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Saint Felix celebrates a remarkable 125 year history

It’s quite difficult to sum up 125 years of a school’s history…but we’ll give it a try!

A look through the Saint Felix press cuttings offers a plethora of stories about pupil achievements and activities across the past decades, including art prizes, award-winning poetry, acclaimed musical performances at local arts festivals, science competition success and regional, national and international sporting achievement. Charitable and community aware activities include fundraising for organisations such as the Access Community Trust, Street Child, Children in Need and The Loft Youth Centre and carol singing to care home residents.

Perusing a book about the school’s history: “Saint Felix School Southwold and The Old Felicians” by Bernard Keeling, tells a fascinating history of the school’s progression from its foundation in 1897 by Margaret Isabella Gardiner with seven female pupils in a residential house in Aldeburgh through various relocations and stages of development and growth until it’s final siting in purpose-built premises in Southwold.

Saint Felix has opened its doors to many notable figures across the years, including Rt Hon David Lloyd George OM, MP in 1935 and a visit by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1972.

The school has produced many remarkable “Old Felicians” – who include Barbara Denis de Vitre, OBE, Creator of a Role for Women Police (1918-23) and Corporal Josephine Robins, MM, one of first WAAFs to be Awarded the Military Medal (1934-36).

The school has survived two world wars, with two “evacuations” which involved temporary relocations in 1915-16 to a large Hydro at Moffat in Dumfriesshire then in 1940-45 to Tintagel and Somerset while the school buildings were requisitioned by the Army then the Navy and used as Headquarters of the Eastern Command for the D-Day landings. Saint Felix has in turn offered sanctuary to those fleeing conflict and persecution by opening its doors to 200 Jewish children from Europe in 1938 and more recently for refugees from Syria.

A delve into the Saint Felix Archive room brings the school history even more vividly to life, with multiple photograph albums and boxes of memorabilia from across the past centuries.

Following its partnership last May with renowned education provider, Inspired Learning Group (ILG), Saint Felix can continue to provide the best possible education and opportunities for students. Through this partnership, Saint Felix will benefit from a multi-million-pound investment that will go towards improving the school facilities and professional development opportunities, to enhance the school’s existing high standards of teaching and learning.  Already, the Saint Felix Nursery has been refurbished, to provide a vibrant and stimulating learning environment, and the theatre, used regularly by the whole school for productions and lectures, has also been refurbished. 

The school has enhanced its catering to better suit the changing needs of our students. And is exploring the possibility of making livery available within close proximity of the school for students who have an interest in equestrian. 

Recent academic highlights include top examination results for Saint Felix pupils. The school is top school in Suffolk and sits in the top 5% nationally for A Level progress. Recent sporting achievements include record-breaking wins by the St Felix Swimming Club in the Suffolk County Swimming Championships, great individual performances at local rugby clubs for Saint Felix Senior and Sixth Form pupils, top UK rankings for school tennis players and county representation for some of the Saint Felix Equestrian Team at the British Show Jumping academy and British Show jumping Norfolk teams. Cross country runners have been chosen for UK and Regional championships and netball players accepted as part of the U15 development pathway squad.

Celebrations to mark the school anniversaries have included the recreation of the Sunk Garden – first established in the early 1920s – in the school grounds. 2018 saw 300 students and staff take part in a 27km long “Founders Walk”, from the first school site in Aldeburgh.

The School’s anniversary in 2022 has been marked with an anniversary dinner for the school’s Sixth Formers and Year 11 pupils, complete with a talk by “Old Felician” and performer Deborah Evans Stickland.

A chapel service for Senior pupils will be held after school on Saint Felix Day itself – Tuesday 8 March– led by Head of Music Department – Noel Vine.

Memories will be shared across the day (and the whole week) using the thoroughly modern format of a dedicated hashtag: #SaintFelix125.  

An Inter-School Cross Country event takes place at the school on Friday and the School will open its doors once again on Saturday 12 March 10am-12.30pm for the Spring Open Morning – all are welcome.

Happy birthday to the amazing Saint Felix School.

Here’s to the next 1.25 centuries!

Are you an Old Felician who hasn’t been in touch with the school for a while? We invite you to update your details here

MEMORY WALL

“I’ve loved the variety and quantity of sport I have been able to try at Saint Felix, from football, rugby, cricket to swimming, shooting, fencing, athletics, cross country, squash and Modern Pentathlon. My best memories of taking part in sports at Saint Felix are being part of the swimming team winning the National English Schools Swimming Relay competition whilst in year 6, winning the under 17 gold medal in the National Schools Biathlon Championship team competition and being part of the numerous sports teams representing the school. The team spirit and support for each other is tremendous.”

Sam Stephens, Year 13

“One of my fondest memories from Sant Felix School was spending the night camping with my friends in year 3 on the Clough playing field. We had a camp fire with s’mores and hot chocolate and we were all very excited about staying up late. The highlight was being driven around the school grounds in a Land Rover in the dark..

The House Shout every year brings the whole school together and demonstrates the community spirit and talent at Saint Felix.”

Josh Stephens, Year 13 (pictured below in Pre-Prep uniform with his brother Sam)

“In 1977 I drove into the school in my little Fiat 500, fresh from University and Teacher’s Training college , having been invited for an interview. Though somewhat nervous  I thought how lovely it would be  if I got the job at St Felix  as a modern languages teacher.

“I spent some time with Daphne Gee the then head of department and got shown around the school. Finally she escorted me back to the entrance and said goodbye and ‘a bientot ‘!

 ‘Do you mean I have the job? ‘ I asked.

‘Oh yes, dear, see you in September!’

“Thus began my 45 year long association with St Felix including the education of my two daughters at the school.”

           Madame Crane (Roselyn Crane nee Holleyman – pictured below with her form in 1977-78)

Did you know?*

First school site in Aldeburgh was the loan of a holiday home owned by Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
The school started with just seven pupils
One of the early Southwold houses was exclusively French-speaking under the charge of Madame Naylor, the French mistress
Original school house names were after major contributors to the emancipation of women: Mary Somerville, Jemima Clough (who collaborated with Josephine Butler), Florence Nightingale and Elizabeth Fry (1906 Nightingale and Fry amalgamated to form Fawcett House, after Millicent Fawcett – the leader of the constitutional suffrage movement) and Charlotte Bronte.
1902 the school moved into its new buildings:
Lucy Mary Silcox was Headmistress 1906-26 – also a supporter of women’s suffrage as well as Greek drama.
1912-13 Violet Millar (who became Mrs Clement Attlee) attended Saint Felix and later invited the Old Felicians to hold their AGM at No.11 Downing Street
After a Zeppelin raid on Sheringham in 1915, the school evacuated to a large hydro at Moffat in Dumfriesshire then to The Hayes in Swanick – mid-Derbyshire.
1934 Chapel constructed and Cloisters completed as impressive new main entrance
1935 Rt Hon David Lloyd George OM., MP addressed the school’s first Speech Day – his granddaughter attended the school
1935 First (outdoor) swimming pool built
1938 Trenches were dug by Saint Felix pupils in anticipation of invasion
1938 200 Jewish Refugee Boys were given sanctuary
1940 The whole school evacuated to Tintagel and Somerset – Saint Felix buildings were requisitioned by the Army then the Navy – HQ of Eastern Command for the D-Day landings and visited by Churchill and Montgomery.
1945 The school was “back in business” after World War II: Janet Buchanan-Smith in 1992 OFC newsletter:
“everything was new and yet we felt we were coming home. Rules were disregarded for the moment. Clattering feet on wooden stairs and chattering voices were everywhere…”
1953 Great Flood hit much of Eastern England. A dramatic rescue of horses took place by Saint Felix staff from stables as water swept up Shepherds Lane
1962/3 New Science Labs above new Art Room on top
1971 Separate accommodation was created for Upper Sixth girls who were also not required to wear uniform!
1972 New swimming pool opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
1999 New Sports Hall opens
2002 School becomes co-educational

*Information taken from Saint Felix School Southwold and The Old Felicians: Pioneers in the Emancipation of Women since 1897 by Bernard Keeling with Nancie Pelling