Lawson Brown High School

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Lawson Brown High School

Lawson Brown High School is a public secondary school situated in Millard Grange, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The school educates children in Grade 8 – Grade 12.


“The salvation of this country lies in education, for it is in that way that the higher ideals are brought out and the smaller and objectionable matters left out of our lives. It behoves us all to do everything we can for the children of South Africa and bring about the happiest relations between everyone.” Mayor W.C. Adcock (1938)

With these words, the foundation stone of the old Lawson Brown High School – a then dual medium institution located in Sidwell - was laid.

Lawson Brown is an English-medium co-educational high school that caters for Grade 8 – Grade 12 learners. The school’s existence resulted from the splitting of the dual-medium Lawson Brown High School which was founded in 1938 and was situated in Sidwell, with the school being named after city councillor W Lawson Brown – a prominent lawyer and chairman of the Port Elizabeth School Board.

In 1953 the Sidwell school was divided, the English-speaking component moving to the Mount Road area now known as Millard Grange and initially named Mount Road High School. The Afrikaans-speaking component of the school remained on the original site and became known as Hoerskool Cillie. Mount Road High School was later renamed after Mr W. Lawson Brown – a prominent lawyer, City Councillor and Chairman of the then School Board who had laid the foundation stone of the original building. His dream of seeing an English-medium High School established in the area had been realised. In 1953, Principal MR J.A. Campbell and three staff taught 1098 Std 7’s (now Grade 9) in a cluster of pre-fabs and by 1955, when the new building was completed the enrolment had grown to 320.

The hall, which for many hears served as the venue for the Inter-Schools’ Play Festival, was erected shortly before the retirement of second principal Mr C.F. de Lange. He was succeeded briefly by Mr. H.D. Schroeder who later distinguished himself on both the SATA and RFC executives. Our Valley Fields were taken into use during his term of office. With Mr M.E. Yates, later Chief Superintendent of Education, at the helm, enrolment reached nearly 750, which made this the largest “white” school in those years. Extensions virtually doubled the size of the existing building. Additional courts and fields became necessary too. It was also in this time that Lawson Brown’s Art Centre, for which the school has become famous, was established.

It was principal Mr B.F. Simpson who, when part of our traditional feeder area changed from residential to industrial, and with a country in socio-political flux, took the bold step of abandoning tokenism and “properly” opened the school to pupils of all races and persuasions, thus pioneering among state-controlled schools in this city an integrated system of education in the very spirit of the words of Mr Adcock 50 years earlier and just as in the spirit of the New South Africa.

22 June 1929

  • The opening of the new Paterson Secondary School, off Mount Road, by the Superintendent-General of Education, Dr. W.J.Viljoen.
  • The architect was Ernest Stevenson.
  • When the new Paterson High in Korsten and the second High School in New Brighton were completed, the pupils left Mount Road and in January 1953 the Mount Road High School opened on the same site in 4 prefab classrooms while the old building was reconstructed.
  • In October 1955 the name was changed to Lawson Brown High School.

January 1937

  • A new high school with 57 children in Std.7 was started in the dining hall of the show yard.
  • Land for new buildings was given by the City Council adjoining the Dr. Viljoen Primary School and the school was to be named after W.Lawson Brown, who laid the foundation stone on 22 April 1938.
  • The architects were Jones & McWilliams and the school was opened in 1939.
  • Intended as a dual-medium school, from 1940 it became an Afrikaans-medium and on 20 June 1949 and the name was changed, in honour of Dr. G.G.Cillie.
  • On 1 October 1955 the name of the Mount Road High School, in Illingworth Street was changed to Lawson Brown High School.
  • Mrs.Ada Brown, widow of W.Lawson Brown performed the opening ceremony.

22 April 1938

  • W.Lawson Brown laid the foundation stone of the new Lawson Brown Secondary School (Architects were Jones & McWilliams).
  • The school began in 1937 in the show yard with 57 children in Standard Seven.
  • It was opened in August 1939 by the Superintendent of Education.

About Mr. Wilfred Lawson Brown

BROWN, Wilfred Lawson

  • b. Scotland 1880
  • d. 10 April 1945 Port Elizabeth
  • m. Ada (Priddle) 22 Nov 1905
  • o. Attorney, Lawson Brown & Brown
  • i. Chairman of Sundays River Citrus Co-op, SA Citrus Exchange, Strathsomers Estate, Chairman of School Board 25+ years, North End Library, Technical College, Rotary, Scottish Association.
  • n. Lawson Brown High School.
  • Son of D.M.Brown

School Badge[edit]

The Lawson Brown High School insignia consists of a shield divided into three parts by a central charge, being an inverted pall or pairle in black and fimbriated (or outlined) in gold or yellow, which serves to divide the field (which is scarlet or red) into three areas:

1. A gold or yellow coloured charge in the upper dexter (the right-hand side as seen from behind the shield) section is a representation of the pyramid that was erected on the Donkin Reserve, a large open space in the heart of Port Elizabeth, in 1820-21 by members of the Royal Corps of Engineers on orders from the Acting Governor of the Cape, Sir Rufane Donkin, in memory of his wife, née Elizabeth Markham, who had died of a tropical fever in Meerut (now Merath) in India, close to the capital, Delhi.

The style of the pyramid is unlike the pyramids of Egypt, in that it has a much sharper angle, and follows a trend that was to be seen across Europe in the same period, of erecting memorial pyramids in this fashion, without the remains of the person being memorialised being interred within the monument.

The pyramid appears in the school arms as a reminder that the village of Port Elizabeth, as it was in 1820, was founded by Sir Rufane and named for his late wife.

Another representation of this same pyramid can be found in the arms of Pearson High School, this time in silver on green.

2. A charge in the upper sinister (the left-hand side as seen from behind the shield) section, is a patriarchal cross in gold or yellow.

The cross recalls that when Bartolomeo Dias undertook his journey around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, he travelled as far east as Kwaaihoek (a promontory lying just east of the eastern edge of Algoa Bay), where he planted a padrão – a stone cross bearing a tablet charged with the arms of the King of Portugal, King João II. Having been threatened by his men with mutiny if he continued eastwards, Dias turned westwards and called at Algoa Bay, where he watered in the lagoon of the Kabega River (today called the Baakens River, so named thanks to the beacon erected there in 1777 by Governor Joachim von Plettenberg) and also planted a wooden cross on an island in the bay which he named Ilha de Santa Cruz (Holy Cross Island).

The island appeared on French charts as St Croix (pronounced in phonetic English as Sun Kwa), and has become known by this name (pronounced as “Saint Croy” in the local dialect) in Port Elizabeth.

During the Dias 500th anniversary celebrations in 1988, the island was officially renamed Santa Cruz, but this name has not proved popular among Port Elizabethans.

The island can be seen clearly from the high ground on which the school stands in Millard Grange, and even more clearly from the grassed-over reservoir which lies just above School.

It is not known what Dias’ wooden cross looked like – the original cross had disappeared by the time Algoa Bay was settled by people who had boats – but the school has included a cross that most closely resembles a patriarchal cross in its arms since the school badge was first devised (it is unclear when this took place).

The patriarchal cross, for many centuries an established variation on the standard upright or Latin cross, has a second, shorter cross-member above the main one. Perhaps the most familiar forms of the patriarchal cross are the cross of Lorraine (a simplified version of which was used as the symbol of the Free French during the Second World War) and the red patriarchal cross (with pointed ends) used as a symbol for the struggle against tuberculosis.

3. In the base of the shield is an open book in gold (or yellow), inscribed with the motto Per ardua ad astra, which transliterates as: “Up the steep slope to the stars”, but which is translated by the School as “Through hardship (or hard work) to the stars” A more detailed translation provided in the school prospectus reads: “Through effort/hard work/commitment towards the stars.”

The motto’s wording is reflected in the school’s highest accolade, awarded to a pupil for all-round excellence, which is called the Astra Award.

The motto is also that of the South African Air Force. (Heraldry does not pay too much attention to mottos, and the duplication of a given motto from one institution or individual to another is of little importance.)

A book (open or closed) often appears in the arms of academic institutions as a symbol of learning, and an open book is frequently inscribed with a motto. Rhodes University, in Grahamstown, also has a book so inscribed.

The whole of the field is enclosed in a border or bordure of gold or yellow, rounding out the design of the shield.

External links[edit]