A history of St Mary Hall

When St Mary Hall was established in 1941, as the second of the women’s halls, it was given a name that linked it with Cecil Rhodes and his old college at Oxford, Oriel. The original St Mary Hall was one of the early Oxford halls and in the fourteenth century it was taken over by Oriel College. In the early part of this century it was largely demolished to make way for the Rhodes Building, in High Street, Oxford. It was fitting that the new hall at Rhodes University should be named after a part of Oxford closely connected with Cecil Rhodes.

In 1941 St Mary Hall consisted of Phelps House and Milner House, the latter only recently having been changed from a men’s to a women’s residence. Phelps had been opened for students in 1939, having been built on the site of a rambling old house called “De Rieten”, where, at different times, both men and women students had been accommodated. Archbishop Phelps, one of South Africa’s great churchmen, who had been a much loved bishop of Grahamstown, died in 1938. He had been Chairman of the Rhodes Council for twelve years (1918 – 1930).

Three years after the formation of St Mary Hall, in 1944, John Kotze House was ready for students. Named after Sir John Kotze (another Chairman of Council, (1904-1914), an eminent lawyer and judge, it was built on the site of the old Great Hall, which had been moved to another site in 1942, and partly on the site of the old Powder Magazine of frontier days which had served as the first Kaif at Rhodes.

At the end of the war Milner left the Hall to become an ex-service men’s residence and Olive Schreiner, named after South Africa’s famous novelist, became the third House. In 1946, when Olive Schreiner opened for student, it was about half its present size and it was to be some years before the building was enlarged for once the ex-service students had completed their courses, enrolment fell so drastically that it was no longer needed as a residence. Olive Schreiner was used by various departments, notably the Music Department which was there for some years, and it was not until the late fifties that rising student enrolment caused it to become a residence once more. In 1958, enlarged and refitted Olive Schreiner once more became part of St Mary Hall.
After 1958 there was little change in the Hall until, in 1977, the kitchens and dining hall was renovated and made more suitable for a Hall of 200 students.

Lilian Britten House was constructed in 1942 and was originally the University Sanatorium. It was built on the site of the old De Rieten tennis court. (De Rieten House previously occupied the site where Phelps House now stands).
The Sanatorium had 24 rooms – twelve on the ground floor for men students and twelve on the first floor for women students. It was later decided to use the building as a women’s residence and when the new Sanatorium on Lucas Avenue was completed, the old was re-named Lilian Britten House in honour of Miss L. Britten who had been a lecturer in the Department of Botany. She was born in 1886 and graduated with honours at Rhodes in 1907. She then went to Newnham College, Cambridge, and the universities of Oxford and London. In 1918 the Grahamstown Natural History Society came into being and the first meeting was held in Miss Britten’s home and she was elected vice-president. Later the Grahamstown Nature Reserve Society was formed, the aims of which were to preserve wild life in general and specifically to protect the natural vegetation on the south-west slopes beyond the Mountain Drive, from the encroachment of pine trees and hakea. Miss Britten was honorary secretary and treasurer
for many years and was elected as a trustee of the Albany Museum, becoming the honorary secretary of their Board in 1949. She died in December 1951, after a life-time of selfless service to the community in which she lived. She is best remembered by Old Rhodians for her devoted service over nearly forty years as honorary secretary of the Old Rhodian Union.

Last Modified: Wed, 08 Jan 2020 10:05:51 SAST


St Mary Hall Vision and Mission

Vision and Mission

Our Vision Statement

To create a living and learning student support system and an environment which is inclusive and conducive to academic success, through promoting a healthy lifestyle & personal growth.

Our Mission Statement

In support of the vision, mission, values and objectives of Rhodes University and the Director of Students Division, the Residential System intends:-

* to provide a caring, nurturing environment

  • which fosters academic success and personal growth
  • free from discrimination, intimidation or harassment
  • which is clean, safe and secure
  • in which there is respect for and safety of personal property
  • in which the rules are fair and just, and sufficient to maintain an orderly environment conducive to learning, research and community life. 

* and to be a community

  • which embraces diversity
  • which recognises the unique value of each of its members
  • whose members are proud of their residence, Hall and University
  • whose members share the responsibility for supporting the vision and mission statement of the residential system
  • whose members receive due support and recognition for their contributions 

* staffed by Wardens who are

  • dedicated, and committed to their own integrated involvement in their residence, Hall, and the University
  • committed to establishing an atmosphere which is conducive to academic study and personal growth
  • provided with appropriate skills and developmental training
  • supported by a responsive, empathetic, efficient and effective management and administrative structure

Last Modified: Thu, 28 May 2020 17:25:02 SAST

St Mary Hall Information

Box Room Protocol

There are box rooms available in each Residence for students to box their belongings during vacations when they need to pack up their rooms. The keys to the box room are handled ONLY by the Hall Warden, House Warden and Sub-Wardens of each Residence. During term time, the keys are held by the sub-warden for easy access for students to boxrooms.  All boxes must be taken out of the boxrooms within 48 hours after the start of the term.

  • Please note that all items left in the box room are left at your own risk. The House Warden and Sub-Wardens will not be held responsible for any damages or loss.
  • No luggage, boxes, etc. are to be left on the landings or in passages
  • No box room keys are ever be made available to Conference Wardening Staff.
  • No box rooms are opened during any vacation. Returning students requiring access to their belongings in box rooms prior to the start of the first term (i.e. Orientation Week or before) must arrange to do so in advance with the relevant House Warden and Sub-Wardens.
  • Please securely seal your boxes, trunks, and label your belongings clearly (labels will be provided by your sub-wardens).
  • Number your boxes and record your belongings on the list on the Box-Room door. If you do not put your boxes in the Box-Rooms during the vacations and leave them in the passages they will be donated to charity.
  • All items left in the Box-Rooms will be kept until the end of the second term vacation and thereafter will be donated to charity there unless alternative arrangements have been agreed to in email correspondence with the House Warden.

END OF TERM: (Second and Fourth terms only; or short vacations if Residences are being used).

If your Residence is being used during the vacation:

  • Please ensure that you have signed up for bo room regardless if you require to use box room. The Residence Sub-Wardens will use this time to assist you with your room check that must be completed before you leave (for each Vacation period). Anything found missing or damaged will be charged to your account.
  • All Room Keys are to be handed in by placing them in the key boxes provided, when you leave. Students will be fined for not signing out and/or not leaving their room keys at Residence. Students being in a rush to catch buses or other transport will not be accepted as an aggravating factor.
  • Any missing keys are to be reported to the Warden/Hall Administrator and the replacement will be charged to your account.


Anything left behind and not fetched by you before the end of the 1st vacation (April of the following year) will be disposed of


St Mary Hall Awards

Each Year the Hall presents the following awards at the formal dinners/garden party at the beginning and end of the year:

Academic Awards:

First Year and Senior in each faculty: This award is presented to the student with the best overall academic performance as judged from her mid-year and final examination

Academic Excellence:  student with the best overall academic performance as judged from her mid-year and final examinations.

Leadership Award Trophy:

The Division of Student Affairs Leadership Award is an award presented to a student in St Mary Hall who, although not necessarily in a formal position of leadership, sets an example in their House, by demonstrating exceptional leadership qualities throughout the year. The Leadership Award Trophy is announced at the Leavers Dinner.

Sport Awards:

Sports Excellence of the Year Award: This award is presented to the best overall sportswoman of the Hall as recommended by the Hall Committee. A student who has achieved at either being first team, playing provincial or sport for their country.

Inter-hall sport award:  The residence who wins during a variety of sport played, including indigenous games.

Inter-res sport award:  The residence in the hall with the highest points achieved during the inter-res sport activities during the year

Community Engagement Awards:

Award given for the res who can show that all community engagement goals have been achieved as well as the greatest variety of community engagement outreach projects completed.



Early Arrival or Late Departure

What constitutes an early arrival? 

A student who wishes to return to Residence two days before Rhodes University starts must apply to the Hall Warden (with support from the Warden) for permission to return early, using the Application to Return Early to Residence Form (with Warden’s signature on form) at least SEVEN days before the proposed early return. Students must provide evidence of valid reasons. Students will receive a disciplinary fine if protocol is not followed. 

What constitutes a late departure? 

In exceptional circumstances, a student may be allowed to remain in Residence 24 hours longer than the term time periods. The student must apply to the Hall Warden (with support from the warden) for permission to remain late, using the Application to Return Early to Residence Form at least SEVEN days before the proposed prolonged stay. Evidence of valid reasons (e.g. limitations of transport) must be provided. Students will receive a disciplinary fine if protocol is not followed.

Rates for Early Return and Late Departure for 2020: Rates for 2020: R 126.73 per day, inclusive of all meals.

Method of Payment:

  1. Cash, payable at the Cashiers Office in Eden Grove. Receipt to be provided as proof of payment. 
  2. Charge to student account – this is only possible of you have a credit balance on your student account. As proof, please attach a copy of your student account to the application



Amenities in every residence

Students in the residence can connect to internet access/wifi in their rooms. Technical support is typically provided by the Student Networking Representative of each house. Printing facilities are also available in the Residence and it is charged on each student’s printing balance found online on the Rhodes University Student Support System (ROSS). The main common room is equipped with comfortable chairs and a television which have some DSTV channels available. There is a dedicated study room equipped with a printer and one or in some cases two computers.

The rooms are spacious and well equipped with: 

  • WiFi
  • a single bed and mattress,
  • a bedside cupboard,
  • a mirror,
  • a study table and chair,
  • a bookcase,
  • a desk lamp,
  • a wardrobe,
  • a notice board,
  • a wall mounted bar heater,
  • a waste paper basket,
  • a shower basin,
  • a shower mat and 
  • a water bucket.

Students are provided with linen by the Housekeeping staff:- duvet, duvet cover, bedding sheet, mattress cover, two pillows, two pillow cases, winter blanket, curtains and inner net curtains. Students can bring their own linen but they are then responsible for the laundering. The residence has a laundry area with washing machines and tumble dryers. There are kitchen facilities supplied with a communal microwave and fridge. There are showers and toilets available on each floor.

Maintenance and cleaning of each of the Residence is attended to by Rhodes Housekeeping staff on a daily basis. Students are expected to maintain order in their personal rooms for the duration of their stay

Last Modified: Thu, 28 May 2020 17:25:07 SAST