Historic Croydon landmark dating back to the 9th century celebrates 125 years as a school.
One of Croydon’s oldest buildings, Old Palace of John Whitgift School, marked its 125th anniversary of educating girls with a Victorian banquet held in the School’s historic Banqueting Hall on Saturday 6 December.
Although the building dates back to the 9th century, the school was born in 1889, during the Victorian era where Queen Victoria had reigned for 52 years by the time the school opened.
Many of the 100 guests donned traditional dress and all enjoyed a Victorian-themed meal, concluding the evening with a rousing version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. For one former pupil it was her first visit back to the school in 50 years.
As guests made their way into the Banqueting Hall, a place many Kings and Queens have graced throughout history, there was a musical accompaniment by an Old Palace musician from the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Gondoliers - first performed the same year as Old Palace admitted its first students.
The 125th birthday celebrations have already included a Founders’ Day Service at Croydon Minster, and will continue with a Celebration Concert at Fairfield Halls in March and Street Party for the whole community at the start of the Croydon Heritage Festival week.
The Old Palace, from which the School takes its name, was a former residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury and was presented to the Community of the Sisters of the Church in 1887 by the seventh Duke of Newcastle. Two years later, the school opened its doors to 18 students on 9 September 1889.
Since that time, the school has been at the forefront of girls’ independent education and continues to provide opportunity for all through the generous bursary scheme offered by The Whitgift Foundation.
Carol Jewell, Head of Old Palace commented, “Staff, governors, parents and friends gathered in celebration of Victorian times to mark our 125th birthday in style. We all experienced the hand of history in our ancient Banqueting Hall looking down through the ages to Victorian times and indeed to present day. It was a truly memorable occasion.”