HILLWOOD HISTORY

To be the center of excellence in holistic education.

“And God sent me before you to preserve posterity in the earth...”

(Genisis Chapter 45, Verse 7)

When a ship that set off from London on 17th October, 1888, sailed to Colombo harbour in January, 1889, it brought to our country two young ladies, Miss Elizabeth Bellerby and Miss Ethel Jones who responded to an appeal made to the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society(CEZMS) to send two missionaries to open a school for Kandyan girls.


No one in that ship would have imagined in their wildest dreams that the little lady in her long white dress and prayer book in hand would form a school that would last over a hundred years. But to Miss Bellerby there would have been no fear or hesitation in coming to the East to answer God's call for, she believed that 'God moves in a mysterious way; His wonders to perform.'

The Church Missionary Society of England had already formed a college for the education of the sons of Kandyan Chieftains and as the need to educate the daughters arose and the mission founded Hillwood.

Hillwood College has a proud history, steeped in rich tradition and culture. Actions of our past Principals, Teachers and Students with the guidance of God has given Hillwood an enviable history.
1889 – 1911

Ms. Elizabeth Bellarby

Founding Principal of Hillwood College, Ms Bellarby arrived in Sri Lanka in the 1889 in response to an appeal made by the Church of England Missionary Society in order to form. A girls school to educated the daughters of Kandy. Ms Bellarby upon arrival went to the Christian Mission School, Kotte to learn the language of the children, she was to educate.

Arriving in Kandy, she managed to secure a bungalow overlooking the lake and the school commenced between May and August 1890 with seven girls as the first pupils. Ms Bellarby overcame the prejudice of "not educating girls" by finally convincing the parents that ” If you educate a son, you educate an individual but if you educate a daughter you educate and entire family”. Ms Bellarby overcame the prejudices and gave the girls an English education for which parents were not reluctant to pay for and Hillwood’s fame as an institute providing a sound education to girls spread far and wide in Sri Lanka. 
1911 – 1931

Ms. Lena Chapman MBE

Ms Chapman arrieved in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1900 from Bengal where she was doing missionary work. She was a woman of regal bearing and had the capacity of commanding the respect and admiration wherever she went.

Ms Chapman was the Vice Principal during Ms Bellarby’s time and had been guided to take up the responsibility of being principal of a fast expanding school. Upon Ms Bellarbys retirement in 1910 Ms Chapman succeeded her as the Principal in March 1911. During Ms Chapman’s time the school saw progress and expansion. The dining facilities at the school were expanded to meet the increasing demand. Hillwood was the first school to have its own tennis court, isolation block. During Ms Chapman tenure she recruited Ms Stainton, who went on to become one of the pillars of Hillwood for her excellence in Music.

The School which grew so rapidly with so many buildings would not be complete with a house of prayer for the Christians. Ms Chapman set about building the chapel which today has remained an iconic building which overlooks the school.

The Old Girls Association was inaugurated in 1922 under Ms. Chapman’s guidance. The Netherwood Hostel also came about during this period.

Ms Chapman had the innate ability and charisma to convince her listeners by reasoning. She is also remembered for the education she imparted mingling the best the West had to offer in arts, music and literature with the grace and decorum and respectfulness towards elders,which characterised the Orient.

Having placed Hillwood on a firm footing Ms Chapman retired to take up duties as the Lady Warden and Manager of Evelyn Nurseries until her demise in 1941 after a brief illness.

1931 – 1944

Ms. Mary Dorothy Rigg

Ms Rigg, a graduate of Liverpool University came to Ceylon as Vice Principal of Hillwood College. On Ms. Chapman’s retirement in August 1931, she was appointed Principal. When Ms Rigg became Principal there were 170 boarders, and these numbers steadily increased. Ms. Rigg fostered the love for Sinhala as a language in the students, and she herself passed the SSC Sinhala examination.

Her first decade of stewardship saw many improvement but soon there followed a series of hardships. First was the 1930’s Malaria epidemic and was followed by the war years, when the true effects of the war were felt. The rationing of food and essential items became part and parcel of that time but Ms. Rigg by her foresight overcame the problem by allowing parents who owned paddy fields to pay school fees in kind giving the ability to give a plate of rice at meal times to the boarders.

Ms Rigg had big plans for Hillwood despite the war, She envisioned the Main Hall and various money spinning actives, such as concerts and bazaars which were organized to collect funds for construction.

During her tuner the first batch of students sat for the Local Senior Certificate. Due to the war many of the European teachers were called back for duty back home thus creating a huge void in the teaching carder, which Ms Rigg managed to over come. After thirty two years Ms Rigg decided to go back to England on furlough. The School was entrusted to Ms Foss and Ms Rigg departed after a farewell concert for a well earned holiday back in Britain. But it was not to be. The ship SS Troilus in which Ms Rigg has travelled was torpedoed in the Indian Ocean. Ms Rigg lost her life at sea the news shook Hillwood. A chapel service was held for the repose of Ms Rigg’s soul, thus passed away a versatile teacher who spread the light of learning to may children.

1944 – 1946

Ms. Elenor M Foss

Ms Foss came to Ceylon after she had been evacuated from Japan in the latter part of the Second World War. She was a BSc. Hons Graduate from London. Initially she was placed in Chundukuli Girls College in Jaffna subsequently appointed to Hillwood College to act for Ms Rigg who was due to go back to England on furlough.

After Ms Rigg’s tragic demise, Ms Foss took up running of the boarding school, for which she had the courage and leadership qualities. She quickly set about grappling the numerous problems that arose at school.

Setting up a University Entrance Form was a task at Hillwood and was quite problematic as there were no qualified teachers to take up the sessions.

During her time the water problem which prevailed at Hillwood was resolved with tanks being constructed to collect water from the upper lake road catchment.

At the end of 1945, after the war had ended, Ms Foss went back to England on furlough. She had served the school for 15 months but on her return she decided to go back to Japan and not to return to Ceylon. Thus saw the end of the era of missionaries as Principals of Hillwood.

1947 – 1964

Mrs. Somakumari Samarasinghe

Mrs Samarasinghe was appointed by the Board as the acting principal in 1946; She was the first Kandyan Sinhalese Christian to be appointed to the position of Principal. she was a graduate from Women’s Christian College, Madras and held a Master of Arts from Cambridge. In 1947 she was made Principal of Hillwood College which was as described in her own words, “a well organised boarding school with about 250 children."

Mrs Samarasinghe was dignified, courageous and knowledgeable. she was also quick to discern the talents of her students . She is called the great builder in the Hillwood history as she started off the process by opening the Rigg Memorial Building in 1955 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee, and also build and extension of the dining room and kitchen, the Lena Chapman Memorial Hall in 1955 and the Cave memorial hostel in 1963.

During Mrs Samarasinghe's time the first inter-house athletics mits was held, a tradition continued to this date. To Mrs Samarasinghe we owe the present School Song in Sinhala, composed by Mr. P B Illangakoon. Many clubs and societies were revived during her tenure.

The education policies in the country were also changing with Independence. In 1950 she took the decision to keep Hillwood independent, by making it a private fee levying school with out state aid. Next came the Swabasha policy to which Hillwood adapted immediately. Religion became a compulsory subject for all children.

Mrs Samarasinghe’s stewardship spanned eighteen years . On her retirement in 1963 she chose two old girls of the staff to take on the reins from her. They were Barbara De Alwis and Nimala Thevathasan respectively.

1964 – 1977

Ms. Barbara De Alwis

With 332 on roll, Ms De Alwis took over Hillwood which increased to over 500 students by the end of her tenure. During her time the school celebrated the 75th anniversary and the prize giving being graced by the Bishop of Kurunegala Rt Rev. Lakshman Wickranasinghe, along with his Excellency, the Governor General William Gopallawa and Mrs Gopallawa.

During her time. both Christian and Buddhist children were encouraged to engage in religious activities by example. Children participated in netball, tennis, basketball and of special interest were the drill displays that were held. Twenty students passed the exams of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. Social service activities continued with the school supporting the children of the Gregory school.

Ms De Alwis’s sudden death was a great blow to Hillwood, she was the second principal to die young whist in the harness of office. Ms De Alwis was loyal to her old school and maintained its traditions and harmony between children of diverse faiths.

1977 – 1990

Mrs. Nimalathevi Perera

Upon the sudden demise of Ms De Alwis, Ms Nimala Perera was appointed principal. The Change in government policy to admit children at the age of five was the first problem faced by Mrs Perera in office, which demanded more class rooms to accommodate the children. The Wedgewood Block was a result of this.

Many concerts, music recitals, fairs, food fiestas, dramas were organised to collect funds for the school projects. The Rosewood block also was built during her time. There was a dramatic increase in numbers on roll reaching 1200.

1990-2005

Ms. S.R. Ratnayake

Educated at Ladies College and a graduate of the University of Peradeniya, Ms Ratnayake’s entry in to the domain of public education was through the government system. She redefined the traditional identity of Hillwood as a “Finishing School for young Kandyan ladies” and created a school that was modern and competitive. During her tenure the school was the proud winners of several national and international awards in Sports, Music, Drama, Literature and Painting. The school was also placed on the island rankings for academics excellences during her time.

Ms Ratnayake took the stewardship of the school in 1990 and steered the school through unchartered waters for the period of 15years.

2007 - 2015

Mrs. Sudharshani Kumari Hettige

Mrs. Sudharshani Kumari Hettige ( B.A Eng. Sp/M.A./ PG dip (TESL) MSc psychology)
Hillwood College is an institution which has been growing stronger and stronger for 126 years preserving its values and upholding the traditions ever since its inception.

Mrs sudharshanin Hettige , an old girl of Ladies College Colombo joined Hillwood in the year 2000 as the Vice Principal. She was inducted as the 8th Principal of Hillwood College on the 12th of January 2007. She took a step forward to join the journey through excellence during her tenure . Keeping up to its motto ” UTMOST FOT THE HIGHEST. She contributed immensely to increase the student populace, examination results, foreign links and participation in sports. There were many achievements under her stewardship. She further went ahead and changed the outlook of Hillwood. Refurbishing the chapel which fosters peace and harmony and completing the much needed renovations in the school premises. Most of all she was a great teacher who had the passion for teaching