Bishop Wordsworth's School

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Bishop Wordsworth's School
BWS Badge.jpg
The Close

, ,

Coordinates51°03′53″N 1°47′51″W / 51.0647°N 1.7975°W / 51.0647; -1.7975Coordinates: 51°03′53″N 1°47′51″W / 51.0647°N 1.7975°W / 51.0647; -1.7975
TypeGrammar school;
MottoVeritas in Caritate
Truth in Love
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
FounderJohn Wordsworth
Department for Education URN136500 Tables
HeadmasterStuart Smallwood
GenderBoys (Mixed Sixth Form)
Age11 to 18
Enrolment1050 As of 2021
HousesJewell, Martival, Osmund, Poore, Ward[1]
Colour(s)Dark Blue and Silver/White
PublicationWordsworth magazine
Former pupilsOld Wordsworthians/BoBs Edit this at Wikidata

Bishop Wordsworth's School is a Church of England boys' grammar school in Salisbury, Wiltshire for boys aged 11 to 18. The school is regularly amongst the top-performing schools in England, and in 2010 was the school with the best results in the English Baccalaureate.[2][3] It was granted academy status in March 2011 and is an Additional Member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. It is within the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral, adjacent to the Cathedral School.

Sixth form teaching was in collaboration with South Wilts Grammar School for Girls until June 2020; from September 2020 the school admitted girls direct to its sixth form, with 45 joining Year 12.[4]

The school's full name is Bishop Wordsworth's Church of England Grammar School, shortened to BWS. It is known colloquially as Bishop's, and its students as Bishop's Boys. The school's motto is Veritas in Caritate, taken from the Latin text of Ephesians 4:15: "(Speaking the) truth in love."[5]


Bishop Wordsworth's School, No. 11 The Close. The cathedral spire is visible in the background.

The school was founded in June 1889, when the Bishop of Salisbury, John Wordsworth, announced to his friend Canon Woodall, "I should like to see Salisbury a great educational centre. I should like to found a school which shall be equal to the greatest and best of our public schools."[citation needed] His initial desire that working class boys were not to be admitted caused much controversy. Fees were initially set at £1.10s.0d, and boarding fees were £2 per term; however, the fees were raised to £9 in 1894 to meet the unexpected costs of the school. During the first year, classes were taught in the bishop's palace of Salisbury itself. Bishop Wordsworth personally donated £3000, which was used to purchase an area of land in the cathedral close and to build the school's first buildings. After Bishop Wordsworth's death, the school was renamed Bishop Wordsworth's School, having been previously known as "The Bishop's School".

In 1905, the school became a grammar school, its buildings consisting of the current Chapel Block and Bishopgate. Between 1905 and 1927 the School also used buildings in the Friary and also on New Street in Salisbury. Until 1928 the school admitted both boys and girls, but from 1927, with the founding of a girls' grammar school in the city called South Wilts Grammar School, the school admitted boys only.

In 1931 a hall, science laboratories and a library were built. By the 1930s, the school had achieved a reputation for pioneering educational work,[citation needed] and in 1936 became a public school. During the Second World War, pupils from the Priory School in Portsmouth moved to BWS to avoid the bombing of the city. In 1948 the governors accepted voluntary controlled status, which meant being funded by Wiltshire County Council as local education authority and accepting its supervision. Boarding at the school in the Bishopgate buildings ended in the 1950s, and the buildings were used for teaching thereafter.

The school now educates boys aged 11 to 18 in years 7-13 and girls aged 16–18 in years 12-13.

In 2002, a major redevelopment of the school's site and buildings commenced. A new classroom block and drama studio were followed by an extensive sports hall and physical education facilities, and a sixth form block was finished in July 2010. The old sports hall was converted to house the art department, and the design technology block has been expanded. In 2011 a new cookery room was completed with the reception moved from The Close to Exeter Street and in 2017 the new Maths Block was completed.

In 2004 the school was awarded its first specialism in Languages. In 2008 the school achieved an additional specialism in Science. As part of its specialist work the school has supported all of the city primary schools in Salisbury in Languages, and many with Science too.[citation needed]

The school converted to single academy status in 2011. It has five houses, named after Bishops of Salisbury: Poore, Osmund, Jewell, Martival and Ward.

In 2016 the school was criticised for asking parents for money towards their sons' exam costs. One Bishop Wordsworth’s School parent said the school was not private and should not be "money grabbing". Headmaster Dr Smallwood defended the school saying it did not receive enough government funding and that the payments were entirely optional.[6]

In October 2021, it was reported that Wiltshire Police had investigated drugs activity among a small number of pupils. The previous month, a 14-year-old boy had been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the supply of Class A drugs.[7]


Entry to the school is regulated by the 11-plus.[8] Applicants sit the test in Year 6, at the age of 10 or 11. The exams are held in September at the school itself. There are also limited twelve plus and thirteen plus admissions, similarly by examination. Sixth Form admission is administered by the head of Sixth Form, and is granted on the basis of GCSE results. Pupils must achieve more than 48 points (including 5 in Maths and English) in their GCSEs to continue their studies in Sixth Form, as well as a relatively high grade in the options they propose to take.[9][obsolete source]

Notable staff[edit]

William Golding's Plaque at Bishop Wordsworth's School.jpg

Sir William Golding, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was a schoolmaster teaching Philosophy and English in 1939, then English and Religious Education from 1945 to 1962. Lord of the Flies was Golding's first book, written in 1954, and it is widely believed that its main characters were based on Golding's students.

Golding also regularly sang with Bishop Wordsworth's School choir. He was known affectionately as "Scruff" by the pupils due to his sometimes unkempt hair and beard and his carefree dress sense.[10] After Golding's death in 1993, the school choir sang at his memorial service in Salisbury Cathedral. In March 2005 a plaque was placed at the school to commemorate Golding's time as a teacher.[11] Headmaster Happold was also noted for the foundation of the "Company of Honour and Service". Father Kenelm Foster O.P. wrote:

"[the Company is] a sort of modernist Grail (for Boys) or Solidarity which Dr Happold founded in 1935 at Bishop Wordsworth's School, Salisbury. This is his nucleus, his 'order', his new aristocracy, which is to permeate England: a little cohort of leaders, of seers, of doers." (Cited in Happold, 1964, pp. 33).

Alan Harwood was a notable organ scholar and taught music at Bishop Wordsworth's School. After Harwood's death in 2003, composer Sam Hanson MA ARCO (organist/director of music at St Peter's Church, Bournemouth, formerly organ scholar at Jesus College, Cambridge), dedicated a requiem to him.

Former headmaster Clive Barnett HMI (who left the school in 2002) is patron of the charity EdUKaid, a role he shares with Baroness Kinnock.

In 2009 a retired teacher who was being investigated for indecent assault killed himself by inhaling helium. Nicholas Bray was found dead at his home by police officers on 12 June 2009 after failing to attend an appointment at Salisbury Police Station. He had been arrested in 2007 for an assault dating back several years and was also being investigated for possessing indecent images.[12]


1890–1928 Mr. Reuben Bracher

1928–1960 Dr. Frederick Crossfield Happold D.S.O.

1960–1964 Mr. Ernest Ethrin Sabben-Clare

1964–1974 Mr. Robert Cabot Rowsell Blackledge[13]

1974–1992 Mr. Glyn Evans

1992–2002 Mr. Clive Barnett

2002–Present Dr. Stuart Smallwood

Notable alumni[edit]

The "Old Wordsworthian" AGM and lunch is traditionally held after the Cathedral service and Founder's Day celebrations in July.









  • David Munro, Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey 2016-2020
  • Tom Copley, Labour Party London Assembly Member





  • Happold, Frederick Crossfield, Bishop Wordsworth's School 1890 – 1950. Privately printed for Bishop Wordsworth's School, 1950, 124pp.
  • Happold, Frederick Crossfield, Religious Faith and Twentieth-Century Man. Pelican Original, 1964.
  • 'Roman Britain in 1954: I. Sites Explored: II. Inscriptions', The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 45, Parts 1 and 2. (1955), pp. 121–149.
  • United Kingdom Census 1901
  • British Army Medals & Honour Rolls 1914-1920


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External links[edit]