History of Calabar

In 1839 William Knibb, Thomas Burchell and James Philippo, the three leading English Baptist Missionaries working in Jamaica, moved for the creation of a College for training native Baptist Ministers. Out of this Calabar Theological College came into being in 1843 and was first sited in the little village of Calabar, near Rio Bueno, Trelawny. The name “Calabar” was brought to Jamaica by slaves from Nigeria, W. Africa, where there is an old river-port city by that name.

In 1868 Calabar College was removed to East Queen Street, Kingston, where a “Normal” school for training teachers and a high school for boys were added. Shortly after, the high school went out of operation and the teacher-training activities ceased, leaving the practising school – now Calabar All-Age on Sutton Street- and the Theological College which was relocated at Chetolah Park on Slipe Pen Road in 1904. At the beginning of this century there were very few high schools in existence to educate the sons of the working class and the rising middle class, it was to meet this need that, in 1912, through the instrumentality of the Revds. Ernest Price and David Davis – Principal and Tutor respectively of Calabar Theological College – Calabar High School came into existence under the sponsorship of the Baptist Missionary Society of London and the Jamaica Baptist Union.

It opened on the 12th September with 26 boys and the foundation was firmly laid in the Christian tradition. Rev. Price was the first Headmaster. Within a year enrolment had reached 80 and the school had received government recognition. An early benefactor was Miss Elizabeth Purscell who in 1919 left the adjoining property Studley Park in trust for the School. In 1952 Calabar Theological College and High School moved from their location at Studley Park to Red Hills Road, where 60 acres of land then called “Industry Pen” had been purchased for the resiting of both institutions. At the time,this was a thinly populated, undeveloped area and many people thought the move unwise. The new school was built to house 350 boys but before long extensions became necessary. Boarding facilities were provided up to 1970. When boarding ceased dormitories were subsequently converted to workshops.

In 1967 the Theological College moved to Mona as a part of the United Theological College of the West Indies and the High School took over the ‘space vacated. This is the section of the premises which the boys now call “Long Island”. At about this time a portion of the Calabar lands, now occupied by Boulevard Supercentre and the Pleasanton housing development, was sold. As a result of the massive increase in population in this section of the city the School has grown by leaps and bounds. A privately-run Extension School was added in 1971. In 1978 the School adopted a Shift System incorporating the day and extension schools, at the request of the Ministry of Education. There are presently over 1600 students on roll with eight forms in each year group from grade 7-11, and four forms in grades 12 and 13 (sixth form).

Calabar High School was famous almost from the start. It established a reputation for scholarship which has been maintained over the years as seen from the large number of major scholarships such as Jamaica and Rhodes Scholarships which have been won by Calabar. The school pioneered in the teaching of Science, Spanish and Agriculture. Sports, particularly athletics, have always been important and the Championship Trophy has been won 12 times, the first time being in 1930. We were the first school to have a swimming pool and won the swimming competition repeatedly for many years. The boys helped to dig the present pool in 1953.