Roedean girl's story told in The Dig on Netflix

A new Netflix film starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes documents the life of a former Roedean pupil.

Saturday, 30th January 2021, 8:00 am
Edith Pretty with her peers at Roedean - second from left on the back row
Edith Pretty with her peers at Roedean - second from left on the back row

The Dig, which came out on Friday, tells the story of Edith Pretty, who attended the Brighton girls’ school from 1894 to 1899 – not long after Penelope, Dorothy and Millicent Lawrence opened the school in its first incarnation as Wimbledon House. During Edith’s time, the sisters moved the school to its present site overlooking the English Channel at the city’s eastern end.

Edith developed a love of archaeology as a child and young woman thanks to many trips to Pompeii, Luxor and the Pyramids and went on to make the most significant British archaeological find ever when in 1939 she unearthed the Sutton Hoo Anglo Saxon ship burial.

The discovery was made after Edith was curious about the mounds of earth on her Suffolk estate and enlisted local historians and an amateur archaeologist to help her.

The school’s archivist has managed to discover two pictures of Edith at Roedean – one of her in the cricket team and another with her fellow boarders.

The movie has also inspired some of the year seven pupils to contact the British Museum where Sutton Hoo expert Sue Brunning was able to answer questions about the discovery. The pupils are now creating a short documentary about Edith and her life during and after attending Roedean which they will showed to other pupils to mark the movie’s launch.

Roedean headteacher Oliver Blond said Edith’s story underlined the intellectual curiosity and fearlessness that the school has always tried to develop in its pupils.

He said: “The Lawrence sisters set up Roedean with the intention of bringing about educational equality for girls and to help free future generations of women from the limitations society placed on them and from the shackles of ignorance.

“I think Edith reaped the benefits of this and Roedean shaped her intellectual curiosity which led her to her wonderful discovery.

“Thousands of girls have trodden the same path educationally since Edith was here at school on the cliffs overlooking the English Channel all those years ago and they have gone on to challenge the status quo, smash glass ceilings and make invaluable contributions to society. Look at Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement who established a culture for palliative care. Or Ursula Graham Bower, who commanded patrols and led ambushes in the jungle during WWII or Phyllis Pearsall, a pioneering mapmaker who designed the London A-Z, or, more recently Major Pip Tattersall who was the first female Green Beret.”