Brightwater's School for Girls - 1880-1889


In the late 1870s the population of Brightwater grew very quickly. Schools in the area included Spring Grove School and River Terrace School, but both schools were very overcrowded and a long way for pupils to walk from the TeeTotal area where most of the children lived.1

In December 1878 a decision was made to build a new school for girls in Brightwater. Brightwater School, or the Girl’s School, as it was also to be known, would educate girls up to standard 6 (equivalent to about Year 8 today). It would also take boys up to Standard 2, after which the boys would attend Spring Grove School, which would continue to educate senior boys and junior girls.2,3

Brightwater School

Brightwater School. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 37330.

A site was found for the new school on what was then known as Main Street, but is now known as Ellis Street. Today this site is the site of the Brightwater Community Hall. In 1880 the new Brightwater School opened with Mrs Bryant as mistress.  

In 1881 W.C. Hodgson, the Inspector for Schools for the Nelson District reported that Brightwater School had 58 pupils on the roll. The girls in the upper classes were strongest in beading, composition, and geography, and the weakest at arithmetic. Although the inspector was concerned by the lack of science being taught in the school, he complimented the school’s girls for being ‘orderly' and ‘evidently on excellent terms with their mistress’ Mrs Bryant.4

There were ongoing problems finding suitably qualified teachers for the school, so in 1889 the decision was made to close the girl's school and move the pupils to the new boy's school up the road, on the current Brightwater School site. The old girl's school building and land was sold in 1920 and the money used to purchase additional land to extend the new Brightwater School grounds.5

Story from the Brightwater Heritage Boards 2020

Updated August 16,2022.

Sources used in this story

  1. Brightwater School. (2013). 125th Reunion of Brightwater School 1888-2013:  Brightwater History & District Schools. Brightwater School. pp.102-104.
  2. Monthly meeting of the Education Board. (1878, December 28). Nelson Evening Mail. p. 2.
  3. Brightwater School. p.102.
  4. Standards. (1881, January 15).The Colonist . p. 2.
  5. Brightwater School. p.103.
  6. Meeting at Spring Grove. (1885, November 26). Nelson Evening Mail. p. 2.


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