Some years ago two Hatfield schools joined together to form Onslow St Audrey’s. Although we are a modern and forward-looking Business and Enterprise College, our name and school badge reflect a history that stretches back 1500 years.
Audrey is a name that has evolved in pronunciation and spelling over a period of a thousand years. It began as Etheldreda, an Anglo-Saxon name, then became Theldreda, Aldreda, Aldrey and finally Audrey. Princess Etheldreda was born in 632AD, the daughter of an Anglo-Saxon King of East Anglia (now Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire). She married Prince Tondbert, and as a wedding gift was given the city of Ely.
After Tondbert was killed in battle, Etheldreda married Prince Ecgfrith of Northumbria. As a devout Christian she hated royal court life with its drunken warrior culture, and gained her husband’s consent to withdraw to a monastery in Ely, the monastery which owned Hatfield.
Etheldreda’s husband soon changed his mind and ordered her to return to the royal court, but she refused and fled from Ecgfrith. When she was trapped on an island a storm arose and prevented her husband from reaching her. He took this as a sign from God and agreed to let her pursue a religious life.
Etheldreda soon became an Abbess and led an austere Christian life. Miracles were attributed to her, but she was also praised for her work in helping needy women and children. Etheldreda died of plague in 679. Painful plague boils appeared around her neck as she died, and these she saw as a punishment for wearing necklaces as a young woman. She was made a saint only a few years after her death.
Although there is no evidence that St Etheldreda ever came to Hatfield, because the monastery and later the Bishops of Ely owned the land on which the town stood, the church in Hatfield was dedicated to the saint and keeps her original name, Etheldreda.
The Onslow half of the school name only stretches back 500 years! The Onslow family originally came from Shropshire, but in 1560 Fulk Onslow bought land and property in Hatfield. It was Fulk Onslow who had the present vicarage built next to St Etheldreda’s Church. In 1570 he became Clerk to Parliament, an appointment made by Elizabeth 1. As wealthy and successful local landowners, the Onslow family gave its name to Onslow School which was founded in 1961.
On the badge can be found six Cornish choughs from the coat of arms of the Onslow family. The three golden crowns come from the coat of arms of the Diocese and Bishops of Ely.