990
  • Mrs Judith McCowan 1991 - 1997
  • Dr Heather Schnagl AM 1998 - 2017
  • Dr Deborah Priest 2018 - 2022
  • Ms Narelle Umbers 2023 - current
School Hymn

Wrought by brave hands long dead
So great a heritage before our feet
We can, with grateful hearts and unafraid
Work on to make the present strong and sweet

Lord God, through all the changes time may bring
Guard thou the School ‘neath Thine o’ershadowing.

Laughter and work, swift help in others’ need, 
Under the friendly walls the terms go by.
The School has lit the torch! Let us take heed
That in our hands the beacon cannot die.

Lord God, through all the changes time may bring,
Guard thou the School ‘neath Thine o’ershadowing.

In fragrant morn as evening grows to night
The School is calling! Let us go our ways
With faces ever turned towards the Light,
Fill with high toil the gracious common days. 

Lord God, through all the changes time may bring,
Guard thou the School ‘neath Thine o’ershadowing.

Give of our best, so, when the gates swing wide, 
And through the larger world our way we choose,
Of life’s high enterprise, which we descried, 
Never can we the vision wholly lose.

Lord God, through all the changes time may bring,
Guard thou the School ‘neath Thine o’ershadowing.

Archive Collection

The Ivanhoe Girls' Archives contain an impressive range of historical items and artefacts dating from the earliest days of the School. To donate historical items, or to make an enquiry about our catalogue, please contact the School Archivist.