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News & Events > School News > Exploring the Christian History of St Mary's School

Exploring the Christian History of St Mary's School

How did St Mary's School come into being? Who are our boarding houses named after? Why is our school connected to so many saints? These were just some of the questions posed to our Fourth Form pupils.
27 Feb 2023
Written by Hannah Castle
School News

How did St Mary’s School come into being? Who are our boarding houses named after? Why is our school connected to so many saints? These were just some of the questions posed to our Fourth Form as part of their Spring Term Donaldson Week.

The Religious Studies Department, via a range of activities, took the MIV through the history of the Christian heritage of the school, from its foundation to today. We began in the beautiful frosty morning copying the four friezes on the outside of our Dining Hall – friezes of Saints Prisca, Cecilia, Faith and Bridget – the latter two also gave their names to boarding houses in the school’s past.

Back indoors, away from the ‘friezing’ conditions outside, girls worked in groups to research and create posters based on one of these four Christian women – three of whom died in horrific circumstances, suffering for their faith. They provide an excellent example of courage, determination and commitment to belief in the face of adversity.

We then went into the Oratory, one of the oldest parts of the existing school building. We were delighted to have Mrs Elizabeth Christie, our wonderful school archivist and alum, guide us through pictures and artefacts, mostly relating to the religious life of the school but also, more broadly, about life as a student in St Mary’s throughout the school’s history.

The girls handled items carefully and asked great questions. Especially poignant was a school roll of honour of the fathers, brothers and husbands of past and present pupils who had been killed in the Second World War. The girls enjoyed reading the diary entries of Lizzy Buckeridge from the 1880s and felt that they would have got on very well with her!

After break, Father Jonathan led us into Calne town centre, taking in various sites of interest where former boarding houses still stand today. We took time to explore St Mary’s Parish Church and its strong and vital links to our school – not least to discover a plaque of the names of the original benefactors of the school and several references to Canon John Duncan, the vicar of the church and the founder of this institution 150 years ago.

After lunch, we were pleased to welcome Father Jeremy Cresswell who spoke to us warmly and enthusiastically about the Salisbury Diocese’s Sudan Link; only last week, both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury made headlines as they visited South Sudan. We learnt of the valuable work being done there by Christians to support the development of the newest nation in the world. Of particular interest is our Diocesan concern regarding the education of young girls, both at primary and secondary level, in South Sudan. This involves providing funds for the building of boarding houses, the training of teachers and setting up of bursaries for students who otherwise could not access any education at all. It shocked us to discover that a £35 annual donation can pay for one child’s fees at the schools. It brought home to our girls how privileged they are and how very different life can be for girls their age in South Sudan.

As we reflected on what had been learnt, through poems and discussion, we saw the important role the Christian community has had in the education of girls, both in the past, in our own history at St Mary’s, and continues to have today, on another continent. Great challenges remain and we hope that this day will not only have helped our girls recognise their place in the tradition of this institution, but also to make their own mark on history. It may be, in another hundred years, that what these girls achieve will make it into the archives!

Rev. Marc Thomas
Head of Religious Studies

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Calne
Wiltshire
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