Saturday, 13 January 2018


Kambala school for girls began at Fernbank, a house in Edgecliff Road Edgecliffe. In 1887 Miss Louisa Jane Guerney started a school with 12 girls in the house. As the number of pupils increased the school moved to a larger property named Kambala in 1891.The new property consisted of 13 acres. By this time Mademoiselle Augustine Soubeiran was co-principal with Miss Guerney.

In 1913 the school had grown to almost 50 pupils so it once again relocated, this time to Tivoli, its present home in Rose Bay. The school brought the name, Kambala, to the new location. A building has been on this site since 1842 when Captain William Dumaresq built a cottage and later a house. The Dumaresq family lived on the site until 1881 when Morrice Alexander Black purchased the property. He then had the house rebuilt. Further estensions and alterations have been made to Tivoli since it became a school. It is currently the boarding house for year 7 - 10 students.
Tivoli (1941)
Additional buildings have been built on the site as well as sports grounds.
Senior House building (1941)
In 1926 Kambala became a Church of England (Anglican) Foundation School.

My mother, Rosemary Lord, was a pupil at Kambala from 1939-1942. Consequently she was at the school during part of the Second World War. The post in this blog, Shelling of Rose Bay, provides information about Rosemary's memories of her school days at Kambala during the war.

Rosemary started the school in first form (year 7 now). Rosemary's life at school during this time can be viewed via some of the photographs in a family album.
Group of friends outside the Tivoli building (1939)
Miss Fifi Hawthorne was headmistress of the school when Rosemary attended Kambala. Miss Chadwick was the House Mistress during Rosemary's first year at the school.
Miss Chadwick (1939)
In a family history interview in 1994 Rosemary described one of her interests at school:

I used to take part in the drama class at school. The first year I got the runners up prize and the second year I won the prize for playing a hunter in some crazy thing. We used to spend lunch time sometimes fooling around in plays and things. One girl was really funny. She had invented a skit on The Three Bears. There was much giggling and what have you. She later became a doctor.
Friends (Rosemary second from left in group)
Relaxing in the school grounds
Shirley, Judy, Helen, Myra, Jill, Rosemary, Jocelyn, Ruth (1941)
Rosemary's favourite sport at school was tennis. In the 1994 interview she described her interest in sport: "I played tennis and I was captain of the B team. I played basketball (netball) but I played in the B team."
Ready for a game of tennis.
Kambala is in a beautiful location as the image below, from Wikipedia, indicates.
Click on the image for a better view
As Rosemary noted: "The school was in a beautiful position overlooking the harbour by the flying boat base. For a couple of years I was in classrooms that overlooked the base and it was hard to concentrate."

Although Australia was at war it did not directly impact upon Sydney until 1942. However the girls would have had family members - brothers, cousins - who had enlisted and in some cases were serving overseas. Rosemary's cousin, David, enlisted in July 1940 and was sent to Malaya. Her brother, Michael, enlisted in December 1941. There must have been discussion among the students regarding events overseas.

When the girls returned to school in 1942 air raid shelters had been constructed during the holidays and air raid practice implemented. Then in June 1942 a Japanese submarine shelled sections of Rose Bay, not far from the school.

Rosemary observed: "The air raid came in the middle of the night. We didn’t realise at the time how serious it was. Part of Rose Bay was shelled including the beach. At New South Head Road some flats were hit, not badly but windows were broken."

Rosemary also noticed one change in the neighbourhood after the shelling in 1942:  "Across the road from us there was a house which was let to the Americans who used to come there on R & R leave. Of course I was young and innocent and did not take notice particularly but I presume they had their girlfriends there."

The shelling of Rose Bay would have alerted the students at Kambala, especially the senior students to the seriousness of war. A number of them, including Rosemary and her friend Jill, volunteered to do community work with war related organisations. (More about that in a future post).  However, in the meantime the students completed their studies before embarking on the next stage of their life.

Further information and references:

Shelling of Rose Bay - Family Connections

For the love of old buildings - a post in the blog Lilyfield Life

Kambala School - Wikipedia

Kambala Girls' School - Local History Fast Facts - Woollahra City Council (useful information about other sites in Woollahra)

History - Kambala - School website


  1. I enjoyed your post as it talked about things familiar to me. As a former Eastern Suburbs girl I had many friends who attended or taught at Kambala.

  2. Glad that you enjoyed the post, Jill.

  3. Hi Vicki, really interesting hearing of Rosemary’s experiences at wartime Kambala. My Mother, Jacqueline Hellwig, was in Rosemary’s year and she is in some of these pictures. The comedienne with the skits about the bears, was their friend Marion Cridland MBBS. Apparently by 1942 there were regular bomb drills, and sandbags everywhere at Tivoli! Nicholas Bell

    1. Thank you Nicholas for your comments and information about your mother's time at Kambala. When I interviewed my mother about her schooldays in Sydney it was obvious that enjoyed the four years spent at Kambala. It must have been an interesting time living at Rosebay during the Second World War.