St Bede's College, Christchurch

St. Bede's College is a state integrated Roman Catholic day and boarding school in Christchurch, New Zealand, for boys aged 12 (Year 9) to 18 (Year 13).[2] St. Bede's is the oldest Roman Catholic Boys' College in New Zealand's South Island. It is also the only Catholic day and boarding college for boys in New Zealand's South Island. Students at St Bede's are colloquially known as Bedeans. St Bede's College was founded in 1911 by the Marists, a religious congregation founded in Lyon, France in 1816.

St Bede's College
Pedestrian and Cyclist entrance to the college on Main North Road
210 Main North Road, Papanui, Christchurch, New Zealand
Coordinates43°29′S 172°37.1′E
TypeState Integrated Single Sex Boys College (Year 9–13) with Boarding Facilities
MottoFide et Opere
(By Faith and By Works)
Established1911; 107 years ago
Ministry of Education Institution no.315
RectorJustin Boyle
Area22 hectares
School roll824[1]
Socio-economic decile9

The current rector of the college, Mr Justin Boyle, was appointed in 2002. He was previously the first lay principal of St. Kevin's College, Oamaru but left at the end of 2001 to become the first lay rector of St Bede's.

St. Bede

The college bears the name of The Venerable Bede (AD 673–735) an English Benedictine Monk, Scholar, and Saint. Widely regarded as the Father of English History, Bede is most famous for his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, recognized as the first ecclesiastical history of Britain. During his time, Bede was regarded as the finest scholar in Europe. His shrine is at Jarrow, England.

Philosophy and Marist Tradition

The college is renowned for its high academic standards, proud sporting heritage and the distinctive educational philosophy of the Marist tradition. From its beginnings, St. Bede's College has taught its students by observing a tradition that combines Marian and apostolic elements. For the most part of the previous century, the college had residential Marist priests and brothers as teaching staff. There is still a significant Marist presence at the college.

The college's mission is To help each boy develop fully by Faith and by Works.


The Society of Mary (Marists) is a religious congregation founded in 1816 in Lyon, France at the time of the French Revolution by Father Jean-Claude Colin (1790–1875) and twelve colleagues, including Marcellin Joseph Benoît Champagnat, future Founder of the Marist Brothers, and Father (later Bishop) Jean Baptiste François Pompallier, first bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in New Zealand.

The canonical approbation of the Society of Mary was given by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836. Fr Jean-Claude Colin had a close association with Pompallier who accompanied the French Marist Missionaries to New Zealand. The Society of Mary became involved in missionary work and teaching, work that was very similar to the missions of the Jesuits, but which had a distinctive Marian approach.

Before 1877, education in New Zealand was a provincial jurisdiction, with many schools being established by churches or private funding. With the Education Act 1877, the New Zealand Government centralised control through twelve regional education boards to introduce free, compulsory and secular education. Schools intending to teach religious instruction could not receive Government assistance. The Society of Mary continued to build the foundations for a Catholic System of Education, sourcing religious teachers from Ireland, Europe and Australia. In 1885, the Society of Mary established St. Patrick's College in Cambridge Terrace, Wellington. St. Patrick's College was the first Society of Mary secondary school for Boys in New Zealand.

St. Bede's College, Christchurch, was established in 1911 at the request of Bishop John Joseph Grimes S.M., and the first Catholic Bishop of Christchurch. The Society owned St. Bede's College. The school was originally located along Ferry Road, but it outgrew its facilities. The college had the option of purchasing the current site or that of St. Andrew's College, Christchurch in Merivale. Some say that the choice made was a fine decision because due to the land being cheaper, the college was able to build magnificent stone buildings to accommodate the monks and to accommodate lessons. The chapel was originally used as a gym, but with the building of Chanel Hall, it became obsolete and so was converted to a chapel. The chapel contains the Board of Honour, honouring Bedeans who fought and died for their country in both world wars.

The college was moved in 1920 to its present site on 220,000 square meters of fields and trees at the northern entrance to the city. The original buildings of St. Bede's were magnificent in old design, but most of them had to be demolished in 1981 due to new earthquake safety requirements. However, the chapel and half of Durham remain standing. Over the years, buildings have continued to be added to the college, including the Alistair Macdonald Centre for the Performing Arts, Jarrow (a senior boarding dorm) as well as a new gymnasium. The chapel is described as the heart of the school. In addition to the surface buildings, the school has a number of tunnels and bomb shelters under the school, built for evacuation purposes.

The house system

A house system was instituted at St. Bede's College, with every student allocated to a house. The house system has several functions, including administrative. Each house is named for a distinguished person associated with the college and its name. There are five houses. These are:

  • Benedict, gold house, named for St. Benedict, Founder of the Benedictine Order at Monte Cassino of which Bede was a member. Benedict has won the house points shield (Burger Shield) from 2003–2011. Renowned for the motto, "pure gold".
  • Colin, light blue house, named for The Venerable Jean-Claude Colin, S.M. was a French priest, founder of the Society of Mary in Lyon, France.
  • McCarthy, green house, named for Major, Rt. Hon. Sir Thaddeus McCarthy, Alumnus, Jurist and the college's first Knight.
  • Mannix, dark blue house, named for Fr. John Mannix, SM, Seventh Rector of the college and first Old Boy to become Rector.
  • Redwood, maroon house (often uses Red), named for Francis M. Redwood, SM, Archbishop of Wellington, who successfully sourced teaching religious institutes from France, Ireland, and Australia, after the passage of the Education Act, 1877. He also served on the Senate of the University of New Zealand for more than 25 years.

Boarding houses

The boarding houses are for boarding pupils and are located on the college grounds. These are:

  • Grimes, named for John Joseph Grimes, SM, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Christchurch (1888). Bishop Grimes oversaw the completion of construction in 1905 of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, designed by Francis Petre. The Grimes building sustained damage in the Canterbury earthquake, and was therefore demolished.
  • Jarrow, named for the English town of Jarrow, on the River Tyne, and the Monastery where St. Bede spent most of his life.
  • Durham, named for Durham Cathedral, England, where the remains of St. Bede were entombed after being taken from Jarrow circa 1020.
  • Wearmouth, The Wearmouth boarding wing for Year 13 boarders was opened during the first week in August 2010. This wonderful facility was designed by architect Duval O’Neill and built by Matthew Bushnell.

Notable alumni

St. Bede's College Old Boys are notably represented in the New Zealand Parliament in the House of Representatives. They accounted for the greatest number of alumni of any New Zealand College to sit in the Legislature of New Zealand's 47th, 48th, 49th, 50th and 51st New Zealand Parliaments.

The following old boys are members of the 52nd New Zealand Parliament;

Other distinguished Old Bedeans include:

Four Bishops of Christchurch (Brian Ashby, Basil Meeking, John Cunneen and Barry Jones) and more than 180 priests attended St Bede's.


St. Bede's retains a special tradition of academic, cultural and sporting fixtures with St. Patrick's College, Wellington and St. Patrick's College, Silverstream. St Bede's played St Pat's Town in rugby from the 1920s until the early 1970s when it was dropped due to financial reasons. This was for the Holley Shield and the series between the two colleges stood at St Bede's 24, St Pat's Town 20, with one draw. The game against Silverstream had not been played since the Second World War until it was revived in the 1990s. Today, all three Colleges are part of the legacy of the Society of Mary in New Zealand.

Effects from Canterbury quakes

As a result of the severe 2011 Canterbury earthquake on 22 February, the school was fortunately spared, although the school was shut until 14 March to undergo building inspections. Sister school Marian College in Shirley, Christchurch was not so fortunate, being severely damaged.[5] Marian College is an all-girls school, and it was decided to share facilities with St. Bedes. The boys from St. Bedes attended school using a "morning timetable" up until 13:00, with the girls continuing on in the afternoon and evening.[6] The 100th anniversary of St. Bedes College, due to take place at the end of May 2011, was also postponed as a result of the earthquake. This ended up taking place a year later, in May 2012. The Grimes boarding house was also deemed unsafe due to quake damage resulting in the year ten and twelves to relocate to Durham. Grimes was demolished in early 2013 along with the Chapel of St Bede, previously the only original building on the site. The Chanel hall was demolished at the end of 2013. Currently, plans for a replacement hall are unknown, and the school is using the gym for Masses, liturgies and assemblies.


  1. "Directory of Schools - as at 3 April 2019". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  2. St Bede's College, 1911–1986, 75th Jubilee, Christchurch City Library Category #373.93831
  3. Humes, Myles (20 June 2015). "Ex-St Bede's coach David Lindstrom dropped by Rowing New Zealand". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  4. Stuff News, 4 September 2019 (Retrieved 4 September 2019)
  5. Marian College damaged
  6. St. Bedes to share with Marian College
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