Whole School

Epworth celebrates its 125th birthday

On 3 August, Epworth School marked its official 125th birthday with a range of festive, on-campus activities involving over 800 pupils and staff. It was a far cry from its humble beginnings in 1898 when it opened in central Pietermaritzburg with 45 settler children and five teachers.

Epworth was founded by two pioneering women, Miss Emily Lowe and Miss Emma Mason, who boarded a ship from England to set up a school named after the birthplace of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.

Although the Epworth community is fundamentally different from that of the late nineteenth century, the quintessence of who we are and what we stand for has not changed. We have upheld the ideals and aspirations of our two courageous founders, and we have stayed true to their vision and creation.

Our school motto Fida Humana Fortis, translated as Faith Compassion Courage, has been a guiding light and is as relevant today as it was in 1898; it is an integral part of Epworth’s persona and is central to school life.

Throughout its history, Epworth has been at the forefront of change and innovation. It has taken brave decisions, boldly valued inclusivity and embraced diversity. Its 125-year track record is full of unique initiatives, scholastic achievements and personal success stories.

In 1902, 15-year-old Epworth pupil Ethel Mary Doidge wrote her matric examinations and was the Dux of the school. In 1914, she became the first woman in South Africa to receive a doctorate degree. Her work helped save the South African mango industry and contributed significantly to the success of the country’s agricultural sector.

1979 was a noteworthy year in Epworth’s history. Defying government regulations, the school admitted “girls from other ethnic groups”. The first black pupil was Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki who went on to pursue a successful career as a journalist, author, SABC anchor woman and political activist. In 1980, Epworth had the highest number of non-white pupils of all the provincial private schools.

Epworth has trail blazed in other spheres too: it was one of the first schools in the province to introduce adventure-based sports and expeditions, it founded the Independent Schools’ Sports Festival, now in its 25th year, and is one of the two oldest Eco-Schools in South Africa, piloting the programme in 2003.

Today, Epworth is one of South Africa’s leading independent schools, providing an inclusive, real-world education for boys and girls from Grades RRR to 7 and for girls only, from Grades 8 to 12. It equips young people to lead a life of significance, celebrating a proud history and a progressive future.

Discover more about epworth: https://www.epworth.co.za

Epworth's management team cuts the cake in celebration of the schools 125th birthday