St. Margaret’s School was founded in 1908 by two English sisters, Edith and Isabel Fenwick, who were soon joined by their friend Margaret Barton. The School started in a small house at 810 Cook Street. With increasing enrolment it moved across the street to a larger house at 813 Cook Street and soon acquired the neighbouring house at 819 Cook Street for additional classroom space. By the spring of 1911, plans were underway for a new school and boarding house to accommodate the School’s growing population.
Tragedy struck on April 10, 1911 when the Fenwick sisters were drowned in the capsizing of the SS Iroquois as it left Sidney en route to Salt Spring Island. Margaret Barton, who was accompanying them, was found unconscious with one hand bound to the gunwale of a capsized lifeboat. Students, years later, would recall Margaret Barton’s scarred hands from steam pipe burns.
Miss Barton took on the role of principal and continued with the construction of a new school at Fort and Fern Streets to accommodate the eighty pupils, including 10 boarders, and five live-in teachers. The buildings were designed by Mr. Francis Rattenbury, a noted local architect, who also designed the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel. The move to the new school occurred over Easter weekend 1912, one year after the Iroquois disaster.
Many changes and developments took place over the years and in 1928 SMS amalgamated with St. George’s School for Girls. By 1969, with aging buildings and the prospect of substantial repair, the present Lake Hill area property was purchased. The Fort Street campus was sold and the buildings were demolished. In September 1970, the new school opened at 1080 Lucas Avenue. St. Margaret’s School celebrated its centennial in 2008 with the publication of the school history, Servite in Caritate: The First 100 Years of St. Margaret’s School, 1908-2008 by Deidre Simmons.
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