Dances and Balls

Dances were definitely part of the School calendar from very early days, often being held in family homes, where “sprung floors”  in ballrooms were not uncommon. By 1918 the Assembly hall at No 20 Fitzherbert Terrace had outgrown these events and the Goring Street Hall was often hired. The move to Karori and the opening of the Founders’ Hall provided room for three or four hundred dancers, with a serving hatch for supper. In 1944  Miss  Mayhew asked the Old Girls to organise a series of “tea dances” for her senior girls to lessen the isolation  of being in Karori. Boys from Wellington College and Scots College were invited as well as brothers, and friends of brothers. The dances became so popular that several were held each year.

Boarders dance, 1959
The Senior Boarders also had a dance in the Dining Room (Cultural Centre) and Hall-Sitting room with supper being served down in the Common Room. Like the Hall these rooms were transformed by decoration and lights. Best behaviour by students and partners was demanded, and adhered to, as it was easy to slip on to Headmistress’s “black list” and not be invited again. 

With no parents on hand to advise, the boarders dress and make-up was carefully checked by the matrons. Dresses were required to be demure and not revealing, and no eye make up was to be worn. The checks were rigorous. The Parents’ Association were always on hand to help run these occasions and make sure there were no gate-crashers or breaches of security - a regular tour of the grounds with a torch ensured that there was no serious “romancing.”  The Archives has the Association’s 1966 guidelines for running dances and they seem to have changed little over the years. Currently dances are held for each year group in a variety of venues, although it is interesting to note that after many years the Senior Cabaret has returned to the Cultural Centre.

Marsden Debs, 1937

The Debutante ball was an annual event , usually in May and was held from the 1930s through to 1972. A Debutante Ball was a hang over from colonial times when "young ladies" were introduced to society - just as in England young ladies were presented at Court. In Wellington it was expected that you had not been to a public ball before you were presented at the School Ball. White dresses were worn and the occasion was usually in the May following the year the student had left school. Initially they were in the Founder's Hall at school, but later they were held in the Majestic Ball Room in Willis Street and organised by the Parents' Association . In 1972 this occasion ceased, for lack of numbers, and the Leavers' Ball was instituted. This was held on the last day of school or a few days after, and parents and friends were invited. It has now become a highly regarded tradition at Marsden. There is no compulsion to attend the ball which is currently held in the Town Hall and students are presented to the Bishop. One of the conditions of this ball is that the students do not wear black. One of the previous Bishops had said that he did not want to present a group of middle aged females to society  - so there is a wonderful assortment of bright colour with students showing their individuality

Marsden Debs, 1959

Group at the with Bishop Norman Marsden Leavers Ball, 1983