St Mary’s School, Cambridge celebrates the opening of its boarding house

30/01/2019

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Last week (23 January 2019), St Mary’s School, Cambridge officially opened its new boarding house rather significantly on ‘Mary Ward Day’ – the official birthday of founder Mary Ward. The beautiful three-storey development, which overlooks the Botanic Garden, provides an enhanced world-class school residence for up to 92 girls, with 50 bedrooms and three large communal spaces.

The celebration saw speeches from Sr Jane Livesey CJ, General Superior of the Congregatio Jesu, who also unveiled the commemoration plaque and Mgr Tony Rogers, who, while Parish Priest in Cambridge, was for many years the chaplain for and a governor of St Mary's. 

A Magnolia tree was planted outside the boarding house, and an additional tree was planted in the grounds of the Junior School to celebrate the opening, and to mark the School’s 120th anniversary. A fully-grown Magnolia tree – that was once part of Cambridge University’s Botanic Garden – is at the heart of the Senior School and over the years the Magnolia tree has come to symbolise St Mary's School.

The boarding house, originally known as Fordfield, was built in the 1860s by a prosperous hop merchant, Henry Joseph Wetenhall. Wetenhall Cottage was subsequently built in its grounds in 1930s as a home for Wetenhall's daughter in the later years of her life. It was rented out as a care home and became a well-regarded nursing home, known as Hope House.

St Mary’s purchased the property from the Holy Sisters of Bordeaux, redeveloped it and renamed it Mary Ward House, in honour of its founder. It is the perfect 'home from home' for the ‘family’ of approximately 90 international and UK boarders and staff.

Mary Ward (1585-1645), the School’s founder after whom the boarding house is named, was committed to the education of girls and women, and her vision inspired the creation of schools around the world; the School is part of a global network of almost 200 Mary Ward Schools.

“The official opening was a fantastic celebration of our boarding house”, said Claire Elliott, Head of Boarding. She added: “As we celebrate our 120th year of excellence in education, it is great to be able to enhance our boarding provision, providing a warm and welcoming home from home in the heart of Cambridge for local and international students alike”.

Matthew O’Reilly, Head of St Mary’s Junior School, commented: “The new Magnolia tree makes a beautiful addition to our Junior School garden, and further cements the girls’ understanding of the importance of the Magnolia tree to the School’s history”. 

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