John Marden

John Marden (1855 – 1924) headmaster, pioneer of women’s education
John Marden was the first principal of the Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Croydon, NSW.

John Marden was born in Prahran, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Marden was the fifth child of English parents, John Marden, a butcher, and his wife Catherine, née Murphy. He was educated at the The Geelong College and the University of Melbourne, where he graduated as a Master of Arts in Mathematics and Physics.

Whilst completing his law degree, Marden married a schoolteacher, Jane Armstrong at Cape Clear, on 20 December 1883. He also returned to his old school, The Geelong College, this time as a teacher under notable educator George Morrison, moving to the Methodist Ladies’ College, Melbourne (M.L.C Melbourne) as a Science master three years later.

In July 1887, the committee of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales advertised for an appropriate Principal for its new school, The Presbyterian Ladies’ College in Sydney. Marden applied for the position and was unanimously selected “because of his high academic standing, his experience and success in teaching and his high Christian character.” He opened the school with 39 students on 30 January 1888, at Fernlea, a fourteen-roomed gentleman’s residence in Ashfield (the current site of the Masonic Hospital), with Miss M. McCormick as lady superintendent. Together with the Committee set up by the Presbyterian Church in N.S.W for establishing P.L.C, he was responsible for organising the curriculum and hiring the appropriate staff.

In 1890, after his examination in jurisprudence, the University of Sydney conferred on him the degree of LL.D. That year the College had outgrown the Ashfield site, and so the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales purchased Shubra Hall, the home of Anthony Hordern III, at Croydon. Marden worked closely with Albert Bond, the architect of the new school, and was responsible for most of the ideas for the new buildings, based on what he had seen at M.L.C Melbourne. Keenly interested in horticulture, he also laid out impressive gardens and playing fields.

In 1916, due to the overwhelming popularity of the Presbyterian Ladies’ College, and under Marden’s guidance, the school bought 50 acres (20 ha) at Pymble for £15,000, and established a second campus, The Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Pymble (now Pymble Ladies’ College). Both campuses were administered by a single council until 1929. Marden was Headmaster of the two schools until ill health forced his resignation in 1919.

John Marden was active in the Presbyterian Church, serving as an elder at Ashfield for 28 years, and for his last six years at Wentworth Falls. He died at Randwick on 29 October 1924 at 69 years of age, and was buried in South Head Cemetery.

The headmaster replacing him at PLC was Neil McQueen :

Principals of the Presbyterian Ladies’ College :

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