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West Bank
High School

The Wesleyan Church was the first to become involved with education at East London. It is not clear when its school was started but it was probably in the mid-1850s when the first Wesleyan Chapel was built.

In April 1859, a visiting Anglican priest reported that there were "about half a score children, taught by a female, a Wesleyan professedly, a middle aged married woman, who was gossiping with one of her neighbours . . . "

By 1864, however, the Wesleyan Chapel was in ruins and the school no longer operational.

The first civilian Anglican priest to be stationed at East London was the Reverend Joseph Willson who arrived in October 1857 but was murdered near Fort Pato in February 1858. His untimely death undoubtedly delayed the creation of an Anglican school at the port.

The first school was therefore the one created by Reverend Rodolph von Hube at Panmure, but it would close in April 1862 when the priest left Panmure. There is absolutely no truth to the assumption that Selborne College is in any way linked to this institution.

The first school at East London was initiated in September 1860 by the Reverend Edward Lees. His inability to acquire a suitable schoolmaster, however, delayed its opening until January 1861.

The school thereupon had a hesitant beginning, beset with problems in maintaining schoolmasters, and suffering from inadequate facilities. Only after November 1862, when St Peter's Chapel was built and used as a schoolroom, was some stability established.

After 1863 the Reverend William Wallis himself acted as schoolmaster. Even by 1869, however, the school was still struggling because of a lack of local interest and involvement.

The number of pupils on the register remained small but constant throughout the period up till 1873. Nevertheless, the school maintained its annual grant of £75 from the Government.

The quality of the school appeared to improve between 1869 and 1873. Indeed, the inspector's report in March 1873 praised the school and commented particularly on its excellent discipline and healthy tone of work.

This was the beginning of what is known today as the West Bank High School. Although not the first school to be established at East London, it is nevertheless the oldest surviving educational institution. Indeed, all four attempts at founding schools at Panmure between 1859 and 1873 came to nothing.

Keith Tankard
14 October 2009

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