Student Login

Living Heritage – St Mary’s

St Marys 2 

St Marys Inside

St Marys from SH

In its 110 years, St Mary’s has been the home of teachers and students for 90 years. Further than that, students have received a spiritually based education. In 1922 “each day started with prayers and a scripture lesson”; today the children of St James also start with prayers and hymns of praise.



St Mary’s


Home of St James Preparatory School


In 1887, the original St. Mary’s College was built next door to St. Mary’s-the-Less Church in Jeppestown, just two miles from the gold mining camps. In 1903, after the Boer war, the railway from Johannesburg to Germiston was built. The ground on which the school stood was required for the railway, and became Jeppe Station. The school and grounds were purchased for £20,000 and with this money, the headmistress, Miss Katherine Holmes-Orr, commissioned a new school at the corner of Berg and Main Streets in Belgravia, where the beautiful building we now call St Mary’s was built.

Over the decades St Mary’s has housed St. Mary’s College (1903), St. Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls (1929), a residence (1934), the Witwatersrand Technical College (1947), and briefly as a Psychological and Guidance Clinic (1977) when it was considered for demolition. It was seen to have considerable architectural merit, and the City of Johannesburg Council Management Committee asked that it be retained. In a survey by the ‘Star’ newspaper at the time of Johannesburg’s centenary, St Mary’s was voted the 6th edifice ‘most worthy of being retained.’

In 1984, St. Mary’s was at last bought by the School of Practical Philosophy in a very rundown state as it had been standing empty for a number of years. Vagrants had started making themselves at home in the building, starting a fire that nearly burnt down the whole building, while pigeons had settled in the dormitories on the top floor, leaving pigeon manure two feet deep. In fact it had been decided to demolish it: the purchase by the School saved it from demolition. Needless to say, huge renovations had to be initiated and were carried out by students of the School of Practical Philosophy. Slowly the beautiful St. Mary’s was transformed back into something of its former glory.

In 1999, still under the care of the School of Practical Philosophy, St James Preparatory School for Boys and Girls opened its doors. Once again the corridors are filled with the delightful sound of children’s voices.



Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Contact us

t: 0861 66 6688
a: 420 Marshall Street, Belgravia, Johannesburg

Follow us