In 1921, Bishop William Cabell Brown and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia founded Christchurch School on the Eastman Farm, in Middlesex County. The simple intention of this “venture of faith” was to provide a comprehensive education at reasonable cost in a time when secondary education was not universally available to American children. On September 28, 1921, Christchurch School opened its doors with several local students and ten boarders.
The beauty of the Rappahannock Riverside location was and remains spectacular and unspoiled. Early on, the school was referred to as “the only country school for boys on Virginia’s salt water.” Arch Harrison ’43 remembers the setting fondly, “I am not sure why the Episcopal church chose this Middlesex County site … maybe God just said, trust me.”
Like the rest of the country, Christchurch endured hard times during the Depression, graduating an average of only six students each year. Nevertheless, the faculty maintained its devotion to the unmistakably special place. In 1934, church school trustees drafted a strategy for survival, stating “an effort should be made to develop the features and opportunities which are unique to Christchurch because of its location on the river and remote from any considerable town. Reference is specifically made to activities, educational and recreational …as field sports and water sports.” Today, the Christchurch waterfront is home to the school’s sailing fleet, our oyster farm, and our active science program.
While staying true to its original mission of creating “high character, pure and healthy bodies, well-furnished minds, and the spirit of unselfish service,”
Christchurch kept up with the times, admitting the first African American male student in 1971. In 1972-73, female day students were welcomed, with the first graduating in 1975. In 1983, Christchurch added its flagship Learning Skills Program to allow students with learning differences to receive the attention they need to identify gifts and weaknesses in order to succeed in the rigorous curriculum. In 2010, the school ensured its place in the annals of college prep excellence when it launched its unique new curriculum, Great Journeys.
The school’s updated mission statement continues to embody the direction, values and aspirations of its leaders through the decades and into the 21st century. In fall of 2012, Christchurch School welcomed its first boarding girls as a conscious effort to better reflect the world around us.