In January 1883, The Revd. Philip Crick founded the school in Selden Terrace, Worthing. No name had been decided upon and when the sign writer came, as Mr. Crick was reading Saint Ronan’s Well, the name Saint Ronan’s was decided upon. The actual Saint Ronan has rather obscure origins from Ireland, Cornwall & Brittany.
In 1887, Revd. Crick decided to build a new school and by the following January the roof was going on. A typhoid epidemic, in January 1892, drove the school of 35 boys to St. Leonards-on Sea but by 1894 the school was safely back in Worthing.
Revd. Crick retired in 1909 and Stanley Harris became the new headmaster. A remarkable man, he wrote The Master and his Boys and, with the help of a dedicated staff, including “Mrs. Vass”, Sir Richard Vassar-Smith’s mother, built up the school. The school was run on the principle that children are taught by the example of the adults around them and so developed a system in which the teachers and children work together to achieve their aims. This is still a guiding principle today.
When Stanley Harris died in 1927 his brother, then a housemaster at Lancing, took over. W.B. Harris, generally known as "Dick" but to the school as “Harry”, ran the school for thirty years, including the last twelve at Worthing. W.B. Harris was a keen photographer and we have some remarkable 16mm footage of the Worthing days, some of it in colour.
In 1940 the school was evacuated from Worthing and went to Bicton Park in Devon, a beautiful house with landscaped gardens. Bicton is now an agricultural college and the gardens are open to the public.
In 1946/7 the school moved to its present site, Tongswood House. The winter of 1946/7 was one of the coldest of the century and whilst tobogganing and skating on the frozen lake must have been entertaining, keeping warm in the rambling Victorian mansion must have been less so! Tongswood occupies 247 acres in the Weald of Kent, with landscaped gardens, a Pinetum and a ready made cricket pitch – the previous owner, Mr. Gunther, being a keen cricketer who was as interested in prospective employees’ ability in the noble game as in anything else.
The school now has games pitches, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a nine hole golf course, not to mention vast areas for children to play, making dams and dens etc.
In 1957 Sir Richard Vassar-Smith took over the school and two generations of Vassar-Smiths have made Saint Ronan’s their home, so that Saint Ronan’s is both a home and a school. This friendly family ethos is central to the school’s success and happiness.
Sir John Vassar-Smith, "Johnny Vass", retired in 1997 and Edward Yeats-Brown, "Mr. Y-B" was appointed headmaster. He was succeeded in January 2003 by William Trelawny-Vernon.