Rydal Penrhos celebrates women past and present during week of International Women’s Day
March 13, 2023

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Rydal Penrhos is shining the spotlight on some of the amazing women who have played a positive role in the life and times of the school over the years.

Rydal Penrhos would not be what it is today without the contributions of the amazing, inspiring women who have been part of our community over the years. For International Women’s Day 2023 on Wednesday 8 March, Rydal Penrhos is sharing their stories, from the time of the school’s founding to the present day:


Jessie Emma Osborn, the wife of Rydal’s founder, Thomas Osborn

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Mrs Osborn was the daughter of Rev’d Dr Francis Atherton West, President of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference, and former Governor of Kingswood School, where Mr Osborn served as Headmaster prior to establishing Rydal Mount School in 1885.

Although, as the late Headmaster Peter Watkinson suggests in ‘The Osborns and Rydal Mount School 1895-1915’, less is known about Mrs Osborn than her husband, we do know that she played an important role behind-the-scenes in the early history of the school. Sadly, there are no known photos of Mrs Osborn.

Aside from having “chief responsibility for bringing up [her] large family”, Mrs Osborn also “prepared the termly accounts and even undertook some of the less official correspondence”. In later years, when the Osborn family were not as closely involved in day-to-day school life, Mrs Osborn never missed a Speech Day and was “an ardent member of St John’s Church”.

Although perhaps the only visible legacy of Mrs Osborn around school is the foundation stone for the Osborn Hall (as seen above), inscribed with the initials ‘J. E.’, the family values that she helped instil continue to thrive at modern day Rydal Penrhos.

As one observer wrote shortly after the Rydal and Penrhos merger, “Rydal was, and Rydal Penrhos still is, in so many ways a ‘family’ school”.

Rosa Hovey, Principal of Penrhos College (1894 – 1928)

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Miss Hovey took up post less than a month before the start of “the most important year in the history of Penrhos”, as she would later describe it in ‘Penrhos 1880-1930’. Despite only having 35 pupils at the time, the Governors took the bold decision to purchase, and relocate into, the Hydropathic Establishment that overlooked Rhos-on-Sea.

A less than perfect home to begin with, Miss Hovey recalls the Dining Hall being forced to “serve not only for meals, but for Prayers, the Principal’s Sunday Afternoon Class, Art, Singing, and Drill Lessons, and also for Concerts, Lectures and Prize-giving”.

Over the following years, Miss Hovey oversaw the extension of the Dining Hall (twice) alongside the construction of the Library, the Botany House, several classrooms, a science wing and the Great Hall. Penrhos Junior was also established during her period of leadership, which proved nothing short of transformational for the school. In 1916, she was presented a plaque to commemorate her first 21 years as Principal, which remains available to view in our archives to this day.

The legacy of Miss Hovey continues to live on at Rydal Penrhos. She not only gives her name to the Rosa Hovey Memorial Scholarship, but also to the Hovey Room, which sits beside the main entrance into Old House. This was, as recently as the mid-2010s, the Headmaster’s Study, but now serves as a beautiful reception room that is enjoyed by pupils, parents and alumni.

Lucy Davies, Deputy Principal

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Mrs Davies has known Rydal Penrhos from an early age. A former Rydal pupil, Mrs Davies experienced first-hand what she calls the “special blend of academic rigour alongside excellent individual pastoral care” that defines a Rydal Penrhos education to this day.

After reading Anthropology at Durham University and working in London for technology giant IBM, Mrs Davies decided to follow her passion for education and pursue a teaching qualification.

Since then, Mrs Davies has established a teaching career that spans over three decades and five different schools. Following academic leadership positions at two state-maintained primary schools, in 2001 Mrs Davies relocated to Qatar, where she joined a British International School and progressed through the ranks to become their Head of Juniors.

Centrally involved in a period of great expansion for the school, during her twelve years there the number of pupils grew from 400 to 3000. By the time she left to become Headteacher at the Firs Prep School in Chester, Mrs Davies was leading 56 classes with 900 pupils and 75 staff.

Mrs Davies spent several successful years at the Firs, during which time she also completed her Masters in Educational Leadership at the University of Chester. This is just one example of Mrs Davies’ lifelong love of learning; she is currently enrolled in a Bangor University Welsh language course, with the aim of completing her GCSE next year.

Mrs Davies has led Rydal Penrhos’ Prep since 2019, during which time she has guided the school from strength to strength despite an unprecedented period of global pandemic. An inspirational teacher and leader, Mrs Davies has forged a close connection to pupils, parents, staff and all members of our Rydal Penrhos community.

Jan Petty, General Assistant, Catering Team

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Rydal Penrhos would not be what it is today without the incredible women who make up our team of staff. A prime example of this is our Catering General Assistant, Jan Petty.

After completing her HND in Hotel and Catering Management at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University), Jan entered the world of catering in 1978.

She moved to Rydal Penrhos in 2015, following a family relocation from Cheshire two years earlier. In her time at Rydal Penrhos, Jan has worked in all parts of the school, from the Prep and Senior Dining Halls to sports fixtures and hospitality events. as part of our events team, Jan perfectly measures the space between cutlery and wine glass and has been heard to tut loudly at a creased table cloth. Jan’s training was thorough and only perfection will do when she sets a banqueting table in the Osborn Hall.

A familiar face that our school community see every day as they enjoy a hearty and nutritious lunch, Jan’s kind and affable nature has made her a firm favourite with pupils, parents, staff and visitors.

Each morning break, Jan runs a snack bar from ‘J’s Cafe’ in the Ferguson Centre. There, she dishes out some tasty treats for our hard-working A-Level pupils. Our Sixth Formers greatly appreciate Jan’s friendliness and the feeling is mutual.

“I really miss the students when they leave,” said Jan. “They’re a real joy”.

Ela Lloyd-Bloom and Ester Ball-Iversen, Prep and Senior Head Girls

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Individual responsibility and leadership are key values that we look to promote in all our children and young people. Our superb teachers look to instil these wherever possible, however the importance of pupils becoming positive role models for their younger peers cannot be understated.  

Our Head Girls and Head Boys are prime examples of this, setting an example that all pupils should aspire towards. Rydal Penrhos is immensely proud of its current Prep and Senior Head Girls, Ela Lloyd-Bloom and Ester Ball-Iversen, who have more than lived up to the expectations of their roles.  

Ela has been at the Prep since 2014 and during that time has established herself as a conscientious, confident and enthusiastic participant in all parts of Prep life, whether that means her classroom studies, the double-lesson of Games on a Friday afternoon or simply break time play out on the playground.   

Continually proving herself to be an excellent actress, Ela has excelled in LAMDA performing arts assessments and also gave a fantastic turn in the part of ‘Biscuit’ in the Prep’s ‘Paws and Claws’ production.  

Since joining Rydal Penrhos in Year 9, Senior Head Girl Ester has consistently gone beyond the standard of excellence that defines a Rydal Penrhos education.  

Her academic accomplishments are vast, having achieved secured no fewer than five 9 marks, four A* grades and one A at GCSE, as well as a Distinction in her Additional Maths qualification. Ester is currently working hard towards her A-Levels exams in the summer with the intent to read Maths and Philosophy at university.  

Away from the classroom, Ester has secured her Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award and regularly contributes to the hockey and netball first teams.  

Thank you both, you are superb ambassadors for our amazing young women and girls!