C.M.S. Women Candidates at Ridley Hall 1941-1945
In 1941 the Church Missionary Society’s women’s training establishment at Foxbury in Kent was bombed, and the women trainees were removed to Ridley for the remainder of the duration of the war.
The fourth Principal of Ridley, the Revd J.P.S.R. (Paul) Gibson, gives an account of the events leading up to the move in the June 1941 issue of the college magazine, The Battlement:
‘In September  my wife and I were asked to lecture to the women C.M.S. candidates in training at Foxbury in Kent. It turned out to be blitz time and it seemed mad to go as lecturing would be very difficult. Yet we were impelled to go by the Spirit and went. Our surmise was quite correct; lecturing was not a great success, but we were with them the night a Molotov Basket of 50 incendiaries fell in the garden and on the house. The next morning we were able to be present at the Headquarters discussion and offer, subject to the Council’s consent (readily given later), full hospitality at Ridley to this training school. They appreciate the use of G and H, and their presence not only adds richness to the life of the Hall, but assists us in meeting overhead charges. We cannot help feeling the guiding hand of God in first allowing us to share in their troubles and then unofficially to cooperate in their training. Another lesson was reinforced. Go where God sends you ... Well, here they are for the duration. They have their own exits and their entrances. They attend Hall and they have their table. They come to some Chapels and lectures, otherwise they work under their own Principal and staff.’
An initial group of 20 C.M.S. women arrived at Ridley Hall in 1941. In 1942 there were 25 women in residence, by 1944 their number had grown to 36. They had all left by the end of the Michaelmas term 1945. Not all went out to the mission field; one, a Miss Joan Howden, married the Ridley Chaplain, Revd Gordon Hewitt, who later became Chaplain to the Queen.
Paul Gibson and the ordination of women
The Revd Paul Gibson was Principal of Ridley from 1927 to 1945, and on retirement from the post went to Uganda as Diocesan Missioner. He was known to be a staunch supporter of women’s ordination. A booklet in the Ridley archives contains a speech he gave in January 1933 strongly advocating the ordination of women as priests. The speech, called ‘Women and the Priesthood’, was given at a conference on the ministry of women at St Peter’s Hall, Oxford, organised by the Anglican Group for the Ordination of Women to the Historic Orders of the Church’s Ministry. Paul Gibson’s speech is reproduced here (pdf: requires the free Adobe Reader)