The History Of Hudson Park

A Modern Leader

In the decades stretching from its founding in 1976 to the present day, Hudson Park has established itself as a major school that enjoys the support of its local and regional communities. It has become renowned for a balanced, integrated curriculum based on the four pillars of education, namely academics, sporting and physical activities, cultural pursuits, and pastoral outreach.

A richly-illustrated history of the school has been written by Rob Prentis and Trevor Webster. Entitled FEARLESS AS THE EAGLE and priced at R390, it may be obtained from either the Primary or the High School Offices. If you do not live in East London and would like to order a book, or if you have a book-related query, please send us an email.

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From Humble Beginnings

Hudson Park traces its roots back to the beginning of the 20th Century, when tiny schools were established in the area.

Clifton Primary School.

The old 'Prefects' Quad' at Clifton Primary.

York Road Primary School.

Clifton Primary School 1905

One of these was Clifton A3 Primary School, housed in the St Alban’s Church hall. It was founded by Ms Craig, in 1905, and boasted 16 pupils.

The first inspector’s report, written on 18 July 1905, reads as follows:
'The school was opened on 17 July. It is a branch school, established by the School Board of Cambridge, in order to care for the needs of that part of the municipal area known as Clifton. Upward of 30 pupils were promised, but an epidemic of measles, prevalent in that locality, has interfered with the opening numbers'.

The school soon outgrew St Albans, and ground originally earmarked for a German Settlement was re-allocated for educatioon. The Foundation Stone of the new three-classroom school was laid on the present site of Hudson Park High School, on 14 December 1912.

In 1919 Mr Clarke succeeded Ms Craig. In those days the school owned all the land from Chamberlain Road, through the Berea ’dip’, to Devereux Avenue. Mr Clarke had visions of developing a magnificent sports ground on the land, but the school was small and poor. Some years later a portion of the property was sold to the Catholic Church and De La Salle College, now Port Rex Technical High School, was built there.

The York Road Poor School 1905 – 1916

Lot L, referred to as the ‘Poor School Lot’ and situated between Western Avenue and the railway line, was donated by the Cambridge Municipality to the Cape Education Department in 1905. It is possible that a farm school existed on the lot before 1905, but in 1906, the so-called 'Poor School' was moved to this location, with access from York Road. Ms Storey was the first Principal.

The York Road Poor School is listed in the East London Red Book of 1914, with Ms Clough as the Principal.

A Changing Image

Vincent Park Primary School, in its early days.

Vincent Park pupils on the pavement of Western Avenue.

A classroom wing of the Sacred Heart Convent.

Vincent Park Primary School 1917 – 1976

In 1917, a new school building was erected on the property and named Vincent Primary School.

This school, greatly loved by thousands of East Londoners, initially catered for a poorer section of the white community. In the early years and especially during the Great Depression, the pupils often attended school bare-footed. Nevertheless, despite severe economic restrictions, the school grew in numbers and additional land was acquired in 1936.

Its image as 'the Poor School' was to change dramatically though when Mr Allen took over as Principal, in 1948. He transformed the small school in every possible way. Uncompromising, yet loyal and goal-directed, Mr Allen ensured that he got the best for ‘his’ school. A new badge, motto, and uniform were introduced. The school was one of the first Primary schools to have its own swimming pool. It also became renowned for its wonderful pantomimes produced by Ms Emslie, and soon Vincent Primary ranked as one of the foremost schools in East London.

The Red House Estate And The Convent Of The Sacred Heart

The Red House Estate was a large section of prime land that once encompassed the whole suburb of Clifton Park and much of the land between Hudson Avenue and Devereux Avenue.

In 1907 a fine manor house was built on the estate, out of red Grahamstown brick. It was called colloquially ‘The Red House’, and in the early 1920’s, the house and estate was acquired by the Malcomess family. In 1924 an imposing Sir Herbert Baker facade was added to the building, together with large doors which led into an atrium designed and built by Italian stone masons.

The property was later sold by the family and it became the gracious Red House Hotel. In time, the hotel was also sold and much of the estate became residential erven. In 1951, The Catholic Church purchased the estate and a magnificent new school building was constructed on the Hudson Avenue side, in 1951. This was to become the Convent of the Sacred Heart.

The Convent Moves Out And Vincent Primary Moves In

The Convent decided, in the mid 1970’s, to consolidate its operations and move to the St Anne's complex in St Mark's Road. The entire Red House estate, with all the buildings, was sold to the Cape Education Department for the grand sum of R71,380! Mr Allen then applied for permission to move Vincent Primary School into the Convent buildings on the Red House Estate.

This was granted and the ‘great move’ started in 1975.

Vincent Park Primary Becomes Hudson Park Primary

At this point, Mr Allen and his Committee decided that Vincent Primary School would be renamed Hudson Park Primary School. 'Hudson', in honour of Mr Hudson who had been a prominent Councillor in the old Cambridge Municipality, and ‘Park’, in reference to the wonderful Edwardian garden of the estate.

Developments At Clifton Park and Amalgamation

Hudson Park Primary, as it was now known, and Clifton Park Primary flourished under insightful leadership, and soon the wheels began turning in the final stage of the developments which led to amalgamation.

The building of Clifton Park High School.

Hudson Park High School is officially opened by Mr Meyer, Director of Education, with Mr Algie looking on.

Key figures in the historical developments, namely Mr Prentis, Ms Vincent, Sr Agnes, and Mr Allen.

Clifton Park Secondary School 1959

A major development occurred in 1959 when Clifton Primary was raised to the status of Secondary School. This meant that it went as far as Standard 8, and that pupils were entitled to write the Cape Junior Certificate examination.

Clifton Park High School 1965 - 1968

Later, during the principalship of Mr Stonier, Clifton Park was granted High School status.

It adopted a new image symbolized by a red blazer and a school badge depicting a German eagle and two sailing ships. The German eagle was chosen as a link with the past, since the ground on which the school stands had initially been earmarked for German settlement. Many pupils were also descendents of the original German Settlers. The ships indicate an association with a harbour city and also represent the arrival of both the German and British Settlers.

The motto, 'Tentando Superabis', meaning 'By Endeavour We Succeed', was used for the first time.

Clifton Park High And Hudson Park Primary Are Amalgamated 1976

There were now two major schools situated opposite each other on Devereux Avenue, and after many vigorous debates, Mr Allen and his colleague Mr Algie, took the momentous step of amalgamating the two schools.

The distinctive red blazer, badge, and motto of Clifton Park High School were adopted by Hudson Park Primary School, and Clifton Park High School changed its name to Hudson Park High School.

Ongoing Growth And Development

The Hudson community is a dynamic one, and thanks to the visionary leadership of both the schools and their Governing Bodies, the past few decades have brought phenomenal growth. Facilities and infra-structure have been improved, properties added, and staffing needs addressed, so that Hudson Park today ranks alongside the finest schools in South Africa.

Work in progress on the Centennial Community Centre.

The Centenary Hall under construction.

Clifton House which was converted into a High School Hostel.

Recent Improvements

  • Williams House was acquired in 1885 and is now the cultural centre of the High School.
  • In 1991, the Red House was fully renovated and was declared a National Monument. This elegant building is the administration centre of the Primary School. It contains a chapel, a boardroom, and a media centre.
  • In 1994, a magnificent new administration and classroom wing was added to the High School.
  • In 1998, a new school was built on Devereux Avenue to house the Pre-Primary and Foundation Phase, financed completely by the parents.
  • In 2001, Clifton House on Hudson Avenue was acquired, and converted into Highbury Terrace Hostel for the High School.
  • A second High School hostel, Hampton House, opened its doors in 2003.