Helena Davenport was born in Cheshire, England on 23 May 1857. She arrived in Australia aboard the ship ‘The Gauntlet’ with her mother Anne in 1876. Her father and brother had already arrived in the colony on an earlier vessel.
In Toowoomba, Helena became the governess for the family of the Honourable William Graham and in 1880, Helena and Anne opened a school for girls in Ipswich. The students were taught a range of subjects including Latin, French, Science, First Aid, Singing, Household Management and Moral Education.
In 1882 the school in Ipswich was sold and Helena and her mother moved to Southport. Many of their students travelled with them to their new premises in Bauer Street. After a successful first year the school, known as Goy-te-Lea, was relocated to the corner of Davenport and Bay Street.
The standard at the Davenport’s school was very high with a number of the all-female teachers holding university degrees. In addition to running the school, Helena wrote leading articles for The Southern Queensland Bulletin which eventually became The Gold Coast Bulletin.
Helena was also an art teacher and taught the celebrated painter Vida Lahey. In 1911, Helena sold Goy-te-Lea to the Church of England and this became the foundation of St Hilda’s School. Davenport Street in Southport is named after Helena.
Sources of information and further reading
- Margaret Sanders and Catherine Mackintosh. Non nobilus solum not for ourselves alone : a centenary history of St Hilda’s School, Gold Coast 1912-2012. Southport, Qld.: St Hilda’s School, 2012.
- “Miss Helena Davenport.” The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 – 1947) 4 Apr 1935: 17 Edition: LATE CITY. Web. 6 Jan 2016 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article182043690
- “Southport.” The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954) 5 Apr 1935: 23. Web. 6 Jan 2016 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article35871032