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Agnes Hunt memorial stone under cherry blossom

Derwen College: Winner of the Queens Award for Enterprise 2022

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.

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, 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.

Derwen College today

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 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.

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. She was one of eleven children born to parents Rowland Hunt and Florence Marianne (nee) Humfrey. Although in..Read More


The foundations of Derwen College and RJAH Orthopaedic Hospital are laid

Agnes undertakes nurse training at Rhyl, London and Shrewsbury. As a result of her life experiences and nurse training, the foundations of Derwen College and RJAH Orthopaedic..Read More


Dame Agnes Hunt

In 1926 Agnes became Dame Agnes Hunt. She was awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in George V’s Birthday Honours...Read More


Derwen Training College founded in 1927

Derwen Training College founded in 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..Read More


Chair of Governors / Trustees: Sir Watkin Williams Wynn

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


Mr Rhaiadr Jones and his wife are appointed Manager and Matron

Mr Rhaiadr Jones

Mr J. Rhaiadr Jones and his wife were appointed Manager and Matron of the College in 1929. In Dame Agnes’ own words, her “prayers were..Read More


January 1932, Prince George lays Foundation Stone

January 1932, Prince George lays Foundation Stone

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


Patient Referrals 1948 to 1966

From 1948 to 1966 there were very few students at college. Many of the people living at Derwen were referred patients on rehabilitation programmes from..Read More

Formation of the National Health Service brings about changes

Changes as a result of the formation of the National Health Service The hospital and College go their separate ways. On 5 July 1948 management of..Read More

Dame Agnes Hunt dies aged 81 years old

Agnes died on 24 July 1948. She was truly a pioneering woman who left behind her an amazing legacy. Just days after the RJAH hospital had transferred..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 – housing to enable students to become “wholly self-supporting”. The ‘Agnes Hunt Village’ was developed as purpose-built housing for..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 returned to the College as Medical Director having previously worked at The Derwen when it was a military hospital. Mr..Read More


Swimming pool built

The black and white image shows a group of students playing water polo in the pool at Derwen.

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


Concert Hall destroyed in fire

Concert Hall destroyed in fire

A fire completely gutted the concert hall in 1982. The concert hall sat within the grounds of Derwen College, and was a place for students..Read More


The Derwen College 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

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 continues under David Kendall

Bradbury Centre

In 1990 Mr David Kendall was appointed as Director of the College following Mr Jim Kendall’s retirement. During David Kendall’s time at Derwen student numbers..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. Hospitality and Food pathway students train at the Orangery Restaurant to learn key work skills. Situated on..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 College

Derwen College is the first Ofsted Outstanding Specialist College

In 2006 Derwen College became the first Specialist College to be awarded an Ofsted Outstanding grading. You can view all of Derwen College’s Ofsted reports..Read More


Young’s Farm Shop opens

Staff and student put produce on display in Young's Farm shop 2016

Youngs Farm Shop opened in 2008. The shop provided an outlet on site for us to sell our range of Derwen College made jams, chutneys,..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

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. The centre provides kitchen facilities for students on the Hospitality and Food pathway. Students work in the Food..Read More


Derwen College Walford opens

Derwen College Walford opened in September 2014. It is one of our three satellite sites based in Shropshire. Students at our Walford site, near Shrewsbury,..Read More


Derwen’s third consecutive Ofsted Outstanding grading

In 2016 Derwen College received its third consecutive Ofsted Outstanding grading. Meryl Green, Principal said. “We are immensely proud of this result. The outcome of..Read More


Premier Inn Training Centre opens

As you wander down the corridor, past the well-appointed bedrooms, you may be mistaken for thinking that you have walked into the one of the..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 officially opened in September 2019. The pool will support students who require hydrotherapy as part of their care whilst..Read More


Derwen College Telford opens

View of the outside of Derwen College Telford

Derwen College Telford opened in September 2020. Telford was the third of our satellite sites to open in Shropshire. Students at our Telford campus are..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 award for ’16-25 Provision’. Nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs) recognised the College’s efforts during Covid19. The judges were impressed..Read More

Pearson Teaching Awards 2021

Steve Evans, DofE leader

Sports & Leisure Coordinator, Steve Evans, named as one of the nation’s most inspirational teachers. Selected from thousands of nominations, Steve won a Gold Award..Read More


College wins Natspec Award 2022 – Pathways into Employment

The College were thrilled to win the 2022 ‘Pathways into Employment’ Natspec award. Creating meaningful work experience and forging and maintaining relationships is vitally important to us..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. Derwen College is one..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 win College Initiative of the Year award. The Aico|HomeLINK Community award focused on The Vintage Advantage Charity Shop that provides valuable work experience..Read More