Corrig College

Feb 2017

Then and Now

By Ted Ross


On July 20, 1871 British Columbia entered Confederation. It became the Dominion of Canada's sixth province. Education was one of the responsibilities taken on by the new Provincial Legislature. Public Schools, which had already been provided by Colonial Administration, would be formalized, be non-sectarian and be made available to every child in the new Province.

Private schools played a role in education in those days, as they do now. St. Ann's School had been established in 1859 and had developed into a select school for girls in Victoria. It opened in its historic Humboldt Street location in 1871. For boys, it was Corrig College, built in 1890, located where Niagara Street met Beacon Hill Park - there being no Douglas Street at that time.

"An admirable site for the Corrig college, at the corner of Niagara street and fronting on Beacon Hill Park, has been secured by the energetic principal, Rev. J.W. Church, M.A. Yesterday full arrangements for the purchase of the land and the erection of the necessary buildings were completed, and construction will begin at once," the February 20, 1890 Colonist informed us. "Occupation of the first block is promised next month, and already the framework is well under way. The total cost will be $12,000."

Rev. James W. Church, school principal, was a noted educator from England. According to Victoria Illustrated, 1891, "He was educated partly at King's College, London, ...and at the University of Edinburgh. In 1885 he was appointed headmaster of the Middlesbrough Grammar School. He soon became one of the leading educationalists in the North of England. The course of instruction at Corrig, while thorough, is naturally founded on the English College motto that Manners maketh man." By 1890, Church was in Victoria to found the school for boys on Niagara Street at Beacon Hill Park.

Excerpts from the 1894 school catalogue include, "This Boarding and Day school conducted entirely on the English Grammar School system offers a thorough Practical Commercial or Professional Education at moderate and reasonable fees. It aims at providing for the sons of the best families in the Province and adjoining State of Washington those advantages which are likely to accrue from residence in a simple, quiet, Christian and Gentlemanly home, and from association with pure, obedient, well behaved and industrious comrades."

The catalogue promotes Victoria's location in laudatory tones: "The beautiful City of Victoria possesses the most mild, healthy and equable climate on the Pacific Coast. Infectious diseases are unknown. The school itself is situated in a retired and lovely spot, and stands in its own grounds. It is in close proximity to Beacon Hill Park, and beautiful country, and bracing seaside walks abound on every hand."

The first mention of Corrig College in the Victoria City Directories is 1891. There is nothing noted in 1892, but in 1894 Victoria College, J.W. Church, principal, appears at Beacon Hill. This is obviously Corrig College, but with the name Victoria College. The directory entries until 1903 are the same. Then in 1904 the entry is Corrig College, John W. Church, principal. This entry repeats each year until 1917. There is no entry for 1918 or any subsequent year. Rev. Church died after an illness, in 1918.

Once established and fully constructed, the college could handle 75 students, with 25 living in dormitories and bedrooms. The rest were day students. The Victoria Illustrated reported, "The new college buildings were opened by his Honor, the Lieut.-Governor of British Columbia, attended by the Premier, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and a most distinguished company, on May 5 last. The residential portion of the college has accommodation for 25 boarders, and faces on the park for a distance of over 60 feet; the basement of brick is fitted up as a playroom and above this there are a series of 20 rooms, including sitting and dining rooms, studios, bath rooms, bed rooms, etc. Behind, with a frontage of over 80 feet on Niagara Street, comes a dwarf tower connecting with the classrooms. These are built with special regard to light, ventilation and the students' comfort and will accommodate 75 pupils, having cloak room, lavatory and necessary offices attached."

In the course of education followed at Corrig College, athletic pursuits, particularly in team sports, were an important component of activities. The adjacent Beacon Hill Park with its fields were part of the school's domain. Janis Ringuette in her Beacon Hill Park History notes, "Corrig College, a private school for boys at the southeast corner of Douglas and Niagara, not only used the Park, but implied Park acreage was part of their property in advertisements to attract students."

Sure enough, when the 1909 City Directory is consulted, the following is found at the bottom of p. 378, "University School, Victoria, British Columbia. Boarding and Day School for Boys. New Brick Building. 15 Acres of Playing Fields. Apply to the Bursar." This advertisement clearly includes Park acreage in its playing field total.

There are many Corrig College team pictures taken in Beacon Hill Park, and held in the BC Archives. One shot, B-02238, of the Corrig College football team, is attached to an article by James K. Nesbitt in The Islander magazine, August 1979. He states, "Someone or other, wrote some names on the back of this picture - Mayor James Fell, ex-Mayor J.H. Turner, Simeon Duck, MLA W.A. Robertson, Premier William Smithe, Councillor Vigelus, Joseph Heywood, Councillor Styles and Robert Dunsmuir." The school was producing local leaders and members of government.

Many students were attracted to the College, not just in Victoria, but from places far away. It was known in San Francisco that a proper English education was available in Victoria at Corrig College without having to travel overseas to Britain.

Writing in Camas Chronicles Louise Iverson states, “The motto Manners Maketh The Man and sound academic instruction attracted boarders from the United States whose parents wished their sons to receive a British-type education.”

"It continued in operation until 1917 when it closed due to the illness of Dr. Church who passed away the following year.

“The building was turned into an apartment house with eight comfortable units. In the late 1960s it was bought to be replaced by the Douglas House Rest Home.”

"To attest to its substantial construction it is said that it resisted the demolition machines so that the beams had to be cut away before it would yield to the bulldozers."


Today the property is occupied by Amica at Douglas House. They offer Independent Living as well as Assisted Living for seniors.

Independent Living features all-inclusive living with on-site amenities, services and activities plus access to professional care and support if needed.

Assisted Living offers regular support with daily living including first-class dining, activities and professional care and support just down the hall from the resident's suite.

Activities offered for residents included a Fall Back in Time Fashion Show in November, where the audience marvelled at fabrics, colours and Victorian silhouettes that adorned men and women in the 19th Century.

It is warming to think that where once the future leaders in our society did their schooling, today dozens of seniors are living with the benefits those scholars of earlier years were a part of achieving.


"Victoria Illustrated," The Corporation of the City of Victoria, The Colonist, Victoria, BC, 1891; Daily Colonist, Feb. 20, 1890; The Sisters of St Ann, "The First Ten Years,", 2016; "Prospectus," Corrig College, Victoria, British Columbia, 1894; Vancouver Public Library, City Directories, 1891-1918; "Private Educational Establishments," Daily Colonist, L. McLeod Gould, 1906;  "Pictures from the Past," James K. Nesbitt, The Islander, Victoria, August 5, 1979; "Corrig College," Louise Iverson, Camas Chronicles Of James Bay, Camas Historical Group, Victoria, BC, 1978; "1894," Beacon Hill Park History, Chapter 7 - 1890-1899, Janis Ringuette, 2009; BC Archives, Item B-02238 - Corrig College; football team, Victoria, 1895; "Amica at Douglas House," Amica Mature Lifestyles, 2016.