A new era in education began when The Berkeley Institute opened at Samaritan’s Lodge on Court Street, Hamilton with 27 students.
The school was the realisation of a dream that began 18 years earlier when businessman Samuel David Robinson invited five men to his new home Wantley on Princess Street, Hamilton on October 6, 1879 to discuss the feasibility of opening a high school.
Six men joined the original five at a follow-up meeting on October 9. They established The Berkeley Educational Society, and spent the next 18 years raising funds and public support for the school.
The school was named after George Berkeley (1685-1753), an Anglo-Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop, whose plan to establish a college in Bermuda for native Americans a century earlier had foundered.
All but one of the 27 students were black, several of them the children of Samuel David Robinson. (See bio of Wenona Robinson.)
Five months after the school had opened, students were being prepared to take Cambridge exams in scripture, Latin, French, English language and literature.
The first headmaster was George DaCosta of Jamaica. He served in the post for 37 years.
This month Berkeley will celebrate its 125th anniversary. But the status of Wantley, whose planned demolition was halted after an uproar from alumni, remains up in the air.