Chatham Hall

Coordinates: 36°49′32″N 79°23′21″W / 36.82556°N 79.38917°W / 36.82556; -79.38917

Chatham Hall

Type Private, Boarding
Motto Esto Perpetua
Religious affiliation(s) Episcopal
Established 1894
Head of School Rachel Connell
Faculty 22 academic
30% with PhDs
12 arts and physical education
Enrollment 160
Average class size 9 students
Student to teacher ratio 5:1
Campus 362 acres (1.46 km2)
Color(s) Purple and gold    
Athletics 10 Interscholastic Sports
Mascot Turtle

Chatham Hall is an all-girls college-preparatory boarding school located in Chatham, Virginia, United States. Graduating classes are fewer than fifty students each year. The school was founded as Chatham Episcopal Institute in 1894, Chatham Hall. The athletics teams play in the Blue Ridge Conference. Chatham Hall is accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) and is a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).


Pruden Hall, Chatham Episcopal Institute, from a postcard, pre 1920

The Honor Code is a vital tradition at Chatham Hall and is strictly followed. It states "I will not lie. I will not cheat. I will not steal. I will report all infractions of honor." Any honor infraction will result in a "council case" held by the student council, a group of 12 seniors elected by the students and faculty.

The lantern ceremony and ring ceremony are held by the junior and senior classes the night before graduation when the junior class members officially receives their class rings and assume leadership of the school from seniors. Each senior girl seals the back of her junior ring-sister's ring with melted wax from her lantern. Since the inception of Chatham Hall, the class ring has not changed; it is a simple white or yellow gold band with the school's crest engraved into an oval red sardonyx stone.

"Senior Night in the Well" takes place when the senior class puts on a Christmas play for the rest of the school the night of Decoration Day, when everyone in the school is assigned a part of the school to decorate. Juniors are in charge of decorating the dining hall (Yardley Hall), the Sophomores are in charge of decorating St. Mary's Chapel, and the Freshman make wreaths to hang on the doors of the school.

Cookie Break is a long-standing tradition where every Wednesday morning the girls gather in the Arcade to eat cookies, fruit and beverages.

The New Girl picnic starts off the school year traditions every year with a picnic and the first athletic rivalries among the purple and gold teams. This is also when the new girls are placed on either the Purple Team or Gold Team.

Additionally, there are many "underground" societies that are composed of senior girls, taken in at the end of their junior year by graduating members. As part of the tradition, the meaning of the titles of these societies is known to only the senior girls and those who have already graduated. The administration has sought without success to dismantle these societies.

"Wills" are items that are passed on from student to student. The criteria for who these items are passed down to is pre-determined. The items that are willed can range from posters to t-shirts. For example, a humorous sign is willed from a Junior student to a Freshman student. The Freshman would then hold on to the will until she reached her Junior year at which point she would then will the sign to a new Freshman girl. This tradition, like most, promotes relationship-building between the girls of differing graduating classes.

For the past nine years during the summer, Chatham Hall has hosted Jacob's Ladder, an enrichment program for AIG (Academically Intellectually Gifted). Students from North Carolina and Virginia board on campus for about a month and a half.

Sims-Mitchell House, Chatham, early home of Chatham Hall after fire of 1906

Chatham Hall Chapel

Chatham Hall's Chapel has quite a history of its own. The windows of the Chapel are a sequential story of medieval heroines. All are crafted by hand in a 15th-century-style stained glass. The stories progress in a timeline from right to left in the chapel. When one first enters the Chapel, the story-telling begins at the back right corner, continues along the pews until the altar, and then begins again on the left side back to the arched wooden entrance. At the very rear of the chapel, one would find the "Rose Window," a large circular, blue-toned window depicting the Virgin Mary and Christ. The Virgin overlooks all the other saints' windows. This set-up was done to demonstrate how Christ looked after all of the saints and would continue to look after the Chatham Hall girls throughout their academic career at Chatham Hall.

Beyond the stained-glass windows, the Chapel is a staple in the life of a Chatham Hall student. Chapel is required three times a week and all of the student's most important days of the four-year school experience are centered in the Chapel from day one at the welcoming ceremony clear through to the Senior Chapel Talks given by all senior Chatham Hall students.

The chapel talks given by the Senior girls are emotional and cathartic in value. They provide insight into the student that the other students might not have been aware of. The Chapel Talks are done to bring the students together, demonstrate the strength of each particular student, and to draw the student's senior year to a close prior to commencement.


Chatham Hall offers a wide array of interscholastic and intramural sports. These sports include field hockey, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, cross-country, tennis, golf, volleyball, swimming, and riding.

Chatham Hall is well known for its riding program and facilities, including the Mars Riding Arena and Hunter Trial Field. The campus is home to more than 40 horses, two additional teaching arenas, and plenty of trails throughout the rolling hills. The riding program teaches hunt seat equitation, the Modern Forward Riding System, with an emphasis on horse and rider communication. It also focuses on stable management, ensuring that students learn to be true horsewomen, not just riders. More advanced students are encouraged to compete locally and nationally, and regularly take home notable ribbons, trophies, and titles. The program consists of a Varsity and Junior Varsity team. Both Varsity and JV riders have the option to join Chatham Hall's Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) team. The IEA team has won many titles since its inception in 2011, including Reserve Champion at IEA Nationals during the 2014–2015 season.

Chatham Hall offers an increasingly competitive swimming and diving program which has produced numerous collegiate swimmers, including Division 1 athletes. The team trains at Hargrave Military Academy at its Olympic-size pool and won four Blue Ridge Conference Championship titles in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

In addition, the school offers dance during the athletics period each day after classes. Classes include ballet, contemporary, and choreography. There are three performances each year, and they are based around student-choreographed pieces. Guest artists come to teach classes at Chatham Hall. These classes include hip hop, African dance, and classical ballet.

Notable alumnae


The film Crazy People (1990) was filmed at Chatham Hall, starring Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah.

Chatham Hall was mentioned in the novel Betrayed.

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