24 March 2022
Royal National College 150th Anniversary

What makes the difference between an authoritarian and an open society? Many things: individual rights, a free press, the rule of law. But also, crucially, free and independent institutions.

That is one more reason why it feels so right to celebrate Herefordshire's own Royal National College, the UK's leading specialist college for people who are blind or partially sighted, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this month.

The RNC was founded in 1872 when the Victorian philanthropist Dr Thomas Rhodes Armitage met a like-minded American, Francis Joseph Campbell.

Both men were visually impaired, yet both were visionaries, and they were given strong support from others who shared their vision. The College's first Patron was none other than Queen Victoria herself, with a host of luminaries as governors.

From the start, it was noted for its progressive and inclusive approach, which gave students both academic learning and life skills, with a full range of physical activities. Whether it was roller-skating or cooking, rowing or music, cycling or sewing - nothing was deemed to be out of reach..

From its beginnings in London, the RNC was evacuated during the Second World War, moving several times before settling in Hereford.

Over time it has built up an unmatched wealth of expertise, both in educating blind and partially sighted students at its campus on Aylestone Hill and through specialist training services to businesses, other education providers and professionals in the field.

The College's founding ethos remains. Students have competed in national, international and Paralympic competition over the years. Its public leisure facility, thePoint4, has hosted international tournaments, notably the Blind Football World Championships in 2010.

The RNC has not been helped by Covid. Yet it remains one of the treasures of the county, and of the country. Nowhere else can match the depth of its specialist support.

Now this great anniversary is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the College’s unique contribution and heritage. It has always stood for equality, diversity and inclusion – values that we, rightly, cherish now more than ever. Its freedom and independence are a vital part of what sustains us as a society.

The College is planning a series of events to mark this milestone. For the past 150 years it has thrived on the generosity and, yes, the vision of its donors and volunteers, in order to support its life changing work with visually impaired and blind young people;

Why not visit the RNC? Or explore its brilliance online yourself at https://www.rnc.ac.uk/


First published in the Hereford Times, 24 Mar 2022