256 PAC Football 1886

Our History

Our history 

A forward-looking school with a proud history and rich traditions.

In the mid 1860’s a group of individuals with the vision of a Methodist church school for boys met to progress their dream. Fundraising breakfasts were held in the Methodist Meeting Hall, which still stands behind the Adelaide Town Hall, and men and women who shared the vision of the founders pledged their support, enabling the purchase of land at Kent Town.

The foundation stone of the Main Building was laid by HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria, during his 1867 visit to South Australia. The Prince agreed to the request to name the College in his honour. The first students commenced at Prince Alfred College in 1869.

Since its foundation in 1869, Prince Alfred College continues to realise the dream of its Founders. Countless thousands of boys have been educated under the guidance of eleven headmasters and gone on to achieve in their chosen fields.

The interactive timeline below provides insight into just some of the events that have shaped Prince Alfred College today. Click here to find out more about the collections contained in our Archives. 


Mount Lofty from The Terrace, Adelaide c. 1840 Martha Berkeley (Australia, 1813-1899) Art Gallery of South Australia

Martha Berkeley was wife of Captain Charles Berkeley of the 60th Rifles and made this painting at age 27. She has been in South Australia for three years at the time of painting. Her image depicts the land where Prince Alfred College would be built, some 28 years later. It also depicts the original inhabitants of the area, the Kaurna who has been there for tens of thousands of years prior.


The City of Adelaide, from the Torrens near the Reedbeds, 1844 George French Angas


Early Wesleyan Methodists, ministers and laity

In 1854 through the effort of the influential Rev. Daniel J. Draper, a motion was carried at a meeting of the Adelaide District of Wesleyans that ‘a first-class education should be formed [and] the benefits of a good sound Wesleyan education should be afforded to the inhabitants of the colony’, which lead the Wesleyan Methodists Church to consider creating the School. They united in 1865 to purchase land at Kent Town.


An early plan of the 'Town of Adelaide'

The land purchased for the establishment of the School was adjacent to the original house of Dr Kent, on a portion of Section 255 of Provincial Survey B.


Royal Visit

HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh KG, was invited to lay the foundation stone of the College, and arrived to do so on 5 November 1867.

Vignette 11 Architects Drawing 1867

Original design for Prince Alfred College

Vignette 12 PAC building 1868

Architect Daniel Garlick

Architect Daniel Garlick’s original design for Prince Alfred College was described as “a neat, regular and imposing office in the ‘Elizabethan style’… with the central portion of bold and handsome appearance”. The first, central portion of the design, was constructed through 1868 and the early months of 1869. The two adjacent wings were added in later years, first Waterhouse in 1878 and then Colton in 1882.

118 Fiddian Samuel

Headmaster Samuel Fiddian (1868-70)

The first Headmaster Samuel Fiddian was selected late 1868 and students were informed that the College would commence on 18 January 1869. They began studies at the Lecture Hall, adjacent the Pirie Street Methodist Church in the City. The School building at Kent Town was ready for occupation on 19 July 1869.

23 PAC Admission Book 1869 1899 page 3 3

First student enrolments

The Admission Book of Prince Alfred College. showing the first page of student enrolments.

210 Adelaide Views Captain Sweet

College grounds

An extraordinary view of the school and surroundings taken by Captain Sweet.

128 Hartley

Headmaster Hartley (1871-75)

In January 1871, Fiddian’s place was taken by John Anderson Hartley, then Second Headmaster at the Wesleyan College, Belfast Ireland. Hartley was determined from the outset to create an excellent educational institution. He challenged students, masters and supporters to pursue an education that embraced the Arts, Mathematics, Sciences, Physical Education and Religious topics and not to accept mediocrity. Hartley and his wife took control of both the School and Boarding house, the latter of which had previously been run by the President of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in South Australia. Hartley began shaping a total educational program for students.

211 Chapple Fred 1876

Headmaster Frederick Chapple (1876-1914)

From the inception of Frederick Chapple’s time as Headmaster, sport, in many forms, became an integral part of School life. Chapple worked with the College Committee to form the Prince Alfred College Old Collegians to extend the bond between College and its former students. His impact on the School was enormous. So successful was Chapple’s leadership and vision for Princes that student numbers rose rapidly, giving rise to the development of the school buildings and grounds.

36 The Gymnasium

The new gymnasium

Sporting participation and sporting success were central to the rounded education envisaged by Chapple; the gymnasium he fostered was as important as the science building it adjoined. Royalty continued to visit the school. So impressed was Prince George by his visit to the new gymnasium during a visit in June 1881 that he shinnied up a rope, intent on ascending to the ceiling!

313 1886 PAC Football

A rounded education

Chapple was determined to form the character of students through intellectual, spiritual and physical pursuits - shown here is an early photo of the School Football team in 1882-3.

34 Main Building 1885

Evolution of the College

‘The foremost school of its class in the colony.’ (Evening Journal, 1 May 1980). The School’s Main Buildings, 1885, with students and staff pictured – the Moreton Bay fig trees are in their infancy and a small garden has been fenced with pickets outside the main entrance.

39 1885 Final

School Roll Christmas

By 1885, student numbers had increased to 400 and events, such as the Speech Day, were attracting large crowds that included some of Adelaide's most notable citizens.

0086 Chem Lab 1891

New Chemistry laboratory for Princes

Significant advances were made at the School with the design, again by Daniel Garlick, and building of a Chemistry laboratory and adjacent lecture room. It was a pioneering effort in Science education and received acclaim throughout Australia.

52 Boer War Send Off dinner

Boer War Send Off Dinner

‘The patriotic enthusiasm awakened throughout the British Empire of course was felt in Prince Alfred College. Was not our foundation-stone laid by the Queen’s second son? Are we not named after him by his express permission?’ (Express and Telegraph, 20 December 1900)

51 PAC BW 1900 send off 14 Series 62

Program for the Send Off of Princes and Saints Old Scholars to the Boer War.

Program for the Send Off of Princes and Saints Old Scholars to the Boer War.

54 B 1900 Boer War Contingent at PAC

PAC First Cadet Corps Boer War Contingent

The School were caught up in the fervour of support for the Empire, farewelled the Old Scholars heading to battle and, in response to the call to arms, formed their First Cadet Corps.

57 PAC Rowing IV 1900 Copy

Rowing at Princes

Without doubt, W.R. Bayly was a driving force behind rowing at Princes. An avid enthusiast, he coached, cajoled and completed in the sport, contributing significantly to the sports popularity at the time.

65 Series 503 Frederick Chapple Album 4

Headmaster Chapple (1876-1914)

Headmaster Chapple believed in promoting ‘Muscular Christianity’, which incorporated Thomas Arnold’s view of education, encouraging Athletics, Football, Cricket indeed any sport.

65 C Series 503 Frederick Chapple Album 1

Chapple retires after 39 years as Headmaster

Chapple continued to aim for the highest possible standard of education and, after 39 years as Headmaster, he enjoyed great admiration and respect from his community.

67 1914 Farewell

First World War

The outbreak of the First World War was met by the School with the same patriotic fervour as the Boer War. Old Collegians, from Princes and Saints, farewelled those who had joined up.

67 A Dowling and Ekins resized

Dowling and Ekins at Gallipoli

On the battle fields of Gallipoli and Western Europe those former Princes and Saints students stood side by side in camaraderie. This extraordinary photograph by Sir Ross Smith shows a Saints and a Princes Old Collegian, Eric R. Dowling and A.K. Ekins, lighting a Mills bomb in a trench. Ekins is holding a periscope (complete with bullet hole) used for spying out enemy positions from the trench.

615 PAC Sports Oval 1915 Bayly Series 2052

The Princes spirit

‘An exceedingly important, though gradual change, has been taking place in the school during the last two or three years, with the result that it is becoming more homogenous, more of one spirit throughout, and this to its very great advantage.’ (Prince Alfred College Chronicle, vol. 5, no.15, January 1913)

66 Mr W R Bayly Headmaster 1915 1929 1

Mr. W. R. Bayly Headmaster (1915-1929)

Bayly admitted he had been ‘saturated’ in the ‘spirit’ of Prince Alfred College. In that sense, his new role was a continuation of the School’s culture – begun by its founders, Fiddian and Hartley and formed particularly by Chapple.

68 H V H Throssell at PAC 7 June 1916

Visit by Hugo Vivian Throssell V.C.

Hugo Vivian Throssell was a Western Australian Boarder at the School from 1896-1903. He enlisted in the 10th Australian Light Horse and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts at Gallipoli. He received a hero’s welcome during his visit to the school, in 1916.

159 Memorial Library

The Memorial Building

The Memorial Building, completed by October 1924, combined a number of new class rooms as well as other facilities, later including two magnificent stained-glass windows. As witnessed at the laying of its foundation stone in 1923, the building was a reminder of the sacrifices made during the First World War. Names of Old Scholars who served adorn the interior walls in remembrance of their sacrifice.

82 Ward J F

Headmaster Ward (1930-48)

There were challenges aplenty for J. F. Ward during his first few years as Headmaster at Prince Alfred College, including the global effects of the Wall Street Crash of 1929. He reassured his community that Princes was ‘equipped to meet any demands of the times’.

94 AA Miss Jacksons Class 1942

Second World War

The Second World War changed the school in many ways. Fund raising for the Red Cross, the Fighting Forces Comfort Fund, the School's Patriotic Fund and other charities was constant. Miss Jackson’s 1942 class in the Preparatory School, the building replete with sandbags. As men joined the forces, so some of their places were taken by women and retired, older men.

915 A 1948 12 Oct PAC Fete

War Memorial Fair and Carnival

The War Memorial Fair and Carnival, held in October 1948, was an immensely successful occasion.

101 Dunning Family

Headmaster Dunning, with wife Gwen and daughters Barbara (left) and Beverly.

Dux of School David Prest reported in the Chronicle 1949; ‘One can already feel that in Mr. Dunning, we have a man who will keep this School great and that the following memorable lines will be as true during his leadership as ever before.’ Dunning; ‘Ours is a goodly heritage, and it behoves us to build even more firmly on the traditions of service, loyalty and industry handed down to us.’

1015 St Jacques Kent Town

Purchase of St Jacques, Flinders Street

Princes students were surrounded by a world of possibilities. Dunning and the School Council had an eye for the future, purchasing adjacent properties when they became available including the magnificent house originally known as St. Jacques and previously occupied by the Robin family and Sir George Ritchie.

1118 Assembly Hall

Opening of the Assembly Hall

Designed by HASSELL and opened in September 1963, the Assembly Hall was a magnificent facility and hailed by many as one of the best auditoriums and theatres in Adelaide.

1127 PAC 1969 Governor

Visit from the Governor and Lady Harrison to celebrate the centenary of Prince Alfred College

‘From its inception, the School was founded on Christian principles, and, from its embryonic period, has developed along those lines during the past century… the celebration of the centenary is a celebration of our rich heritage, that inherited factor of school pride which constitutes the driving force behind the School.’ (Prince Alfred College Chronicle, April 1969)

122 Bean Family

Headmaster Bean with his wife Margaret and children Nigel, Heather and Katherine.

In late 1969, astronauts were on their way to the moon and the College Council announced that Mr Geoffrey B. Bean had been appointed, to succeed Dunning on his retirement, and would begin in 1970. ‘I would like to think that we at Princes are not going to be judged solely by the success of our First XVIII or by the number of boys whose names appear in the General Honours List, but rather by the quality of the personal characteristics of the boys who leave the School, and by the service which they offer to the wider community after leaving us.’ (G.B. Bean, Speech Night, December 1971)

128 Bg 72 Chapel from front oval

Opening of the Eric Freak Memorial Chapel

The Eric Freak Memorial Chapel or the ‘Chapel’ was built in 1972 but its history is much longer. In 1968 the School became entitled to the proceeds of the Freak Estate. Robert Eric Freak (PAC 1929-1933), aged eighteen, had died from a ruptured appendix 20 July 1934, the year after leaving the school. The construction and dedication of the Eric Freak Memorial Chapel provided the School community with a focus for its spiritual life on its own campus, previously celebrations were held at the adjacent Wesleyan Church.

1214 A Scotts Creek aerial 2

Establishment of Scott’s Creek Outdoor Education

The educational experience for students was further enlivened by the purchase and creation of a Field Centre at Scott’s Creek, near Morgan on the Murray River.

1329 Brian Webber

Headmaster Dr Webber (1988-1999)

Geoff and Margaret Bean had given their all to Princes for the better part of two decades and had guided Princes in a new direction, bringing the School into a new era. The selection of Brian Webber to replace Bean was greeted with acclamation. Brian and wife Beverley took on their roles and challenges with verve, including making Princes more internationally aware and establishing a true consciousness of student’s global responsibilities, with the development of the International baccalaureate programme.

149 C 249 Piper Prince Philip Brian Webber

Royal visit HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh

The redevelopment of the Old Assembly Hall led to the establishment of the Prince Philip Theatre and, in turn, strengthened the Arts, Drama and Music within the School – Prince Philip’s visit, in 1992, was a major event.

153 C PAC millemium project unveiling 2 of 2

Headmaster Codrington and the Millennium Quilt

During the 1990s many long-serving and influential members of staff retired. In 1998, following the retirement of Milton Haselhoff, Kevin Tutt took over the role of Deputy Headmaster. Then, in 1999, Dr Webber announced that he and Beverley believed it was time for them to step down. Dr Stephen Codrington was announced as the incoming Headmaster. Every student and staff contributed ‘a hand’ to the Millennium Quilt. In 2004, Dr Codrington accepted a position in Hong Kong and Kevin Tutt was appointed by the School Council as Headmaster.

Headmaster Tutt

Headmaster Tutt (2004-2014)

Headmaster Tutt oversaw implementation of Strategic Planning including advances in building projects across the College and our off-site Campuses (Wambana, Point Turton, Yorke Peninsula) and the introduction of a new four-House structure; Cotton, Taylor, Watsford and Waterhouse. Rushton House was divided into three wings, Fiddian, Bayly and Hartley.

Headmaster Fenner

Headmaster Fenner (2014-mid 2022)

Aware of the legacy of those who had gone before, Headmaster Fenner built upon the School’s ideals and traditions. He urged that students passionately engage with all that was offered to them at Princes and, further, to pursue their passions with good manners and a respect for others.

Mid 2022
David Roberts Bio Pic

Headmaster Roberts (mid-2022-present)

Following the retirement of Bradley Fenner, Mr David Roberts joined us as Headmaster in mid-2022. Hailing from Newington College in Sydney, Mr Robert's arrival was highly anticipated. The College is excited about what our future holds in his capable hands.