About Us

Manchester High School for Girls was founded in 1874 by men and women who were leading figures in the academic, cultural and business life of Manchester.


Among the founders were Margaret Gaskell, daughter of the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, Augustus Samuel Wilkins, Professor of Classics at the University of Manchester, Edward Donner, chairman of a Manchester shipping company, William Kennedy, president of The Manchester Association for Promoting the Education of Women, and Abigail Behrens, who with her husband, Edward Behrens, helped to establish a Chair of Education at the University of Manchester.

The founders raised money by public subscription and gave generously themselves.


Over 125 people from Manchester and the surrounding area gave money, and amounts donated ranged from as little as 1 guinea to £100.

Manchester High School for Girls was the first school in northern England and amongst the first in the country to provide a genuinely academic education for girls.


At that time, most people regarded the education of girls as either unnecessary or undesirable. The founders of Manchester High School, however, believed that girls had a right to education and that they and society as a whole would be the better for it. The founders described the essential aims of the school as being: ’To impart to the scholars the very best education which can be given and to fit them for any future which may be before them.’ They wanted to ‘provide for Manchester’s daughters what has been provided without stint for Manchester’s sons.’

The founders were very nervous that their vision of an academic school for girls would not be fulfilled.


But they need not have worried! When Manchester High School for Girls opened for the first time on 19 January 1874 parents simply poured in! 60 girls enrolled and a hansom cab had to be ordered to take the heavy weight of gold brought in as fees to the Union Bank on Oxford Street. The termly fees at that time were 4 guineas for under-14s and 5 guineas for over-14s.

The school was first housed in 369 and 371 Portland Terrace on Oxford Road, now the site of the Manchester University Medical School.


The School soon outgrew the original premises and the governors bought a plot of land in Dover Street and built a new school in 1881 (picture left); this building is now part of the University of Manchester.

Dover Street also became too small, and the School moved to its current location on Grangethorpe Road in September 1940.

Unfortunately, the Grangethorpe site was bombed only three months later in December 1940. Not a day of teaching was lost, however, and the school was divided up largely between various buildings in Didsbury. The move back to the Grangethorpe Road site began in September 1949.


The bas-relief ‘Threshold’, placed over the old main entrance to the school on Grangethorpe Road in 1953, was commissioned by the Chair of Governors, Dorothy Pilkington, and sculpted by Mitzi Cunliffe, the designer of the Bafta mask. It celebrates the memorable achievement of the headmistress, Dr Mary Clarke, and her staff, whose exertions preserved the life of the school in the very difficult war years. Thanks to them, the school lives on and goes from strength to strength.

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