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History

Our History and Heritage

Rothesay Netherwood School has been an integral part of the Saint John and Kennebecasis Valley communities since 1877. 

It's beginning was as Thompson's School, a small, one-room classroom for boys and girls founded by Professor Ezekiel Stone Wiggins. This school was located upstairs in Whelpley Hall near the Rothesay train station. In the 1880s, the school was purchased by Rev. George Exton Lloyd who renamed it Rothesay College for Boys. 

In 1891, the school was put on firm financial footing by local prominent citizen, Mr. James F. Robertson of Rothesay. Renaming the school, Rothesay Collegiate School (RCS), Mr. Robertson moved it to its present location on College Hill Road and added boarding facilities. Rev. Lloyd remained as Headmaster until 1896.  

In 1907, RCS was formally taken over by the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton, and Rev. W.R. Hibbard was appointed Headmaster in 1908.

Dr. Hibbard was succeeded by Dr. Charles H. Bonnycastle in 1938. While Dr. Bonnycastle served overseas during the Second World War, the school was run by his Assistant Head, Dr. J.F.L. Jackson. In 1963, the school became incorporated and was leased to an independent Board of Governors.

Following Dr. Bonnycastle's retirement in 1970, a series of five headmasters presided over the school during the next 17 years. In September 1987, Paul Kitchen became Head of School, a post he held for 29 years. In 2016, Paul McLellan became Head of School.

The Netherwood School for Girls was founded in 1894 by Miss M. Gregory, who was succeeded in 1895 by her aunt, Mrs. J. Armstrong. In 1903, Miss Ethel Pitcher and Miss Susan B. Ganong became co-principals when the school only had nine pupils. In 1912, Miss Ganong purchased the school and led it as sole Headmistress until her retirement in 1944 when it was passed over to the Netherwood Foundation. Dr. Ganong was succeeded by Miss Helen (Kelly) Cannell '25 (1944), Miss Esther Palin (1952), and Mrs. Mary (Fawcett) Crimmins '36 (1956). Six other headmistresses led the school for shorter periods of time following Mrs. Crimmins's retirement in 1967 until 1984.

In the 1970s the New Brunswick government began investing heavily in the public education system and RCS and Netherwood were subsequently challenged to maintain enrolment. In 1972 the schools formed a partnership that led to shared classes but separate campuses. Nevertheless, financial difficulties continued and were exacerbated by the lack of long-term strategy caused by a series of short-term Heads at each school. In 1984, RCS and Netherwood announced that they would both be closing. A group of loyal, dedicated parents and alumni came forward with a proposal to obtain financing and combine the two schools. Over the summer of 1984, this group worked tirelessly to ensure that the school met its admission target so that it could open for September. The schools, now merged, operated as RCS-Netherwood at the top of College Hill. 

Thanks to the hard work of Jack Hickman '42 and many supporters of the school, the Call to Excellence Campaign (1984-1991) raised $1.2 million. Over the following 15 years, the campus has seen significant transformation. The layout of the grounds were enhanced, including gates to the campus, new roadways, new paths, and the planting of several hundred trees. 

Under the leadership of Jack Hickman '42 and Jim Irving '46, the highly successful Building for the Next Century Campaign (1995-1996) resulted in several new buildings being added to the campus – Irving Gymnasium and the Theatre Susan B. Ganong – while many more received renovation. 

Numerous recent additions have been made to the campus including:

  • Kirk House, the junior boy’s residence, in 2002
  • Collegiate Hall, the school’s administrative offices, in 2005
  • Netherwood House, the junior girls’ residence, in 2005
  • Heritage Hall in 2009
  • Mackay House, our senior boys’ residence, was renovated in the summer of 2010
  • The Library moved to Fawcett Hall in 2010
  • Kitchen House, the residence of the RNS Head of School, opened in 2013
  • The Jordan Boyd Memorial Pond and the Sunken Garden opened in 2014
  • An expansion of the RNS rink took place in 2014
  • The Roslyn Isobel Stollery Fitness Centre opened in May 2018
  • Science Hall - a 40,000 square-foot, leading-edge sciences building, is slated to open in September 2021