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Roedean at 125

PUBLISHED: 00:18 27 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:14 20 February 2013

Roedean at 125

Roedean at 125

One of Brighton's most famous and enduring landmarks, Roedean School is celebrating its 125th birthday

Founded in 1885 by three entrepreneurial sisters, Penelope, Dorothy and Millicent Lawrence - known locally as the Firm, Roedean was originally located on a site in Lewes Crescent in central Brighton, moving to its spectacular cliff top site 13 years after the school first opened its doors.
Although the school has been a feature of Brighton life for more than 100 years, little is known about Roedeans quirkier side. To mark the schools birthday, here are 10 little known facts about Roedean


1. The Firm
The school's founders and first three joint principals, Penelope, Dorothy and Millicent Lawrence, came from a family of 14 siblings which included two sets of twins! Many other members of the Lawrence family contributed to the schools success and at one time eight sisters were teaching at Roedean.


2. Roedean, South Africa
A sister school, also called Roedean School, was co-founded by the youngest Lawrence sister, Theresa, in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1903.
Establishing the school was a huge achievement considering it was set up right in the midst of the gold rush to the Witwatersrand and just after the controversial Boer Wars.
Roedean South Africa flourishes today with 800 pupils.


3. Silk uniforms
Another Lawrence sister, Sylvia, designed the schools iconic school uniform, the djibbah a short-sleeved tunic worn over the top of a white long-sleeved blouse and woollen tights. The djibbah was reputedly inspired by the dress of North African tribesmen and students had a day djibbah made of thick wool serge and an afternoon djibbah made of silk or velvet. Individuality was encouraged in the design of each afternoon djibbah, so girls could choose their own favourite colour silk and personalise the neckline from a selection of birds and flowers in a book of designs developed especially for Roedean. The last djibbahs were worn in the late Forties, when it proved impossible to get the materials after the War.

4. Roedeans very own Wembley Towers

The school was designed by Sir John Simpson, who went on to help design the original Wembley Stadium.
You can see echoes of his signature style for Wembley in the towers he designed for Roedean.


5. Secret tunnel
The school has a private tunnel that leads from inside the school grounds, under Marine Drive and out onto the Undercliff Walk. Built in 1910, pupils could make their way down safely and quickly to the sea for a swim. Girls today still delight in surprising dog walkers and joggers when the tunnel door is opened!


6. Longest school corridor in Europe
Roedeans main internal corridor is an eighth of a mile, which makes it the longest school corridor in a girls school in Europe.


7. The only girls school in the country with an Old Boys Association
Roedean may be one of the only girls school in the country allowed to fly the Royal Navy Ensign - in honour of the role it played in the Second World War. After the evacuation of the pupils, Roedean became HMS Vernon, home to over 30,000 sailors attending the Mining and Torpedo School and working for the electrical branches of the Navy. As a result of this Roedean is perhaps the only girls school in the country to have an Old Boys Association!


8. Blue plaque
The blue heritage plaque that marks the building, originally occupied by the school building in Lewes Crescent, was not actually put in place by English Heritage, but by a proud owner of the property.


9. The biggest bathroom in the world?
The interior of Roedeans chapel is clad in Italian marble. Although the work on the chapel started in 1906, the cost of the marble cladding meant it wasn't completed until 1953. Due to the marble and acoustics in the chapel, it has been affectionately nicknamed the bathroom by the girls!

10. Famous pupils

Roedean pupils span the world of entertainment, sport, human rights, politics and science. The diverse Roedean alumni body includes up and coming Hollywood star Rebecca Hall, world record holding freediver Tanya Streeter, philanthropist and politician Zerbanoo Gifford, creator of the London A-Z, Phyllis Pearsall, childrens author Adle Geras, one of the founders of the hospice movement, Dame Cicely Saunders and Coronation Street icon, Ida Barlow Noel Dyson.
Famous fictional pupils include Tarzans great grand-daughter, the head of PR in TV series Hotel Babylon and the wife of a Time Lord from Doctor Who!


Roedean is the independent girls boarding school in Brighton

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