Warwick School

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Warwick School
Motto Altiora Peto
(Latin for "I seek higher things")
Established 914; 1103 years ago (914)
Type Public school
Independent day and boarding school
Religion Church of England
Head Master A. R. Lock, MA (Senior School), A. Hymer, MAEd (Junior School)
Deputy Headmaster D. J. Wickes, MA (Senior School), T. C. Lewis (Junior School)
Chairman of Governors A. C. Firth
Location Warwick
CV34 6PP
Coordinates: 52°16′41″N 1°34′26″W / 52.278°N 1.574°W / 52.278; -1.574
DfE number 937/6020
DfE URN 125781 Tables
Staff ca.130
Students 1235
Gender Boys
Ages 4–18
Colours Blue and White
Former pupils Old Warwickians
Website www.warwickschool.org

Warwick School is an independent school with boarding facilities (also known as Public school) for boys in Warwick, England. It is the fifth-oldest surviving school in England after King's School, Canterbury, King's School, Rochester, St Peter's School, York and Wells Cathedral School. It is the oldest boys-only school in the United Kingdom. It was active in the reign of King Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042–1066) and it is speculated that it existed before this date. Its headmasters have been members of the Headmaster and Headmistresses Conference since 1896.


The 1879 facade of Warwick School, photographed in February 2007.

Entrance to Warwick School is competitive, with entry points at 12+, 13+ and Sixth Form. Starting in the academic year 2016-17 were 983 boys in the senior school, aged from 11 to 18, and 252, aged from 7 to 11, in the junior school. It forms part of the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation which includes Warwick School (senior & junior), King's High School for Girls and Warwick Preparatory School.


Boys in the senior school are put into one of six houses which compete against each other in sports and other activities, such as debating. The house system is now combined with the system of forms. Six of the houses are named after people connected with the history of the town of Warwick (Tudor, Guy, Greville, Brooke, Oken and Leycester). School House, formerly for boarders only, is now open to day-boys as well. The Junior School has four houses named after more general historical figures (Drake, Scott, Wellington and Nelson).


Early Beginnings and The Move to St Mary's[edit]

The first time that this school has ever been recorded in books and records was in the time of 914 under the rule of Ethlfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great. This, the oldest surviving boys' grammar school in the world, was active in the time of King Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042–1066) and probably for a century earlier, most likely in the grounds of Warwick Castle. By 1477 lessons were held in the old church of St John the Baptist in the Market Place, and the school was still there when King Henry VIII re-founded it as "The King's New Scole of Warwyke" in 1545. At this point the new grammar school moved to what is now the Lord Leycester Hospital, and later on to St Peter's Chapel over the Eastgate, now part of King's High School for Girls. It is not clear where the school was in the 17th century, but it had a couple of notable schoolmasters in the form of the epigrammatist John Owen (1595–1622) and Rev Thomas DuGard (1633–49), later Rector of Barford Church, who did so much to record the history and daily life of the school in his Latin diary - which remains untranslated. The grammar school moved to the disused medieval buildings of the Vicars Choral in St Mary's churchyard around 1697, and stayed there for the next 200 years. Despite initially thriving, with up to 60 boarders, by the end of the 18th century "there were no boarders and very few, if any, free scholars". In 1792 there began the 50-year tenure of Rev George Innes as Master, and the school's fortunes once again fluctuated wildly. Educational reforms and the shake-up of local charities dramatically improved the school under Rev Herbert Hill (1842–76), and a modern curriculum was introduced. It was only in 1871, though, that a list of the 50 or so pupils attending the school began to be kept. Three new schools were proposed in the 1870s, and had all begun operations by 1879. They were; The King's Grammar School, on a new site south of the River Avon, with a classical curriculum, The King's Middle School in The Butts, providing a "commercial education" for "less academic" boys and The King's High School for Girls, in Landor House, Smith Street.


The late Victorian appearance of Big School

The late Victorian era was initially one of success and growth. A Junior Department (now the Junior School) was opened in 1889, and even a chemistry laboratory was constructed. The number of pupils reached 135 (with six staff) in 1885, and 168 ten years later. Also at this time a Cadet Corps was established, The Portcullis started to be published, school Rules were drawn up, Oxford Scholarships started to be won, the name Warwick School was unofficially introduced, with the motto Altiora Peto, an English school song, Here's a Song For All, was written, with music by John Farmer and The Limes were planted.

The Limes were planted in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
The earliest known photograph of the new Grammar School, taken around 1890

The years 1896 to 1906 were ones of increasing crisis for the school, however, culminating in its economic collapse and temporary closure, the flight of the headmaster, the sacking of all the staff, the withdrawal of most of the boys and a merger with the King's Middle School in 1906. However, there were some positive achievements during this troubled decade. A new wing was added at right angles to the chapel, the Old Warwickian Association was founded, the House system was started, the chapel was completed (apart from the gallery), the dining room gained its wooden panels, a Science Block (now the music department) was built, the first history of the school was published (A. F. Leach), and a Latin school song, Floreat Domus, was composed for the 1906 Warwick Pageant.

Early Twentieth Century Growth[edit]

Four of the 1887 Lime Trees and the 1910 Engineering Block
The main buildings of the school, including the chapel which was built between 1879 and 1893.

Under physicist H. S. Pyne (1906–28) the school rapidly grew in numbers. By the late 1920s, there were almost 400 boys in the school, including 146 (very profitable) boarders, almost double the permitted number. The staff grew to 25 at this time.

By 1920 the engineering shop was built, the outdoor swimming pool was opened, electric lighting (instead of gas) was installed throughout the school, a school orchestra was created, a yearly carol service was held in St Mary's, the Town Crier visited yearly, the annual Science Exhibition was started, joint debates with King's High School were held, eight free places were offered to local elementary school pupils and many new buildings were erected.

The First World War had a shattering effect on the school and its headmaster, whose son Eric was killed, along with 87 other OWs and two staff. Pyne generously paid for the chapel gallery and west window as a war memorial, but overall the school was getting somewhat run down by the late 1920s despite a new stage being constructed in Big School. The incoming headmaster in 1928, the linguist G. A. Riding from Rugby School, saw himself as a "new broom sweeping clean", and his controversial reign was blighted in particular by two arson attacks in 1930. However, there were many achievements during this era. The design of the present school badge and uniform was created, the first overseas school trips took place and form orders were introduced (with the bottom boy being flogged in front of the whole school).

Politics, music and drama flourished as never before (as did boxing as a school sport) in the mid-1930s under headmaster Eric Percival Smith (1933–36), and the most popular society in the school was The League of Nations Union.

War and Independence[edit]

The long headmastership of the Cornish chemist A. H. B. Bishop (1936–62) started badly when he decided to re-open the Junior House, closed in 1935 by agreement with a local preparatory school, as a private junior school in 1938. This led to his temporary suspension from the Headmasters' Conference and a vigorous campaign, which included writing to the most famous OWs of the time, including the Poet Laureate John Masefield, in order to get himself reinstated. Masefield's non-committal reply is displayed in the school museum. Bishop encountered further legal problems when he was sued for damages in 1941 at Birmingham Assizes. A 14-year-old boarder doing unsupervised war-time agricultural work in the summer of 1940 at Charlecote lost an eye as a result of a clod of earth being thrown at him. Bishop initially lost the case, and the boy won £750 damages, but the verdict was reversed on appeal, the boy ending up with nothing, on the grounds that the court thought that supervision had not been necessary.

As in the conflict of 1914-18, the number of pupils in the school actually grew during the Second World War, the total rising to 450 by 1946. It was difficult to appoint and retain adequate staff, and the school was forced to share its premises with an evacuated Birmingham School between 1939 and 1940. Air-raid shelters were dug, gas-masks were assembled, and war-time losses of Old Warwickians were almost as serious as they had been 25 years earlier. The most fundamental change at this time, however, occurred as a result of the 1944 Butler Education Act, one aim of which was to make secondary education free of charge for all pupils. At Warwick the fees had to more than triple (to £16 per term for day-boys) as the substantial Local Education Authority subsidy to the school was going to come to an end. However, the very same LEA would still provide total funding for 45 "free place" boys in every year, and also institute a fees remission scheme for parents earning less than £7 10s per week. In 1946 the governors were forced to declare that Warwick School would have to become independent.

Post War Stability and Growth[edit]

The Junior School
The Sixth Form Centre and Tuck Shop
The Masefield Centre contains the school library and the ICT department.
The new Science Centre

By the time A. H. B. Bishop retired in 1962, there were 742 pupils and 44 staff in the senior and junior schools. During the late 1940s and 1950s a new building called The Orlits was built, a new biology laboratory and Memorial Gymnasium were constructed, School Certificate examinations became "O" and "A" levels, and new chemistry and physics laboratories were built, leaving Keeling's original science block to be taken over by the geography and history departments.

There was a highly successful visit by the Queen Mother in 1958, as well as earlier visits by Viscount Montgomery of Alamein and Sir Anthony Eden (Prime Minister 1955-7).

From 1962 to 1977, Headmaster and historian P. W. Martin continued to modernise the school. Parents' evenings were introduced, Friends of Warwick School and the Community Service Organisation were set up, the compulsory wearing of the school cap was abolished, a language laboratory was created, the school's first computer was built, the School Mathematics Project, the Cambridge Classics Project and Nuffield Science were introduced, the Guy Nelson Hall was constructed, the English and mathematics departments got new teaching blocks, the old Big School was converted into the school library, Bridge House and its land were purchased, the temporary New Buildings were finally demolished after 55 years of use, and the school bought its first blue-and-white minibus.

Late 20th century[edit]

Craft, Design and Technology became an academic subject, and the school's first dedicated computer room opened in 1981 with half a dozen Commodore PETs, soon to be replaced in 1986 by a full-size room with 17 BBC micros.

Physicist Dr P. J. Cheshire (headmaster 1988-2002) saw to it that the facilities of virtually every department in the school were improved. In particular, the 1949 Orlits building was replaced by a purpose-built geography and history block, the music department moved into Keeling's gutted 1905 science laboratories, the 1911 outdoor swimming pool was filled in and replaced by a new Sports Hall, the 1890 gymnasium was converted into a Sixth Form Centre, the library and IT departments moved to a new building named after alumnus John Masefield, the old library became an extension dining room and functions area (the Pyne Room), and a drama studio was built at the back of the Guy Nelson Hall.

A brand new theatre was built on the site of, and named after, Bridge House, and all staff were issued with laptop computers. An AstroTurf games pitch was built, the entire Junior School was refurbished and extended into a quadrangle, and the school's first Archivist, Gervald Frykman, was appointed.

The Twenty First Century[edit]

A second history of the school was published (G. N. Frykman and E. J. Hadley) in 2004, the school co-founded the Independent-State School Partnership scheme, sixth-form girls from King's High School joined the Combined Cadet Force and some joint teaching started, a new maintenance department was built behind the Bridge House Theatre, a new science block (the Cheshire Building) was built on the site of the 1879 sanatorium, the 1957 science block was demolished and replaced with the Thornton Building, originally containing the mathematics, classics and religion and philosophy departments (English moved in instead of religion and philosophy, and classics, in 2016), floodlit games pitches became available, the 1st XV won the Daily Mail Cup in 2007, and national recognition was won by the school's concert band and drama students. All teaching in the original 1879 classrooms finished and a museum and OW functions room was opened.

Two histories of the school have been published. The first appeared in 1906 at the exact time that the existence of the original Grammar School was under threat, as unpublished accounts in the school archives show. The second was published in 2004; of the two co-authors, Gervald Frykman is the school's first Archivist, and used much recently discovered material to bring the school's varied fortunes before World War II to life; while Eric Hadley, the editor of the school's yearly chronicle The Portcullis, portrays the school's continued rise in numbers, and its successes, since then. A second edition of Frykman and Hadley was published in 2014, in response to the assumed 1,100th anniversary of the foundation of the school.

Next door to the main school is the Junior School, opened in 1889. Although it closed and re-opened several times in the first half of the twentieth century, it has been fully operational since 1938, and now caters for approximately 250 boys from 7 to 11 years of age.

Modern buildings[edit]

Warwick School's Bridge House Theatre
The 2008 Thornton Building

Although its 1879 buildings are still in use, there have been many additions since then. All teaching now takes place in specialised departmental areas elsewhere.

A new Science Centre, designed by Brown Matthews Architects Ltd., opened for use in June 2007. It houses biology, physics and chemistry laboratories. It was built on the site of the original 1879 sanatorium.

The former main hall of the school, the Guy Nelson Hall, was built, following an appeal, between 1969 and 1970. It had seating for about 600 people, which was far less than the total size of the school in the 2000s and 2010s. Alderman Guy Nelson, after whom the hall is named, was a long-serving Chairman of Governors (1938–1963). The hall was demolished in 2015 and was replaced by a much larger one, named Warwick Hall, which was opened in September 2016 by Michael Attenborough CBE.

The school has its own theatre, the Bridge House Theatre, holding around 310 people. It was opened on 1 May 2000 by Dame Judi Dench and was designed by Michael Reardon Associates. It was intended from the start to be used both by the school and by local organisations in the town. The theatre is set out, as many larger theatres are, with both stall and circle seating and space for a small orchestra pit if needed.

In March 2013, the revamped and modernised Sports Pavilion, renamed the Halse Sports Pavilion after former headmaster Edward B. Halse (2002-2013), was opened in a ceremony led by British politician and former track and field athlete, Sebastian Coe.[1] On 2 June 2014, as the climax of the Jubilee Year, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales visited Warwick School as part of his visit to Warwick and Stratford, unveiling a commemorative plaque.[2]


  • 1792-1842 Rev George Innes
  • 1843-1876 Rev Herbert Hill
  • 1876-1880 Rev William Fisher MacMichael
  • 1881-1885 Rev William Grundy
  • 1885 Rev Philip Raynor (interregnum)
  • 1885-1896 Rev John Pearce Way DD
  • 1896-1902 Rev Robert Percival Brown
  • 1903-1906 Rev William Theodore Keeling
  • 1906-1928 Horace Seymour Pyne
  • 1928-1933 George A Riding
  • 1933-1936 Eric Percival Smith
  • 1936-1962 Arthur H B Bishop
  • 1962-1977 Patrick W Martin
  • 1977-1988 John A Strover
  • 1988-2002 Dr Philip J Cheshire
  • 2002-2013 Edward B Halse
  • 2013- Augustus R Lock

Notable Old Warwickians[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Let's keep legacy alive - Lord Coe". The Leamington Spa Courier. 23 March 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "HRH The Prince of Wales visits Warwick School". www.warwickschool.org. Retrieved 24 October 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]