Our History

Our History

Early in 1903 Bishop Moore Richard Neligan arrived in Auckland to begin his ministry as the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Auckland. Having considerable experience in education and eager to rally the Anglican community around a shared project, he decided to establish an Anglican school for girls modelled on the new British ‘high schools’.


Diocesan’s Archivist Evan Lewis maintains the collection of school records, uniforms past and present, artefacts and a large collection of photographs and documents. The Archives is open to staff, students and Old Girls by appointment. Private and academic researchers are welcome, subject to the approval of the Board and Principal.

We welcome your enquiries, please contact Evan Lewis elewis@diocesan.school.nz

The Bishop's vision 

Bishop Neligan’s vision was clear:

"To offer, on sound clear simple Anglican lines, in a Diocesan School for Girls, the very best scholarship that can be found throughout the length and breadth of the Colony.”

Today, Bishop Neligan’s vision continues to inspire the holistic educational, spiritual and ethical approach we take to our students’ learning - from our Foundation Class to Year 13.

Our Past 

On 3 November 1903 the Synod of the Diocese of Auckland gave the go ahead. A subcommittee was established and early in 1904 a large and gracious house and a little over six acres of land was purchased from the Hesketh family. Bishop Neligan wrote to his old friend and colleague Mary Etheldred Pulling, inviting her to become the new school’s founding headmistress. Miss Pulling and her friend Beatrice Anna Ward, both devout churchwomen and graduates of the famous Cheltenham Ladies’ College, accepted the invitation and journeyed to Auckland to begin their work.

Establishing a school here in colonial Auckland was not an easy task, but Miss Pulling and Miss Ward worked hard and on the 27 May 1904, the Diocesan High School for Girls opened its doors to its first 27 pupils. On 14 June 1904, Bishop Neligan visited the School to formally dedicate its work and mission to the ‘glory of God and the good of the Diocese’ - thus it is on this date that Dio’s birthday has been celebrated for more than a century.

In the years since 1904 the School has gone from strength to strength. Following Miss Pulling’s retirement in 1926 the School has been ably led by a variety of headmistresses and principals; energetic Miss Sandford developed the grounds and playing fields, music facilities and library. 

Devout and rather serious, Miss Edwards brought the School through the difficult days of the Great Depression and the Second World War. Through the fifties and sixties Miss Shrewsbury’s relaxed and gentle way of doing things brought much quiet improvement in facilities and paved the way for more modern and progressive attitudes to girls’ education.

From 1966 to 1972, dynamic Old Girl Miss Roberton brought her unique blend of enthusiastic energy and high academic expectations to the School. Her work was furthered by two short-term headmistresses, Miss Jean Crosher and Miss Beverley Williamson, then in 1974, Miss Dawn Jones became the 8th headmistress of Diocesan School for Girls. 

In her time the School began to create a place for itself among the leading girls’ schools and students were encouraged to achieve academic, cultural and sporting excellence. Meanwhile, as ever, the School facilities continued to be developed and modernised.

Following Miss Jones’ resignation in 1993, Mrs Gail Thomson [1993-2003] was installed as Principal and set about bringing a more modern corporate management structure to Diocesan and a renewed emphasis on the ‘School Family’ - being students, both past and present, as well as parents and friends of the School in a more general sense.  At the same time the School Board embarked on a number of long term strategies for more comprehensive development of the buildings and grounds and the establishment of a capital base to ensure the School’s continuation and progress.

Mrs Thomson stepped down in July 2003 and in the middle of the School’s Centennial celebrations Mrs Ann Mildenhall became the School’s 10th Principal. Her calm and practical management style maintained the School’s course toward further development and diversification while maintaining a culture that honoured its past, encouraged academic achievement and strived to bring out the potential of all students. During Mrs Mildenhall’s time as Principal, the School introduced a dual learning pathway at senior level, offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme (IB) as an alternative to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).

At the end of the third term in 2008 Mrs Mildenhall retired and the School operated under caretaker Principal, Mrs Joy Wiseman, before the appointment of Diocesan’s current Principal, Ms Heather McRae, to the role in April 2009.

In addition to its high academic standards Diocesan has remained steadfastly Anglican in character.

Historic Chapel 

The Chapel of Saint Barnabas arrived on site in 1910 from Bishopscourt and in 1922 a larger nave was added alongside this historic building. A chancel and vestry were added later, completing the adjoining Chapel of our Glorified Lord. The Chapel continues to be the heart of all that the School is and does as it continues to educate hearts and minds for the glory of God and the good of the Diocese.