Memory Bank

An Update From The Archives

Our archivist Janette Ratcliffe sums up a month in the Archives, "It has been busy but brilliant! I have had the opportunity to showcase the Foundation’s history at four different events, and it has been a real pleasure to learn new things by talking to past pupils and staff about their time at the different schools."

Kicking off the programme was Heritage Open Day which was held on Sunday 9 September.  Building on the success of last year, over 100 visitors came for a tour of the College and an insight into the fascinating history of the Benedictine nuns that founded it.  Alex Darkes and Janette Ratcliffe squeezed in four tours within two hours and, just like last year, it was great to see such a mix of people attending, from OPs to new parents to people who regularly drive past and had always wanted to know more about the tower that they can see from the A423. Among the fascinating facts that were shared on the day were: that parts of Nuns Wood were once swapped for a taxi in an attempt to impress a girl by taking them on holiday, that the layout of the brickwork on the Priory was unusual as that particular style had been abandoned well before the 1830s for being too expensive (the ability to make the bricks on site might have been the reason that cost was ignored?) and that St. Marie’s Church in Rugby (which was also designed by a member of the Pugin family) has the same carved Stations of the Cross that the College has on the walls of the cloisters.

Then Saturday 22 September saw the return of some of the Very Special Old Princethorpians to Princethorpe College. The archive display was a real focal point during the day and there was lots of reminiscing going on when a memory was sparked by the photographs or magazines. During the course of the day, Janette was able to interview three Old Girls in detail about their time at the school and also had six donations of material including postcards, photographs, exercise books and newspaper articles, which was fabulous. What was clear from the day was that the bond between the Old Girls and the memories they had of the school were as strong today as they were over 50 years ago when the school closed.

The Open Morning on Thursday 27 September was a chance to showcase the history of the Priory and how things have changed over the years. Having printed a plan of the different floors of the school, Janette delved into the archives to find a variety of photographs showing what the building would have looked like in the past. Seeing images of the Library when it was full height as the original chapel and the Round House, the original site of the nun’s cemetery, certainly grabbed people’s attention! The images of the grounds without the Sixth Form Centre and the Limes also helped demonstrate just how much Princethorpe College has evolved in recent years. One OP remembers having to sit exams in what is now the library but he didn’t seem ‘too’ traumatised to be back.

The final event of the month was the Crescent School 70th Anniversary on Saturday 29 September. Whilst the archives only hold a fairly small collection from Crescent School, what they do hold certainly got people talking. Having a number of trip diaries from the Derbyshire Residential was a real hit with old pupils gathering together over them and sharing their memories (good and not-so-good) about the hikes, trips and antics in the evenings back at the Youth Hostel. Cherry Bradley who taught at Crescent for 30 years, and who had made the trip up from Devon to attend the event, was a real pleasure to talk to.  She shared information about both the original school at Horton Crescent and the move to Bawnmore Road and the school is looking forward to following it up with a more in-depth conversation in the near future. She brought with her a variety of photographs which will be scanned and added to the Crescent School collection! A special thanks also goes to Sally Dowling, who has been fantastic at talking to past pupils and also raiding her mother’s house to collect more items for the archive.

Janette continued, "If this month has shown anything, it is how special our Archive is here at the Princethorpe Foundation and for it to continue to grow, we are reliant upon donations. If you would like to give anything to the Archive, please get in touch. We are very happy to receive scans of items if you do not want to part with the originals. We do not just collect magazines and calendars, but also take clothing and other objects associated with the school. We are looking for your memories too and always welcome old stories!"

To contact our archivist please email

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