Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

NEWS AND PUBLICATIONS > From the Archives > Flashback Friday - The 1930's

Flashback Friday - The 1930's

Black blazers, golf lessons and excursions to Roseville Baths - read about life at Loreto Normanhurst in the 1930's.

A Bleak Beginning to the Decade

We left our story of Loreto Normanhurst on the precipice of a major world event. In October 1929, the Wall Street market crash would plunge global economies into turmoil, and envelope the 1930's in the 'Great Depression'. 

Loreto Normanhurst certainly did not emerge unscathed. For the IBVM Sisters, the timing could not have been worse. The welcomed construction of the new Givendale Wing extension was completed in 1929, giving the Boarding School its dining refectory (still in use today!) and additional living spaces. But to cover the costs of this project, the Sisters had taken out a loan - one that was sustainable with usual interest rates. When the market crashed, however, the interest on borrowed finances caused great strain to the already modest funds of the School. 

Photograph of original School building ('1897 building') with new Givendale Wing extension

Enrolments unsurprisingly fell with many families losing their source of income. In 1929 there were 84 enrolled pupils. By 1933, this number had dropped to 45 boarders and days girls across the entire school. 

During her visit to Normanhurst in 1932, the Provincial, Mother Theresa Gertrude O'Sullivan observed: 

"Owing to the universal depression the number of boarders is lower than in previous year. The debt is... a great strain to meet the big interest every half year."1

Hard times were not to last however; numbers began to recover and by the decade's end there were 66 Normo girls in attendance. As the School was quite self-sufficient, the Sisters were fortunate to have a constant supply of food for the boarders; the established orchards, vegetable gardens, chickens and cows kept the community well-fed. And of course, there was certainly no shortage of Loreto bread! 


Loreto Life and Learning

As we know, the Loreto Sisters were involved in all aspects of the girls' education, teaching sports, music and art in addition to the set curriculum. Mother Oliver O'Doherty, for example, took great joy in writing poetry and plays for the girls to perform in this decade: 

"December 6th - Children's Concert. Quite a splendid one. The orchestra was extra good and greatly admired. So too the choral work. The play - a little drama by M.M. Oliver - was pronounced 'uplifting.'(1930)

The Sisters also continued to consult outside experts or 'visiting masters' throughout the 1930's. Some new specialist subjects introduced in this decade include economics, geology and botany, as well as orchestra and choir, elocution, dress-making, physical culture, dancing, tennis, golf and even horse-riding. 

 "Golf Class - coach comes here once a fortnight and the next fortnight the class goes to the Oatland's Links - a rather expensive trip, but a much enjoyed one. At the Golf contest at the Women's Golf Club, about 20 girls went to Oatlands. The golf team played and Joyce Pierce won a trophy."2 (1933)

Photo of the 'Golf Class' in 1933

Special lectures continued into the new decade. In 1933, Mr Hill gave a lecture on photography (a popular pastime) and Mr Gellling spoke on the League of Nations, with a note that 'everyone was deeply interested in this lecture.'2 A group of boys from St. Aloysius' College also visited LN in 1937, to give a debating demonstration to our girls. They were under strict observation, however, to ensure no mingling could occur before or after the debate! 

Sports continued to be popular with our boarders and competitions became a great way to interact with girls from other schools. Our Normo girls certainly left it all out on the courts in 1939, dominating the inter-school basketball matches. The A & B teams apparently stormed their way to victory against Kincoppal-Rose Bay, Monte Sant' Angelo, Loreto Kirribilli and Santa Sabina!  

Other highlights of the 1930's included film nights (including the first 'talkie' in 1932!), concerts, and special visits to Roseville baths, organised on Mother Superior's Feast Days and St Patrick's Day. 

"19th November - Mother Superior's Feast - the whole school, chaperoned by Miss Margaret Fleming, went to the Pymble Surf Baths for a swim - a bit cold!"2 (1934) 


Through Your Lens 

Photo captioned 'Battie, Mary K and Bo' (Patricia Labbatt, Mary Woods and Lorna Bowen, 1938). 

Although the decade is often characterised as one of crisis, the felicity of the Loreto Normanhurst community remained constant throughout the 1930's. 

We were incredibly fortunate to have many gorgeous candid photos donated to Archives from the late Norma Cunningham (Coates, 1933), Helen Hancock  (Deakin, 1938) and Lorna Sheridan (Veech, 1943), prior to the School's Centenary celebrations.

Please enjoy the lovely snapshots of life and friendship in the 1930's in the gallery below. 


Next #flashbackfriday we'll be looking at Loreto Normanhurst in the 1940's - where war threatened the home-front. 

Get in touch with us! We want to feature your favourite photos and memories of your time at LN - whether that was 5 or 50 years ago. Leave a comment or send us your story via the Share News button at the bottom of the page. 


Ms Rachel Vaughan 

Records Manager


  1. M.M. Teresa Gertrude O'Sullivan IBVM. Loreto Normanhurst Convent Visitation Book. 1932. Normanhurst: NSW. 
  2. Record of Boarders (1908-1942). Loreto Normanhurst Enrolment Registers. Normanhurst: NSW. 

ARCHIVES gallery

To view this News Article

Similar stories

Laying of the Foundation Stone, 31 May 1953

Celebrating 70 years since the laying of the Chapel's Foundation Stone, bringing the community together for various events and creating cherished memories. More...

Photo 543 - Loreto Province Archives

How a family from Holland became part of the Loreto Normanhurst story More...

Pinafores, the arts, sing-a-longs and the space race - read about Loreto Normanhurst in the sensational 1960's. More...

Loretto, Hornsby, 1898 (first wing)

To celebrate 125 years we've created an Archives page! Find snapshots of LN's history and share your stories and photogr… More...

1959 - admiring a television in the Reception Room

The Trapp Family Singers, major building projects and a new home for the novices - this was Loreto Normanhurst in the fa… More...

Have your say

This website is powered by