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Invicta Stone

As far as we are able to ascertain the Invicta Stone was in situ at the top of a turret above the main front door when St Elphin's School took up residence in 1904. It remained in place until the mid to late 1960s when it may have been removed, together with the turret and balustrade, for safety reasons and then semi-hidden in the rose garden on the right-hand side of the main drive. The stone can just about be seen on the photo to the right, which was taken by Arlene Garnier (nee Bailey) in 1957, a pupil from 1948 to 1957.

Following the closure of the school in March 2005 the owners attempted to sell as much as possible – both internally and externally – and organised an auction to be held, on site, in April 2005. The Invicta Stone was bought from the auction by Lassco a company dealing with Architectural Antiques, Salvage and Curiosities. The Stone itself measures 61cm high x 92cm wide x 25cm deep and the word 'Invicta' means 'undefeated' which is somewhat appropriate! Below is a photo of the stone as it was in 2005 when Lassco had purchased it in the Auction.

In 2011 Marianne Jackson (nee Stewart,) a pupil from 1972 to 1976 in Powys House, managed to track down the Stone at Lassco who were willing to sell it for less than they paid at the auction, if it was returned to the school! Liz Donlan (nee Bailey) liaised with Audley about returning the Stone to St Elphin's and also attended the AGM of the Old Elphinians (formerly St Elphin's Old Girls' Guild) with a view to asking if they would pay for the Stone.This was, in fact, the penultimate AGM of the Old Elphinians. The week of the AGM Audley kindly offered to purchase the Stone from Lassco if the Old Elphinians would fund a suitable plaque to be installed with the Stone and so, Liz had to quickly amend her request to the AGM!

Marianne duly liaised with Lassco on a regular basis to ensure they didn't part with the Stone to anyone else! She duly collected the Stone from Oxfordshire and returned it to its rightful home on 30 November, 2011 at which there was a reception party, followed by a builders' tour of the main school building as well as looking at possible sites for the Stone to be reinstated.

The Invicta Stone back at St Elphin's (Photo: Alison Davies - 30.11.2011)

Above: LtoR: Bruce Wragg (Audley St Elphin's Park General Manager), Marianne Jackson (nee Stewart), Judy Crook (former Deputy Head Mistress and Chairman of Old Elphinians), Liz Donlan (nee Bailey), Ian Cowen (Cruden Construction Ltd) proudly welcome the Invicta Stone home. (Photo: Mike Donlan - 30.11.2011).

The Invicta Stone was cleaned up and repaired, where necessary, and now resides on the balustrade to the left of the main school building where there is a terraced area leading down to a croquet lawn (formerly a tennis court). The main school building was opened as St Elphin's House on 13th September, 2012 - see St Elphin's Park and scroll down to the bottom of the page, click on the photo for a photo album of the event. The terraced area now has tables and chairs as part of The Bistro which used to be the staff room! The tennis court is now a croquet lawn. When walking out onto The Terrace from The Bistro, the first thing to be seen is the Invicta Stone so it really does have pride of place!

As can be seen on the left-hand photo, new shoulders were needed for the Stone. They are hand-made and it took the stone mason 8 weeks to do them. In time, once they have weathered, they will, of course, blend in even better. Above two photos Liz Donlan.

The Unveiling

On Saturday, 6th October, 2012 Marianne Jackson officially unveiled the Invicta Stone in front of 113 ex-pupils and staff of St Elphin's at its reunion held on the same day. Also present were Philippa Thompson, General Manager and Ewen Crilley, Club Services Manager of Audley St Elphin's Park. Unfortunately there had been a delay in arranging the plaque but, as there were so many old girls present on one occasion, it still felt right to have the official unveiling at this time.

Above left (Photo Mike Donlan): Ewen Crilley introduced Marianne and asked her to say a few words. Although she was apprehensive and hadn't prepared anything, Marianne gave an excellent account of the history of the Invicta Stone, including its demise from the top of a spectacular turret, to a rose bed, to Oxfordshire and now, finally, back to St Elphin's! She also took questions from the watching crowd. Photos above right and below – Cath Farnworth.

The Plaque
To complete this wonderful piece of history, a plaque was finally installed in December 2012 which was paid for by the Old Elphinians (formerly St Elphin's Old Girls' Guild). The following photos were taken by Liz Bailey-Donlan on her visit to St Elphin's on 27th February, 2013.

Thanks go to:
• Marianne Jackson (nee Stewart)
• Audley St Elphin's Park
• The Old Elphinians
• Liz Donlan (nee Bailey)

without whom, all this wonderful history would not have been possible.

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