Driving toward the castle, one notices that the expansive 25-acre grounds are immaculately manicured, framing a wide driveway that elegantly leads to the front door. The castle wouldn’t look out of place in a centuries-old town in England, but it’s not there. It’s in Whitby, and it houses Trafalgar Castle School, a 140-year-old girls’ school with about 200 students.
The castle was originally the private residence of Nelson Gilbert Reynolds, a business man who was appointed sheriff of Durham. He wanted to build a spectacular home for his family, and began construction in 1869. The castle, complete with towers and turrets, took three years to build, and the wood and glass was shipped from England — no small feat in those days. He sold the home in 1874, and it became the Ontario Ladies College. It was named Trafalgar Castle School in 1979, apparently because Reynolds was a fan of Lord Nelson, famous for the Battle of Trafalgar.
“Our school is unique,” says Sharon Magor, director of admissions and marketing for Trafalgar. “Most other schools were built as schools; ours was built as a home.” And that sense of home has not been lost in the school. Inside are 73 rooms, along with tunnels and passageways. The wood and glass that was so painstakingly shipped from England 140 years ago has been perfectly preserved.
“We try to maintain the castle in its original state, but inside is the latest and the greatest,” says Magor. The latest and greatest includes courses from around the world. The school teaches critical thinking and analysis based on a program from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. An English writing course is from the University of Chicago, Latin is based on a program at the University of Cambridge in London, and since math students in Singapore consistently rank first in world-wide testing, Trafalgar students learn Singapore Math.
The continually evolving courses give the students an advantage, as does attending an all-girls school. “Girls learn differently so we can adjust the curriculum to the needs of girls,” says Magor. “They gain self-confidence, have improved self-esteem and develop their own voice. They don’t have to impress anyone, and they can be who they are, the smartest person here.”
Trafalgar also has programs to encourage leadership. Students meet twice a day with an academic advisor so they can get help with learning strategies and social issues. There is a young sister-older sister club to provide role modelling opportunities. And students who board at the school have resident teachers so they have someone they can go to in the evenings and early mornings.
Susie Healy’s three daughters, Meagan, 16, Rachel, 14, and Bridget, 12, attend the school now. “Trafalgar has given our daughters a strong sense of self-esteem and confidence,” she says. “They all feel empowered to reach beyond expectations, and they surprise us with their poise and determination in all kinds of situations.”
“Girls at Trafalgar will thrive and shine,” says Magor. “We are like a big family here because of our size. Being in a place like this with the support they have here is an opportunity of a lifetime. The gift that boarding school gives students is the gift of time. We have so much time to work with them, that it’s priceless.”