THE SHRUBBERY: THE STORY OF SUTTON’S LONGEST-ESTABLISHED INDEPENDENT SCHOOL

Janice Rankin, the little girl who grew up to found Sutton’s oldest independent school.
Janice Rankin, the little girl who grew up to found Sutton’s oldest independent school.

When the Shrubbery was first founded in a grand old house in Walmley village, it only had one pupil and one classroom.

More than 90 years later, Sutton Coldfield’s longest-established independent school has extended beyond that charming Grade B locally listed building to occupy a site that includes play facilities, a nursery and small intimate classrooms.

The School house itself dates back to 1857, and was originally one imposing family home built on land previously owned by Penns Hall.

In 1881 two wings were added and the house was converted to two semi-detached homes, called ‘The Ferns’ and ‘The Shrubbery’. 

Shrubbery pupils in their traditional uniforms, in a picture taken during the 1960s.
Shrubbery pupils in their traditional uniforms, in a picture taken during the 1960s.

The Walker family lived at ‘The Shrubbery’ until the Rankin family moved in during 1914 when Walmley was a very small village consisting of a few houses and ‘The Fox Inn’.

In the 1920’s a small school was opened by Mrs L J Moore at the ‘The Ferns’ and this gave her neighbour Janice Rankin the inspiration to become a teacher. 

When Mrs Moore’s school closed next door in 1930, The Rankin family opened their school at ‘The Shrubbery’.

The Shrubbery is Sutton Coldfield’s longest-established independent school and was founded by Janice Rankin in 1930.
The Shrubbery is Sutton Coldfield’s longest-established independent school and was founded by Janice Rankin in 1930.

It began with just one pupil, a little girl called Eileen King, and originally consisted of a single classroom in the now listed school house. 

Helped by her mother, Miss Rankin built up the school over the decades, buying ‘The Ferns’ next door while the Rankin family continued to live an idyllic life in the old school house.

The Shrubbery's listed building was once a grand house. This archive image shows a family wedding outside the front windows.
The Shrubbery’s listed building was once a grand house. This archive image shows a family wedding outside the front windows.

The Shrubbery’s archives include an image of a young Miss Rankin and her brother playing croquet on lawns that are now the Junior playground! Other mementos of Miss Rankin include a programme from a musical evening she organised, at which composer Elgar was a guest of honour.

As the school grew, Miss Rankin added more buildings and the land behind the house changed dramatically.  For a while, the school even had stables, offering the children the opportunity to enjoy horse riding during their school day.

Significant investment is now going into The Shrubbery's historic home in Walmley.
Significant investment is now going into The Shrubbery’s historic home in Walmley.
The Shrubbery has always provided a caring, supportive setting where children can play, learn and develop close friendships.
The Shrubbery has always provided a caring, supportive setting where children can play, learn and develop close friendships.

Further classrooms and a playing field lie behind the house, now playing host to the education of nearly 250 children between the ages of three and eleven. 

Miss Rankin was a ground-breaking educator and an accomplished artist too. She continued to teach into her older years and remained in charge of the school she founded until the late 1990’s. 

In some respects, the Shrubbery’s idyllic setting is a reminder of a bygone age in Sutton Coldfield, when an ambitious young lady set up her own school in a quiet village.

As the school enters an exciting new era in the 21st century, the Shrubbery aims to continue her legacy of academic excellence and caring, collaborative learning, while also imbuing the fundamental British Values of modern day life.

If you are thinking of applying for your child to join The Shrubbery School and nursery, or would like further information, visit https://shrubberyschool.co.uk/ and select the “Request A School Visit” option, or call 0121 351 1582.

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