Roedean School: founded in 1885

Please note that this text is an extract from a reference work written in 1990.  As a result, some of the content may not reflect recent research, changes and events.

This most famous of girls’ schools was founded in October 1885, with ten girls and no particular name, at 25 Lewes Crescent by the Misses Dorothy, Millicent and Penelope Lawrence, in an effort to provide more than the rudimentary education that it was then customary for girls to receive. The school also took in 3 Arundel Terrace, 27 Lewes Crescent and 37 Chesham Road before moving to 35-37 Sussex Square as the Wimbledon House School; nos.34 and 29 Sussex Square were then taken in 1892 and 1893 respectively. The school had a playing-field off Roedean Road where East Brighton Park now lies.
The large school buildings at Roedean were designed by Sir John Simpson on an eighteen-acre site purchased from the Marquess of Abergavenny. Construction commenced in March 1897, the foundation stone was laid on 26 July 1897 by Mrs Henry Sidgwick, principal of Newnham College, Oxford, and Roedean School opened in January 1899. The Flemish-style main building has large gables, a clock tower, and a 500-foot frontage; the four projecting bays are the school’s houses. Several new developments were added before the Second World War ; twenty-four more acres were purchased in 1903 and another seventy-seven in 1930; a new chapel was dedicated in May 1906 by the Bishop of Chichester; a swimming-pool first opened in 1907; the junior school and sanatorium were opened in 1908; a new wing and a tunnel to the beach were added in 1910; Roedean House was built in the 1920s; and the Lawrence science building opened in July 1928. In 1938 Roedean School was incorporated by Royal Charter.
During the war the buildings were used by H.M.S. Vernon , a torpedo and electrical training establishment. The school itself was removed to the Keswick Hotel in Cumberland, but returned in January 1946 and now has 485 pupils, all boarders. Several further additions have included: the dining hall (1964); indoor swimming-pool (1970); Lawrence (sixth-form) House (1974); and the sports hall (1986). On 7 October 1985 a time-capsule was laid to mark the school’s centenary.

Any numerical cross-references in the text above refer to resources in the Sources and Bibliography section of the Encyclopaedia of Brighton by Tim Carder.

Comments about this page

  • Worked at Roedean School 1982-2004.  A great school with great teachers and staff. If you have a young daughter do register her now because it’s money well invested for her future.

    By Barry Harvey (14/08/2008)
  • Hi Barry, I remember you and your Alsation! You might remember me – no idea. Anyway, you say money well invested – but sadly no way I could spend that on my children – what has happened to the prices? Or am I just in the wrong profession? Guess so! Amazing how the buildings don’t seem to have changed in 90 years on this site!

    By Natasha Grist (19/10/2008)
  • Very interesting. This is a wonderful building that stands out. The Lawrence sisters were really ahead of their time.

    By Frank Cross (08/07/2009)

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