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Agnes Hunt memorial stone under cherry blossom

TES Winner Speciaist Provider of the Year 2021

Derwen College’s history starts at Dame Agnes Hunt’s Baschurch home, fifteen miles from Gobowen.

Dame Agnes Hunt aged 12
Dame Agnes Hunt aged 12

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, 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.

She purchased a farmhouse adjacent to the Orthopaedic Hospital called ‘The Derwen’. Here Dame Agnes founded the Derwen Training College where physically disabled young people could learn a trade, suitable to their disability, and become either partially or wholly self-supporting.

Ninety years on

Agnes Hunt was a visionary, but the facilities at Derwen now would exceed even her most ambitious dreams.

As you can imagine, a lot has changed over the 90 plus 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 the 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.

Derwen Timeline

Our history timeline highlights key achievements and developments at Derwen College since it was established in 1927.


Agnes Hunt is born

Dame Agnes Hunt aged 12

Agnes Gwendoline Hunt was born in 1866 Although in her book ‘This is my life’, Agnes says she was born in 1867, her birth certificate states..Read More


The foundations of Derwen College and RJAH Orthopaedic Hospital are set

Despite her disability from osteomyelitis, Agnes trained as a nurse.  In 1900 she opened her home, Florence House in Baschurch, as a convalescent home for ‘crippled’..Read More


Dame Agnes Hunt

In 1926 Agnes Hunt became Dame Agnes Hunt when she was awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the Birthday Honours...Read More


Derwen Training College Founded June 1927

Derwen Training College Founded June 1927

In 1927, what we now know as Derwen College, was initially set up in ‘a couple of vacant huts in the grounds’ of the orthopaedic hospital...Read More


Chair of Governors / Trustees: Sir Watkin Williams Wynn

Sir Watkin Williams Wynn served Chair of Governors / Trustees from 1928 to 1949


Mr Rhaiadr Jones and his wife are appointed Manager and Matron

Mr Rhaiadr Jones

In Dame Agnes’ own words, her prayers were answered early in 1929 when Mr Rhaiadr Jones and his wife were appointed Manager and Matron of..Read More


22nd January Prince George lays Foundation Stone

22nd January Prince George lays Foundation Stone

On 22nd January 1932 Prince George visited Derwen College. During his visit, His Royal Highness performed two ceremonies – to lay the foundation stone of..Read More


Military Hospital

The Derwen was requisitioned as a military hospital from 1939 to 1946. At that time Derwen even had its own operating theatre.   There were..Read More


Patient Referrals 1948-1966

From 1948 to 1966 there were very few students at college with many referred patients on rehabilitation programmes from across the North West, West Midlands and..Read More

Changes as a result of the formation of the National Health Service

On 5th July 1948 management of the Orthopaedic Hospital was taken over by the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board as part of the new National Health..Read More

Dame Agnes Hunt dies aged 81 years old

On 24th July 1948, Dame Agnes Hunt died aged 81. Agnes was truly a pioneering woman who left behind her an amazing legacy. In a..Read More


Chair of Governors / Trustees: Lord Kenyon

Following Sir Watkin Williams Wynn’s retirement, Lord Kenyon served Chair of Governors / Trustees from 1949-1992.


Work starts on Agnes Hunt Village

In 1952 work began on Agnes’s final dream – a housing development purpose-built for the disabled. ‘Agnes Hunt Village’, was started following an appeal by..Read More


Mr Jim Kendall leads Derwen College into a new era

Mr Jim Kendall shows the HRH The Duchess of Kent around the dressmaking workshop

In 1966 Mr Jim Kendall, an Orthopaedic Consultant, returned to the College as Medical Director having previously worked at The Derwen when it was a..Read More


Swimming pool built

Swimming pool built

The swimming pool was built in 1971 at a cost of £15,800.  Forty-six years later, in 2017, we raised £50,000 – enough to replace the..Read More


Concert Hall destroyed in fire

Concert Hall destroyed in fire

After a fire completely gutted the concert hall in 1982 a fundraising effort went in to full swing and in the same year a new..Read More


The Derwen College Garden Centre opens

1986: Derwen Collge Garden Centre opens

The Derwen College Garden Centre has changed a lot in the years since it first opened in 1986. The Garden Centre was the first part..Read More


Walled Garden presented to the college from Shropshire Horticultural Society

Walled Garden presented to the college from Shropshire Horticultural Society

The Walled Garden, which was presented to Derwen College from the Shropshire Horticultural Society in 1989, continues to change and develop in order to provide..Read More


Expansion and development of Derwen continues under David Kendall


Following Mr Jim Kendall’s retirement, in 1990 Mr David Kendall was appointed by the Governors as Director of the College and continued to increase student..Read More


Chair of Governors / Trustees: Mrs E. (Paddy) Hughes

Following Lord Kenyon’s retirement, Mrs E. (Paddy) Hughes served Chair of Governors / Trustees from 1992-2004.


Orangery Restaurant opens

Orangery with a rainbow in the sky behind it - October 2022

The Orangery Restaurant opened on 14 April 1999, and is a training restaurant for Hospitality and Food students at our Gobowen site.     Situated..Read More


Chair of Governors / Trustees: Mr Eric Adams

Following Mrs E. (Paddy) Hughes’ retirement,  Mr Eric Adams served Chair of Governors / Trustees from 2004-2005.


Chair of Governors / Trustees: Miss Irene Gull

Following Mr Eric Adams’ retirement, Miss Irene Gull served as Chair of Governors / Trustees from 2005-2012.


Derwen College is the first Ofsted Outstanding Specialist Independent College

Derwen College is the first Ofsted Outstanding Specialist Independent College

In 2006 Derwen College became the first Specialist Independent College for learners with Learning Difficulties and Disabilities to be awarded an Ofsted Outstanding grading. *..Read More


Young’s Farm Shop opens

Young’s Farm Shop opens

The farm shop provides an outlet on site for us to sell our range of dc handmade jams, chutneys, breads, cakes, gifts and cards. Since..Read More


Ruth Thomas appointed as Principal and CEO

Ruth Thomas

In 2012 David Kendall retired.  Ruth Thomas is appointed as Principal and CEO.

Chair of Governors / Trustees: Mrs Kathleen Kimber

Following Miss Irene Gull’s retirement, Derwen College’s current Chair of Governors / Trustees, Mrs Kathleen Kimber, was appointed in 2012.

Derwen College is awarded a second Ofsted Outstanding result

Derwen College is awarded a second Ofsted Outstanding result

In 2012 Derwen College was award a second, consecutive, Ofsted Outstanding result * Image is from 2016 – Derwen’s third Outstanding Ofsted result You can..Read More


Bradbury Food Centre opens

In 2013 the Bradbury Food Centre opened and provides kitchen facilities for students on the Hospitality and Food pathway. Students work in the Food Centre to..Read More


Derwen@Walford opens

Derwen@Walford opened in September 2014. It is one of our three satellite sites and is based at Walford, near Shrewsbury. Students at Derwen@Walford have the..Read More


Derwen@Craven Arms opens

Opening its doors in September 2015, Derwen@CravenArms is a satellite site of Derwen College, based in Craven Arms, South Shropshire. Undertaking a range of work based..Read More


Derwen College receives third consecutive Ofsted Outstanding grading

“We are immensely proud of this result. The outcome of the inspection highlights the unique work that goes on here at Derwen College. Inspectors were..Read More


Premier Inn Training Centre opens

As you wander down the corridor past the well-appointed bedrooms kitted out to the latest design, you may be mistaken for thinking that you have..Read More


Meryl Green is appointed as Principal and CEO

Meryl Green is appointed as Principal and CEO

Meryl Green is appointed as Principal and CEO of Derwen College in 2019. In 2019 she also marked 20 years in the specialist education industry..Read More

A brand new state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool opens

A brand new state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool built to support students at Derwen College officially opened in September 2019. The grand opening saw attendees including local..Read More


Derwen @ Telford opens

Derwen @ Telford opens

Derwen@Telford opened in September 2020. It is the latest of our three satellite sites in Shropshire. Students at Derwen@Telford have the opportunity to access a..Read More


UK Career Development Awards 2021

Derwen College won a UK Career Development Award in the Careers Programme in a Special School/College category. The College is delighted to be recognised for..Read More

TES FE Specialist Provider of the Year 2021

TES 2021

In June 2021 Derwen College received the Tes FE Award for Specialist Provider of the Year in the top awards which recognise those that work..Read More

NASEN Award – Best aged 16-25 provision in the UK

Nasen Award 2021

Derwen College won the nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) award for ’16-25 Provision’. Nasen recognised the College’s efforts during Covid19, with inspiring actions..Read More

Pearson Teaching Awards 2021

Steve Evans, DofE leader

Derwen College are incredibly proud that Sports & Leisure Coordinator, Steve Evans, has been named as one of the nation’s most inspirational teachers at a..Read More


College wins Natspec Award 2022 – Pathways into Employment

The College were thrilled to win a Natspec award in the ‘Pathways into Employment’ category at the 2022 awards ceremony. Creating meaningful work experience and..Read More

College wins prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise

Queen's Award for Enterprise - presentation ceremony

Derwen is honoured with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. This is a top business award endorsed by Her Majesty the Queen. We are one of..Read More

SEND Awards 2022

Derwen College was thrilled to have won two awards in the 2022 SEND awards The awards were for the ‘Support into Employment’ and ‘Inclusion in..Read More

Aico Awards 2022 – College Initiative of the Year

Aico awards - College initiative of the year

Derwen College were the winner of College Initiative of the Year at the Aico|HomeLINK Community Awards. Our entry was focused on The Vintage Advantage Charity..Read More