As we come together, today, to celebrate our school’s 90th birthday, we wanted to take some time to reflect on the school’s history and inspirational foundresses.
Our Foundresses, Elizabeth Rendall and Ivy King established Rye St Antony, a Lay-Catholic school in Oxford, after visiting the Church of St Antony at Rye in Sussex. We are lucky to have Ivy’s illuminating account of the history of the school in her book Ask St Antony and her stories shed light on the determination, resilience, and sense of fun of the Rye community.
On 25 September 1930 the teaching of 8 day pupils began from a property belonging to the Duff family at 86 Hamilton Road, Oxford. A move was soon made to a larger building on Woodstock Road and it was here that the School began to take in boarders. In 1939 the school purchased the Langley Lodge on Pullen’s Lane and acquired the neighbouring Croft and Cottage, now our boarding houses, a few years later.
Elizabeth Rendall and Ivy King were keen to provide the facilities that boarders and day girls needed. Ivy and her sister Gwen recognised how fortunate they were to grow up in a household where varied activities were always taking place and this influenced their vision for Rye, which was to provide a school where pupils could gain fulfilment through exploring a broad range of interests alongside their academic studies – to allow each child to be their own individual. It was during Miss King’s time as Headmistress between 1959 and 1976 that there was much development of the school, including the construction of the Rendall Building and a purpose-built science laboratory. In her memoirs, Ivy noted how the new stage in the Rendall Memorial Hall transformed entertainment at Rye and how it was now possible for the whole school to attend Mass together.
One tradition that has stayed with us is the beloved Tangerine Party. This dates back to the Second World War when rationing was enforced and gifts of fruit and other treats were donated to pupils. Over time the Tangerine Party has grown, from the informal annual Carol Party that was held in the Long Room to the large and energetic carol sing along that is hosted in the Rendall Hall to this day. Pupils, parents and staff gather in the Hall for the annual tradition of sharing the Rye Christmas cake, singing Christmas carols and songs and receiving a tangerine. The Tangerine Party is a highly anticipated event and a great way to celebrate the end of the Michaelmas term.
Today, as we look back over our 90 years of educating the individual, we continue to be incredibly grateful and inspired by our founders in their forward thinking approach to education. We are proud that Rye carries the same values and ambitions now as it did 90 years ago. Ivy King and Elizabeth Rendall, to this day, are an inspiration to the girls who attend and the staff who teach and we are proud that each individual leaves us as ambitious, curious and individual young people because of the experience they have had at Rye.