Medbury School

Medbury School grew out of the expansion of Christ’s College in the post World War I period and the need for another preparatory boarding school in Christchurch. Eric J. Chennells, an old boy of Wanganui Collegiate and senior assistant at Waihi School in South Canterbury, was approached by Rev. Crosse, headmaster of Christ’s College to establish such a school.

Considerable thought and planning went into the development of the new school. There was competition from two other preparatory schools in Christchurch so it would have to offer attractive advantages if it were to succeed. Several prospective properties - in Riccarton, Glandovey Road, Ilam Road and Papanui - were looked at and rejected in favour of 141 (later 109) Clyde Road.

This 3/4 acre block was part of land originally owned by A.R. Creyke who had married the widow of James Watts-Russell, owner of Ilam farm. "Ripsford", the large house on the property, was built about the turn of the century for Mrs T.A. Ballantyne and was later occupied by Wilfrid Hall, son of Sir John, the Burbury family and in 1922 was rented by the Maling family and for sale at £5000. The house had been designed by Mrs Ballantyne’s son R.A. Ballantyne who, together with Frederick Strouts and W.A.P. Clarkson, designed many large houses (e.g. Campion Hall) and commercial buildings in Christchurch.

The Hall family had called the house "Rua-taniwha" -- grave or hole of the water monsters -- in reference to the many water wheels then operating in the Waimairi Stream. E.R. Burbury had renamed it "Ripsford" after his family’s church in Worcestershire. "Medbury" was chosen as the name of the school as it was the name of Mrs Chennell’s family home in Sutton, Surrey.

It was at first thought -- wrongly, it turned out -- the house would be large enough to accommodate a small school. The stable and outhouses could be used, also the garden, orchard, tennis court, plus the two horse paddocks would become playing fields. The school would be on the rural fringe of the city with not a house facing the Clyde Road or Creyke Road boundaries of the school. Sheep grazed on the open fields nearby. Hamilton Avenue ran for only a hundred yards or so off Clyde Road and a potato field lay between it and the old St Barnabas Church Sunday School room (demolished 1967) and the single country-style store at the intersection of Fendalton and Clyde Roads. Across the Waimairi Stream in Clyde Road was the old and unoccupied vicarage, to be burnt down in 1923. (At one stage Sir Charles Bowen of Milford Farm, whose house was at the end of the present Otara Street, had set aside 5 acres of glebe land in Clyde Road for a church, but this idea had been rejected as the area was thought to be too far away from settlement), However even though there were no kerbs and gutters in Clyde Road itself, by 1922 the road to the intersection of Clyde and Fendalton Roads had been developed with the terminus of the tram service located there.

Mr. Chennells spent considerable time advertising and promoting the new school, but this was not altogether successful, the school opened on 1st February 1923 with only 9 pupils: 6 boarders and 3 day boys, only one of whom was from Fendalton. This was T.A. Gresson whose family lived in Burnside Road. Growth of the school was rapid however, with the roll at nearly 50 by 1925. The thousandth boy to pass through the school was enrolled in May 1963.

For the first 33 years Medbury was privately owned. When Mr Chennells retired and disposed of the school property in 1955, the trust board representing debenture holders, parents and old boys of the school took over its ownership and management. The Chennells continued to live in Medbury Cottage, built in the south east corner of the grounds.

The school is now planning for its 75th Jubilee in 1998. Expansion has been constant over the years with a major building exercise in 1994 extending the school further along Creyke Road.


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