Cordwalles Preparatory School was founded by Bishop Samuel Baines in 1912 as a direct result of Michaelhouse moving from Pietermaritzburg to Balgowan and needing a preparatory school of its own to ensure its future enrolment.
In March 1911, the Bishop of Natal, Rev. FS Baines and the Board of Governors of Michaelhouse decided that it was very important for Michaelhouse to have a preparatory school of its own, so that there would be a steady stream of boys of the correct age to enter Michaelhouse. At that time, Michaelhouse itself was very small, with only 59 pupils, so was unable to make funds available to open a new school.
Bishop Baines dedicated himself to the task of finding suitable property. One day while walking down Chapel Street, he looked up towards Town Hill and saw a house on the hill. He remembered that he had visited the house years before so set off on a voyage of exploration up a mountain foot path from Chapel Street. Bishop Baines bought the house and other benefactors, including Mr Harry Butcher, purchased large grounds around the house for school playing fields. The house and grounds were loaned to the school for a total of six years, a very generous act which enabled the school to become established.
Bishop Baines had the honour of choosing a name for the school, which he named after Cordwalles, a preparatory School at Maidenhead on the Thames in England.
In August 1911, a small committee was appointed to start the school. Members of the first Board of Governors included Bishop Baines, Mr Justice CG Jackson, Mr FS Tatham, KC and Mr Harry Butcher, whose names were given to the sports houses.
The first Headmaster, Mr Besant (after whom the school’s theatre is named) arrived from England in February 1912, and the school was duly opened. At first it accommodated 18 boarders, but six months later, there were 30. In 1924, Bishop Baines, although retired in England, was here on holiday and he dedicated new buildings around three sides of the grass quad and unveiled the Cordwalles foundation stone. Eight years later, the Chapel, dedicated to the memory of a Cordwalles boy, was built and so completed what Bishop Baines saw as a “large picturesque quadrangle”.
The sixth Headmaster Mr Simon Weaver himself was a Cordwalles old boy. He was Headmaster from 2004 until 2015.
Today, located in the leafy northern suburbs of Pietermaritzburg, the school’s red-brick buildings are steeped in tradition. Expansive playing fields and forested grounds afford a rural atmosphere and allow essential room to play and learn. The school has steadily grown to 368 boys.