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News > ORA News > ORA Heritage Projects Update March 2022

ORA Heritage Projects Update March 2022

An update on the ORA Heritage Projects by ORA Vice President Noelle Chase (Thompson, No. 4, 1970-75)
22 Mar 2022
ORA News

The Heritage of Roedean School surrounds us in the very fabric of the School buildings and its artefacts. As Old Roedeanians we are steeped in its history. Today's Roedeanians may be surprised to hear that when you return to school in 10, 20, 50 years' time walking (walk, don’t run!) down main corridor will feel perfectly natural if you have never been away. The artefacts described below have been part of your school days.

In 2019 the ORA were invited to visit the school and identify individual Heritage Projects that we thought Old Roedeanians would like to see conserved and restored and might be keen to contribute to.


At the top of our list is the sundial or astrolabe, erected in 1899 and occupying the focal point on the front terrace. The astrolabe was given to the school by its architect Sir John Simpson to commemorate his daughter Clara’s time at school  (Clara Carrick Simpson, No. 4, 1897-99). It originally carried a touching inscription to his daughter. A century of wind and salt erosion has not been kind. The inscription has disappeared completely, the stonework is in need of repair and the brass calculation plate in need of cleaning and conservation. 



In Houses 1,2 and 3 above the fireplaces in House Mistress’s Drawing room you will find Friezes painted by Sylvia Lawrence between 1898 and 1905 whilst she taught art at school. Sylvia was the sister of the schools' founders. She was simply a trailblazer, wall painting was not something women artists did at that time. Each frieze is totally different and stunning but a century of damp, sea air and grime has taken its toll so we must SAVE them.



In 1914, to celebrate two Roedeanians being awarded scholarships at Cambridge University the girls were given a day's holiday. With much excitement girls from the 4 boarding houses visited 4 naval war ships anchored in the channel: HMS Collingwood, Neptune, Hercules and Canterbury. The trip was arranged by the father of a Roedeanian, Dorothy Nichol (Royds, No. 3, 1914-18), who was in command of one of the ships. He was later to become Admiral Sir Percy Royds, being knighted for political and public services. He was also a member of the School Council from 1931-1945. Each ship was presented with a white ensign, which was flown at the Battle of Jutland – generally acknowledged as the last great naval sea battle. In 1919 when the ships were de-commissioned the ensigns were returned and hung in the Chapel for nearly 80 years before being taken down and stored. Think how many Roedeanians have sat in Chapel beneath these ensigns? The ORA would like to conserve and restore the ensigns so they may once again be hung in the chapel.

As many of you know the School has a long association with HMS Vernon having been used as their training establishment throughout World War 2. The HMS Vernon ensign left with the school in 1945 and shown in the picture flying from the flagstaff on D Day is also in need of repair so that it can be re-hung alongside the ensign donated by HMS Vernon’s Commanding officer in 1985 when the school celebrated its centenary.


The fountain in the Chapel cloisters was given to the school in 1906 by OR Muriel Abbott (No. 2, 1894-99). The marble is chipped and cracked, part of the inscription is missing, the pedestal has been removed and the fountain itself modified. The pump, pipework, and electrical wiring all need replacing. 


In the 1920’s and 30’s under the guidance of the then art teacher D B Martin, girls created the very beautiful tiles that adorn the walls in the art studio. Coloured painted ceramic tiles and brown ‘intaglio’ tile depicting scenes of school life are stunning but in need of conservation and repair to preserve them.

The ORA has sourced and obtained advice from specialist conservators and cost estimates for the repair, conservation, and restoration of all these Heritage Projects.

We want to SAVE these artefacts for future generations of Roedeanians to enjoy and to remind us all of their history.


What happens next?

We are obtaining specialist advice and estimates for the cost of repair and restoration. We will not be seeking donations until we have cost estimates. We then plan to approach ORs for support. In the meanwhile, expressions of interest (and possibly pledges) for the Heritage Projects will be welcome (or for individual projects if preferred). Please register your support by email to and let us know if you would like us to contact you.

 Please click here to view the ORA Heritage Projects Update Brochure. 


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