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News > From the Archives > Community House – The Heart of St Margaret’s

Community House – The Heart of St Margaret’s

Early in 1886, the doors of a grand mansion were thrown open for an elaborate housewarming party that ran for several days.
Community House – The Heart of St Margaret’s
Community House – The Heart of St Margaret’s

Early in 1886, the doors of a grand mansion were thrown open for an elaborate housewarming party that ran for several days. Family and friends admired its absolute splendour, the view from the balcony and the new lawns and gardens that stretched almost down to the edge of the river.

The pastoralist, Patrick Durack, had built this mansion. He was father of the Durack family who opened up the Kimberley country in Western Australia. The well-known architect, John Cohen, was commissioned to design the mansion. But Patrick’s enjoyment of this grand house which he called ‘Maryview’ was short-lived, because in 1889/1890, he and his brother faced financial ruin. The property was then purchased by Frederick Horwood in 1890. Mr Horwood renamed the grand house ‘Roslyn’ and lived here for several happy years. In 1900, John Dunmore Campbell was the new owner and changed its name, yet again. This time to ‘Donatello’ – purported to be of Scottish origin. He died in 1909 and the house was then purchased in 1910 for the new school – Church of England High School (whose early name had been Eton High School for Girls). 

The grand house was again renamed – this time ‘St Margaret’s House’ – and in 1912, the school’s name became St Margaret’s Church of England Girls School. This was the first building on the school’s site that the Sisters had purchased. The ground floor was used for school purposes and the boarders slept upstairs along with the Sisters. The Mother Superior, Mother Emma, had her office on the ground floor, the Headmistress had her office on the same floor, and one of the classrooms doubled as the chapel. The numbers of students at this time numbered at least 47 – a strong mixture of both day and boarder students.

The Brisbane Archbishop, St Clair Donaldson, attended the school’s prize giving in 1910 and congratulated the Sisters upon their choice of a house which “seemed so delightful and suitable in every way” (The Link, 1910).

The school continued to grow over the years. In 1928, West Wing was purpose-built for the school, providing several large classrooms, a kitchen, a dining room and dormitories. From this date, the Sisters were able to claim St Margaret’s House as their own sanctuary, and from this time, it has been referred to as “Community House”.

It is evident that the grand white house has been at the centre of our Ascot history since 1910 and will continue to hold a special place in our collective hearts and community.

By Mary Surtees
School Archivist

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St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School
11 Petrie Street
Ascot, QLD, 4007

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Phone: +61 7 3862 0777
Fax: + 61 7 3862 0701
Open: 8am – 4pm (Mon – Fri)


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