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SCHOOL HISTORY

OUR SCHOOL

History of St Benedict's

Today, nearly one thousand four hundred boys study and play on a piece of land in Bedfordview that more than sixty years ago, consisted of smallholdings, the largest of which was used for training and kenneling greyhounds. At that time Bedfordview was semi-agricultural and sparsely populated. It was Fr Philip Erasme, Oblate of Mary Immaculate and Parish Priest of Maryvale who responded to Bishop David O’Leary’s request that a Catholic Boys’ School be established on the near East Rand. He saw Bedfordview as ideal as it would also cater for the boys from St Paul's School, a Parochial Primary School he had established in Maryvale.

 
1957
 

Origins

In January 1957, the Oblates bought a 26-acre site in Bedfordview, which through later additions would eventually grow to nearly 40-acres today. In February, an application for the registration of a new school was sent to the East Rand School Board and on 11th July, the feast day of St Benedict of Nursia, official approval was received, hence the name “St. Benedict’s”. Fr Hugh Dalton, a CBC Kimberley old-boy, was appointed Headmaster. On December 8, 1957, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Boyle (Bishop of Johannesburg) laid the foundation stone of the first building - the building we now call the “Erasme Block”. The initial goal of the Oblates, was to grow the school to 400 boys with 2 classes per standard.

Fr Philip Erasme
1958 - 1967
 
Our first school bus

Oblate roots

On the 22 January 1958, the first St Benedict’s school day dawned. Twenty four Std 6 pupils attended Mass in a temporary classroom. The staff consisted of Fathers Dalton and de Sylva and Brother Mervyn Reed. The school continued to grow, with a standard added each year. In 1960, the four houses were created - Erasme, Mazenod, Allard and O'Leary. In 1962, fourteen boys wrote the first Matric exams of the Joint Matriculation Board. In 1967, the number of houses was reduced as it was felt that there were insufficient boys for four houses. The O'Leary House was abolished, to be re-introduced 20 years later in 1987. In 1967, the first Matric Dance was held in the Malvern Church hall.

1968 - 1977
 

The early years

In 1968, Fr Dalton handed over the reins of leadership to Fr Towell. 1969 was a historic year with the start of the Preparatory School - the first Std 3 class opened that year with 23 boys - and Brother Michael James as teacher. On July 10 1973, Fr.Philip Erasme died. He had not only founded St Benedict’s but also played a key role in bringing the Knights of Da Gama to the Transvaal. In August of the same year, Fr O'Brien began his term of office as Principal of the Preparatory School and Fr Dalton handed the reins of Headmaster to Fr.de Sylva. By 1977 the school had grown to 282 boys and the first Std 2 class was opened.

Staff of 1974
1978 - 1987
 
First Board of Govenors
New Vice Principals: Mr A.C. Dobson (College) & Mr R. O' Brien (Primary School)

New stirrings

In 1978, enrolment passed the 300 mark for the first time. In 1984, Mr Tony Dobson was appointed Vice-Principal of the College and Mr Richard O’Brien Vice-Principal of the Prep School. In July 1985, a historic decision was taken by the Oblates to pass the running of the school fully into the hands of the Board of Governors and to appoint Mr Tony Dobson as the first lay Headmaster of the School. That same year the first computers were introduced - 16 BBC micro-computers, and Bennies’ participated in the RAPS One Act Play Festival. In 1987 The first Grade One class started in temporary accommodation in a room in the Priest’s House - with Mrs Magda Wouters as our first G1 teacher. Enrolment was now at 376 with two classes in each grade. The increasing numbers allowed for the re-establishment of O'Leary House.

1988 - 1992
 

Huge growth

In 1988, new buildings were completed to support the growth in enrolments and staff. 1988 also witnessed the commencement Rowing, Hockey and the Pipe-Band, each of which would play a significant future role in strengthening the school and raising its public profile. 1990 saw a greater focus on the role of sport in developing the social skills and leadership of the boys. 1990 saw the 1st Tennis Team promoted to the Premier Section of the Southern Transvaal Leagues - a position it has retained ever since. Swimming also began to establish itself. In 1991, Rowing experienced explosive growth growing from 12 rowers to forty. That year we won our first regatta - at Florida Lake. Mr John Anderson's contribution to the College lives on in the success of the Pipe-Band.

1991 Pipe Band with Mr John Anderson
1991 Cubs and Scouts with Mrs Pauline Constable
1993 - 1997
 
Mr Sean Geoghegan

Growth continues

In 1993, Additional Mathematics was introduced into the curriculum. May of that year the first boathouse at Germiston Lake was opened and Bennies participated for the first time in the Buffalo Regatta in East London. In 1994, Mr Sean Geoghegan joined the staff as Deputy-Headmaster. That year we also purchased twenty-three boats and transformed St Benedict’s rowing over night. Bennies went on to win both the Gauteng and South African Schools’ Rowing Championships for the first time, and have repeated this every year since! By 1997 enrolment was at 930. St Benedict’s had established itself as one of the country’s largest and most successful Catholic Schools, with outstanding facilities and academic and sporting achievements.

1998 - 2002
 

The 21st Century

In 1998, St Benedict’s celebrated its 40th anniversary. That year also saw Rugby replacing Soccer as the College’s main sporting activity. This was the year that the “Integrated Day” was introduced in terms of which much of the boys’ sport would take place during the normal school day. Although Bennies had dominated South African school rowing since 1994, it was only in 1999 that the First VIII won gold at the S.A. Championships for the first time. In 2000, enrolment surpassed 1000 for the first time. 2000 was also the year that the St Benedict’s Trust purchased Mr Dobson’s 250-acre farm “Parnassus” in Magaliesburg. The farm had become a valuable asset for St Benedict’s boys, catering for school excursions of all kinds. In September 2002, we received the news that Mr Geoghegan would be leaving South Africa for Australia. In 2002, the Grotto of Our Lady was constructed on the main entrance drive as well as various ornamental ponds.

Mr Dobson introduces integrated day
2003 - 2007
 
Bishop Grandin House opened in 2006

Coming of age

In 2003, as a result of the departure of Mr Geoghegan, Mr Dobson assumed the position of College Principal once again (in addition to his position as Headmaster). This year, Fr Hugh Dalton passed away. 2004 saw the historic opening of the new Elementary School, in Sandra Road. A 30-acre site, “Ravens Park”, was purchased in Linbro Park, Johannesburg, as the future home for St Benedict’s Preparatory School sport. In 2005, the Priests House on the Eastern boundary of the school site was converted into College Boarding facility and named the “Bishop Grandin House”. Bishop Grandin House which opened in 2006 with 20 boarders, increasing to 24 during the course of the year. In 2007, total enrolment at the College reaches 1350 boys which includes 54 boarders. Mr Andre Oosthuysen was appointed College Principal, with Mr Dobson remaining as Headmaster.

2008 to Today
 

Consolidation and enrichment

The past 10 years have been one of continued excellence on all levels of sport, academics and culture. After 25 years as Executive Headmaster, Tony Dobson retired at the end of 2010. He will always be remembered as the Headmaster who transformed St Benedict's from a relatively small Catholic School to one of the country’s biggest and most respected boys' schools in South Africa. In 2011, Andre Oosthuysen was appointed Executive Headmaster of the College. In 2013, Mr Dave Jeffrey was appointed College Headmaster, with Mr Oosthuysen continuing as Executive Headmaster. In 2014, Mrs Marion Mackinnon was appointed as Headmistress of the Junior Preparatory. This decade saw the construction of an eight-lane Indoor Cricket Centre and Sports Hall, upgrades to academic facilities and the opening of the Joseph Gerard Aftercare Centre. The school undertook a focused drive to upgrade the general aesthetics and appearance of the campus.
St Benedict's is now home to close to 1500 boys: 680 in the College and 800 at Preparatory and Junior Preparatory schools.

The "Four Pillars Portal" – a gift from the class of 2011
Breaking ground on the Galloway Block
 
 

Our Achievements

St Benedict's has a proud tradition of excellence in academics, sport and culture built on foundation of Christian values. The strength of our school lies in our staff, boys and parents! Over the last sixty years St Benedict’s has grown from a tiny boys’ school on a smallholding in Bedfordview to one of the premier boys schools in South Africa.

1958 A group of Catholic priests start a school for boys in Bedfordview. The goal of 400 boys was achieved in 1988.
2006Bishop Grandin House opens its' doors to weekly and termly boarders, accepting a maximum of 95 learners.
2018St Benedict's turns 60 and has 1400 learners!
"Accomplished by His Grace"
Eugene de Mazenod
2019132 boys sit the National Senior Certificate exam and achieve a 100% matric pass rate for the 44th consecutive year!