Rhoda Anstey (1865 – 1936)

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Date:Not Recorded

Description:Submitted by Dr Tansin Benn (Last appointed lecturer to Anstey College of Physical Education, 1981 - 1984) and Dr Ida Webb (Last female Principal Dr Ida Webb, student 1947 – 50, Principal 1969 – 1975), with the support of the Anstey Association.[Rhoda Anstey was Founder and Principal Anstey Physical Training College 1897-1921, Joint Principal with Ida Bridgman, 1921 – 1927 (30 years service to Anstey]

Biographical Details

Anstey, Rhoda (1865-1936) founder and first Principal of Anstey Physical Training College in 1897 was born at Jurihayes Farm near Tiverton, Devon in 1865, the seventh of nine children and second daughter of John Walters Anstey and his wife (Suzannah Elizabeth, née Manley) (Rhoda Anstey’s Birth Certificate). Her father was a yeoman farmer and Rhoda was a natural country woman with a great love of the county of her birth. By the time of the 1891 Census Rhoda was managing the dairy on the farm that was headed by brother William. A feminist and keen theosophist and astrologist, Rhoda found great value in meditation and was always deeply interested in matters of health. From 1893-95 she attended Madame Bergman Österberg’s Hampstead Physical Training College (which opened in 1885 and was transferred to Dartford in 1895).

In 1895 Rhoda opened a health centre called “The Hygienic Home for Ladies” at New Cross Farm, South Petherton in Somerset. The Farm belonged to her sister Mrs S. Hebditch and offered a large house and garden in an extensive country landscape.
With £100 as her capital, she moved her centre in 1897 to The Leasowes, Halesowen, Worcestershire, the former home of the poet William Shenstone. The house was large and appropriate for her health business with sixteen acres and a lake (Crunden 1974).

Attending the Anstey Jubilee luncheon in 1947 Sophie Macready (née Knight), who had joined Rhoda in Somerset and moved with her to the Midlands becoming one of first three students trained, spoke about her early experiences which demonstrate a particularly human face of Rhoda Anstey:

"When I was 17 years old, not being old enough to enter hospital to train as a nurse, I went to help Miss Anstey at her Hygienic Home for Ladies at New Cross Farm …(Somerset), Miss Anstey moved up to the Leasowes, Halesowen, after I had been there over a year. She wrote my parents suggesting I should go to Madame Österberg's College, Dartford but unfortunately they could not afford the fees, and Madame Österberg could not reduce them for me although Miss Anstey approached her about it. Then Miss Anstey decided to train me herself - with the help of Miss Baker (Mrs Pumphrey). Two others joined, Miss Douglas and Miss Palmer. We had a teacher from Birmingham for physiology and hygiene and passed the South Kensington exam, (advanced) in those subjects. Dancing was at Mrs Wilton’s, Edgbaston and teaching down in Halesowen. When I was 20 I obtained a post at Bridport High School, I was there for three years before starting my own practice at Great Malvern.
So began the Anstey Physical Training College." (Anstey Jubilee Magazine 1947, 6)