School History: A Tradition of Excellence

St Peter’s was founded on the vision of one man — Arthur Francis Brooks Broadhurst.

Broadhurst was a proud Scotsman, Oxford scholar, and World War I veteran. In 1924, at the age of 34, he left his family’s prosperous cotton business in Manchester, England to pursue his dream in education — to own and administer his own preparatory school for boys. His first task was to become a teacher. Ten years later, Broadhurst embarked upon a worldwide quest to locate a site for his school.

The site he found was in Cambridge, New Zealand. With mature oak trees, a charming town square and rural environs, this very English town and, more precisely, a 90-acre farm on its outskirts, would make an outstanding location for his modern preparatory school. The land surrounding the school has grown to become Owl Farm today, a world-class demonstration dairy farm partnership between St Peter’s and Lincoln University.

To design his new school, Broadhurst chose talented American architect, Roy Alston Lippincott, who had already gained a reputation in New Zealand. Lippincott designed the main building at St Peter’s to resemble a large English country home. Designs for the chapel, dining hall, and other buildings soon followed. The visual aesthetic Lippincott created in these original buildings has given St Peter’s a distinctive architectural heritage that has been honoured in many of the new buildings on campus.

The official opening of the school on 22 February 1936 was a grand occasion, attended by the Minister of Education, Peter Fraser; Primate and Archbishop of New Zealand, Dr Walter Averill; former prime minister Joseph Coates, and more than 800 invited guests. Lippincott presented the Minister of Education with the gold key to open the front door of the main building. The first school term began with seven full-time staff and a roll of 36 boy boarders.

Broadhurst established a legacy of philanthropy in his school. He personally paid the fees of many students in order to make excellent education available to a wide cross-section of society. In 1939, he generously gifted the school that he had built entirely with his own money to the St Peter’s School Trust Board.

Broadhurst set standards of excellence and innovation in education. His holistic approach of educating the whole person — body, mind and spirit — is still the way we educate at St Peter’s. He remained an innovative and highly respected headmaster until his retirement in 1960, at the age of 70. Appropriately, that year was also St Peter’s 25th Jubilee, which was marked with a chapel service, cricket matches, lunch in the marquee and a cocktail party. Broadhurst’s outstanding educational leadership was recognised by the award of the OBE for services to education.

The pupils are catered for in every way in the midst of beautiful surroundings.

Government Inspector’s Report, 1936.

A Government Inspector reports his findings, 1936, "St Peter's School fully provides for the physical, mental and spiritual development of the child. The pupils are catered for in every way in the midst of beautiful surroundings. The school is extremely well organised, the teaching skilled and inspirational. The magnificent buildings, splendid equipment, the planning and the staff make it possible to teach on individual lines… St Peter’s School shows what can be done given the means, the good will, the ability to organise and teach and to inspire a staff to follow up ideals."

1971 was a momentous year — St Peter’s expanded to include a secondary school. This step is the origin of the different uniforms that our Prep students and secondary students wear today. In continuity with the past, preparatory school students kept the original uniform colours of light blue and grey, but a new dark blue formal uniform was chosen for the secondary school students. The establishment of the senior school was so successful that the principal at the time, David Thornton, could say it was achieved, “with a minimum of fuss and bother.” After five years of the senior school being open, the roll had more than doubled to 286 students.

1987 was another momentous year — St Peter’s welcomed female students. The first cohort of girls numbered just 25. There were initially no boarding facilities for girls so the first cohort were all day students who shared a common room with Prep House. One year later, girls had their own day house, and in early 1989 the first boarding house for girls, Lippincott, was opened. It is anecdotally reported that the boys found the academic competition stronger than they had been accustomed to! However, there is no doubt that becoming a co-educational school has been a tremendous benefit to our entire enterprise.

St Peter’s grew rapidly during the 1990s and 2000s, retaining the character that Broadhurst had fashioned. In 1996 the school roll was 552, including 283 boardings students. Today, St Peter’s has over 400 boarding students and around 1,100 students altogether. This growth in numbers has gone hand in hand with ambitious building projects — numerous teaching blocks, more boarding houses, an expanded auditorium, new day houses, a new sports centre, a new Prep School, and many more. In 2011 the St Peter’s community celebrated our school’s 75th jubilee with a weekend of festivities.

The beautiful environment, word-class facilities, excellent teachers and vibrant school culture that St Peter’s student enjoy today is all thanks to the vision of one man — Arthur Broadhurst.

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