Opportunity, diversity and excellence. These three words encapsulate the journey to excellence that pupils experience at Methody. We believe that their education should be exciting, exacting, enriching and ennobling. We work hard to provide our pupils with opportunities to excel, and we have high ambitions for them. But it is not just the academic results that the pupils achieve in and out of the classroom that are important; it is also the type of person that they become. There is little point in producing well qualified young adults if they do not also have a sense of moral duty and social responsibility. We are ambitious for ALL of our pupils. We do our best to prepare them to meet the demands of life beyond school, to be able to contribute positively to society. We try to develop in them a passion for learning, an understanding of social justice, of equality and of fairness; instilling values, building character, developing compassion, self-awareness and independence of thought and spirit. We are about building futures – better futures, a better future for us and a better future for our community – we are about making a difference.
In 1865, when Methodists in Ireland numbered only 23,000 out of a total population of six million, it was decided to build a college in Belfast, partly for the training of Methodist ministers and partly as a school for boys. Money was collected, mainly from the Irish Methodists but with help from England and America, and 15 acres of land were acquired on what were the very outskirts of the city at that time.
This land included the present College Gardens as well as the site on which the College stands. The foundation stone of the New Wesleyan College at Belfast (as it was originally known) was laid on 24th August 1865 by Sir William McArthur, a Londonderry businessman, who later became Lord Mayor of London.
Three years later, on 18th August 1868, the College was opened with 141 pupils. Just after the opening of the College a proposal that "young ladies" be educated on equal terms with the boys was accepted by the committee of Management, with the result that from the third month of its existence Methodist College has been a co-educational establishment.
In 1891 Sir William McArthur bequeathed a large sum of money towards the foundation of the hall of residence for girl boarders. The College steadily flourished and the enrolment increased. There was a rapid growth of numbers after 1920, when the theological department moved to Edgehill College thus releasing more accommodation for the school's use.
The College has continued to grow, with each decade seeing new developments and initiatives. The extensive grounds of Pirrie Park were acquired in 1932, and Downey House, one of two Houses in the Preparatory Department, was opened shortly afterwards. The Whitla Hall, built with a bequest from Sir William Whitla, was opened in December 1935.
In 1950, Fullerton House was established as a Preparatory Department on the Malone Road Campus and a major rebuilding scheme, which included the construction of 'K', 'L', and 'M' blocks, the large gymnasium, the Lecture Room, the Home Economics kitchens and canteen, and much additional renovation, was completed in 1954. New pavilions at Pirrie Park, the College boat house at Stranmillis Lock, and all-weather hockey pitches at Deramore added to the recreational facilities.
The 1960s and 1970s saw continuous building on the main site. This included science laboratories, a number of general and specialist class rooms a further science block, an indoor swimming pool and a new Music department.
In celebration of the Centenary, a large sum of money was raised through the generosity of 'old boys' and 'old girls', parents, staff, and others. Part of this was spent on the College Chapel. The fine organ in the chapel was a gift from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In 1972, a Sixth Form Centre was opened, with provision for recreational activities, private study and tutorial teaching.
The 1990s saw a number of major developments: a new Sports Hall, a new Art department, the Walton Building containing suites of classrooms for Technology and laboratories for Science, a Computer Studies suite and a Heritage Centre. In June 2005, the new Boathouse was opened at Stranmillis Lock.
Over the past ten years the iconic original College building, School House, and McArthur Hall have both been restored and refurbished to provide exceptional facilities that combine the architectural heritage of the College with the best of modern educational resources.