Derwen College’s history starts with Dame Agnes Hunt: a pioneering woman of the Victorian era, and founder of Derwen College.
Despite having life-long disability in her hip, Agnes travelled the world, trained as a nurse and opened a convalescent home for children from Shropshire Infirmary.
As a child Agnes developed osteomyelitis in her hip. As a result she was in permanent pain and found walking difficult.
Despite this, she trained as a nurse and opened a convalescent home for children from Shropshire Infirmary. At Florence House in Baschurch, just fifteen miles from Gobowen, Agnes extolled the benefits of open-air treatment.
Agnes formed a professional partnership with Robert Jones, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon. Together they devoted their knowledge and skill to the service of people with physical disabilities – which led to the development of the Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry.
This, however, was not enough for Agnes Hunt. Despite receiving expert treatment, many patients were left with disabilities. This prevented them from taking their place in the industrial world.
Dame Agnes founded the Derwen Training College at the Orthopaedic Hospital, and a year later she purchased a farmhouse adjacent to the hospital called ‘The Derwen’. Here physically disabled young people could learn a trade, suitable to their disability, and become either partially or wholly self-supporting.
Ninety-five years on
Agnes Hunt was a visionary, but the facilities at Derwen College now would exceed even her most ambitious dreams.
As you can imagine, a lot has changed over the 95 years since Dame Agnes Hunt established (what was then known as) ‘Derwen Cripples’ Training College’. Those changes include the terminology we now use.
Agnes used descriptive language that would not be deemed appropriate today. Through our history timeline we wanted to include quotes and references to give you a sense of time and place – and to do that we have used Agnes’ own words.