NCG History

Nelson College for Girls is a single-sex state school in Nelson, New Zealand.

Nelson College for Girls is a girls-only state school in sunny Nelson, New Zealand.  It has an illustrious history 

Our wonderful school was established in 1883, the 3rd oldest girls’ school in New Zealand.  Our first principal, Kate Edger, was the first woman to graduate with a university degree in the British Empire.  She became principal of our school at the age of 25. Her passion for the rights of young women to be able to be educated at school and university set the bar for the continued emphasis of our school on enabling young women to succeed both academically and as leaders in our world.  She was aspirational, as were the principals who followed her into the 20th century.  Her successor in 1890 was Beatrice Gibson, one of the well-known Gibson sisters who were influential in girls’ education in the South Island at the turn of the 20th century. 

Three of the school’s early principals were graduates of Canterbury College in Christchurch, which came to an agreement with the school to enable students, resident in Nelson, and enrolled at Nelson College for Girls, to receive university tuition from the staff of Canterbury College.  These students were able to enrol in the same university classes as those available in Christchurch, sit the same examinations and receive the same qualifications.  This arrangement continued until the 1920s.


Throughout its history, the school has enabled its students to attain high academic success as well as promoting a sense of the importance of being a part of the community.  During both World Wars, many Old Girls of the school enlisted as nurses and served in theatres of war in a brave and admirable way.  

The history of Nelson College for Girls, Sentinel at the Gates’, records that immediately after the declaration of war on August 4, 1914, there was a “wave of Patriotism that submerged us all”.  The girls immersed themselves in making clothes for Belgian refugees, knitting socks for soldiers…in spite of the then Principal, Margaret Lorimer’s concern that “knitting is an excuse for idleness”!.   

Having a strong sense of giving back to the community continues today with the significant groups of students who volunteer in the local community. 

The school has a boarding hostel, which was established in 1959, under the leadership of then principal, Clarice Johnstone.  A new Levels building was opened in 2011.  It is fitting that the boarding hostel bears her name as she was instrumental in setting it up.  Today it caters for up to 150 girls from around New Zealand. 

In 2018, on the 125th anniversary of Suffrage for New Zealand women, a memorial was unveiled to our first principal, Kate Edger, in recognition of the significance of her contribution to our school.