Warminster School

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Warminster School
, ,
BA12 8PJ

Coordinates51°12′29″N 2°11′20″W / 51.208°N 2.189°W / 51.208; -2.189Coordinates: 51°12′29″N 2°11′20″W / 51.208°N 2.189°W / 51.208; -2.189
TypeIndependent day and boarding
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
FounderThomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth
HeadmasterMark Mortimer
Age3 to 18
Number of students600~
HousesArnold, Denys, Ken
Former PupilsOld Verlucians[1]

Warminster School, formed in 1973 by the amalgamation of Lord Weymouth's Grammar School and St Monica's, is a co-educational independent day and boarding school at Warminster, Wiltshire, England, for students aged three to eighteen. It now comprises the Preparatory School for pupils aged three to eleven, and the Senior School for students aged eleven to eighteen.

The school's buildings lie in grounds which face open country on the edge of Warminster town centre. The Preparatory School is on a neighbouring site.

Founding and amalgamations[edit]

Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth
School House

In 1707, Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth, under the influence of Bishop Thomas Ken (1637–1711), founded a grammar school for boys in the market town of Warminster, near to his family seat of Longleat, to instruct the boys of Warminster, Longbridge Deverill, and Monkton Deverill in Latin, mathematics, and other subjects of the usual syllabus of the day. This became known as Lord Weymouth's Grammar School – referred to locally as the "Latin School" – and by the 20th century was called The Lord Weymouth School.

Lord Weymouth (1640–1714) was descended from the first Sir John Thynne of Longleat House. In 1673 he married Lady Francis Finch, a daughter of the Earl of Winchelsea, and lived at Drayton Basset, near Tamworth. He was Member of Parliament for the University of Oxford (1674–1679), and High Steward of Tamworth in 1679. In 1680 he was created Baron Thynne and in 1682 Viscount Weymouth. He was High Steward of the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield from 1679 to 1714. His three sons all predeceased him.

While the history of Lord Weymouth's School goes back to 1707, the school in its current form was created in 1973 by the merger of Lord Weymouth's, a boys' school, and the girls' school St Monica's, which had been founded in 1874 by the nuns of the St Denys Retreat. The present-day school also occupies some buildings once used by the former St Boniface Missionary College and the St Denys Convent and retreat.

In 2007 the school celebrated the tercentenary of the founding of Lord Weymouth's Grammar School with a series of events, including a Service of Thanksgiving in Salisbury Cathedral, at which the Bishop of Salisbury spoke about the school's history, and with a Royal Visit when Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, opened the new Wessex Science Centre.

History of buildings[edit]

St Boniface[edit]

The Masters' Study, Boniface House
St. Boniface House

Now a major element of the School's estate, housing boarding accommodation and offices, St Boniface House started life as a Missionary College[2] founded by the very energetic vicar of Warminster, the Rev. James Erasmus Philipps, whose family was interested in missionary work. The original intention was to train boys and young men who had little previous education but were capable of becoming good workers. Later on the aim was to train them for entry into missionary colleges, both at home and overseas. The Mission House was formally opened in a house near the parish church on 5 October 1860, with eleven students. By 1871 the range of education offered had grown considerably and as the result of a lead seal being dug up in a nearby garden bearing the name of Pope Boniface, the house's name was changed to St Boniface College. In the same year the students built a corrugated iron chapel, which later students enlarged in 1909, in use until 1936. In 1890 the students built themselves a cricket pavilion and established a printing press, on which they were publishing a college magazine in 1896.

In 1897 the foundation stone of new permanent buildings was laid on the site of the former Wilton House, on the town side of the parish church. The first block of these buildings was opened on 1 August 1899, and they were completed by 1901. They are built in the Jacobean style of Doulting stone, with Bath stone dressings. The student numbers grew; in 1908 there were 40 and this later rose to 53. In 1913, after the death of the Rev. J. E. Philipps, the constitution of the College was changed and one of the purposes now listed was for the actual training of missionaries. The College closed during the First World War but then re-opened and flourished. In 1936, a new chapel and lecture rooms were built. The College again closed for the duration of the Second World War.

The college had a reputation of being a caring house with mutual respect and trust between its occupants, aiming to develop this respect and maturity so that pupils were well prepared for their future. In 1943, J. W. Tomlin, the former Principal of the College, wrote of St Boniface that, even if it should be called upon to fulfil a different role in the future, it may well be that "the latter glory of the house shall be greater than the former". In fact, when the college re-opened in 1948 it was associated with King's College, London, as a post-graduate training centre for missionary work. The numbers expanded to 57 students and a staff of three priests. In 1969 the course was moved from Warminster to Canterbury and the College closed. The St Boniface Trust was established and has leased the buildings and land to Warminster School ever since. When in 1969 it became part of Warminster School as a boys' boarding house, the missionary role of the former college was reversed, with many overseas students studying at Warminster.

St Monica and St Denys[edit]

The Rev. J. E. Philipps also founded the Community of St Denys; in addition to training women for work abroad, in 1890 the Anglican nuns of the community established the St Monica's School for Girls,[3] and until 1959 also ran the Orphanage of Pity. While the Community of St Denys is no longer an active convent, some of its nuns still live in Warminster, running the Anglican retreat on Church Street. In September 1996 the St Denys building re-opened as a boarding house of Warminster School for senior boys from Year 9 to the Upper Sixth.

Preparatory School[edit]

Warminster Preparatory School takes children from three to eleven years old and shares grounds and facilities with the senior school, which is for the age range eleven to eighteen. More than half the school is involved in music and about 120 pupils learn an instrument. A large number is engaged in dramatic activities.

Recent dramatic productions[edit]

The school has strong music and drama departments that perform to a high standard. Productions include:

  • Les Misérables (years 10–13)
  • Beauty and The Beast (years 10–13)
  • Billy Elliot (all ages)
  • West Side Story (all ages)
  • Cabaret (years 10–13)
  • Fame – The Musical (years 10–13)
  • Calamity Jane (years 10–13)
  • Alice in Wonderland (years 7–9)
  • Phantom of the Opera (years 10–13)
  • The Madness of George III (years 10–13)
  • The Mouse and the Child (years 7–9)
  • Anything Goes (years 10–13)
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (years 7–9)
  • Macbeth (years 10–13)
  • Grease (years 10–13)
  • Private Peaceful (years 7–9)
  • Hayfever (years 10–13)
  • The Lion King Jr (years 7–9)

Regular music nights and concerts, which were started by the Music Director Brian Martineau shortly after he joined the school, were inclusive and involved and greatly enthused many children. These concerts had a variety of musical themes and reached a pinnacle before he left to take up a position as Director of Music at Aiglon College in Switzerland. These have also have been a feature under the current musical directorship of Caroline Robinson.

In media[edit]

In 2015, the school was featured in the ITV documentary School Swap: The Class Divide. The two-part documentary featured Jo Ward, (headteacher of the state-funded Bemrose School, Derby) and three pupils undertaking an exchange with pupils at Warminster School to explore the differences between state and private education.[4]

Notable Old Verlucians[edit]

Thomas Arnold, 1840

Former pupils of Lord Weymouth's School, St. Monica's and Warminster School, are called Old Verlucians. After over three hundred years, the school can claim many notable OVs, among whom are:


Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells

The pupils of Warminster School are split between three competitive 'houses' across all ages and boarding houses; Arnold, Denys and Ken.

  • Arnold; named after Thomas Arnold an Old Verlucian of considerable note, he was a British educator and historian. Arnold was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement. Arnold's appointment to the headship of the renowned Rugby School in 1828, after some years as a tutor, turned the school's fortunes around, and his force of character and religious zeal enabled him to turn it into a model followed by the other public schools, exercising an unprecedented influence on the educational system of the country. He is portrayed as a leading character in the novel Tom Brown's Schooldays.
  • Denys; named after the order established by Rev. Philipps which led to the creation of St. Monica's School for Girls and St. Denys House. St Denys (Denis) is a Christian martyr and saint. In the third century, he was Bishop of Paris. He was martyred in approximately A.D. 250, and is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as patron of Paris, France and as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. The medieval and modern French name "Denis" derives from the ancient name Dionysius. Denis, having alarmed the pagan priests by his many conversions, was executed by beheading on the highest hill in Paris (now Montmartre)
  • Ken; named after Bishop Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who was considered the most eminent of the English non-juring bishops, and one of the fathers of modern English hymnology. He was influential in the founding of Lord Weymouth's School when in retirement, he found a congenial home with Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth, his friend from college days, at Longleat in Wiltshire. His death took place there on 19 March 1711 only four years after helping found the school. He was buried at the Church of St John the Baptist, Frome where his crypt can still be seen. He is remembered in the Church of England with a Lesser Festival on 8 June. Ken is also honoured with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on 20 March.

Warminster Fives[edit]

Behind School House stands a Fives Court, built in 1860. It is believed that the first Fives Court at the School was built in 1787, although the origins of the pamphlet that Mr D.J.S. Guilford assigns this claim to are unconfirmed. Fives has some similarities to Squash. The court is similar in size but has a stone floor. No racket is required – only a pair of padded gloves. Unlike squash where normally you will play either right-handed or left-handed, in Fives you need to be as ambidextrous as possible.

Warminster Fives is likely to be the same game as Wessex Fives, which originates some centuries ago, when men and boys used the buttresses and walls of a church and hit the ball with their hands against the walls – the angles of the buttresses and walls lending variety to the game. It might then have been a game played as singles or doubles.

Wessex Fives was played in the West Country against the walls of inns and more frequently, church towers, where the glaziers were often called in, it seems, to repair the stained glass windows. In 1754, the Bishop of Bath and Wells ordered the game of Fives should cease to be played against church towers as undoubtedly over one hundred years glaziers' bills were beginning to be felt with some pain by the exchequer.

Multiple versions of Fives were developed, the most common today being Eton Fives and in Wessex only a small following remains, mainly from Winchester College who play what is now more commonly known as Winchester Fives.

Rules for Warminster Fives are quoted by Mr Tony Baden-Fuller on the Eton Fives Website as:

  • Each side shall consist of three players, occupying the positions of 'squi' (left), 'centre', 'skunk' (right).
  • That side wins which first scores twenty-one points, and points can be scored by the serving side only.
  • That side which first serves concedes three points to the other side. Each member of the side serves in turn.
  • Each member of the serving side must at the dapping of the ball stand with at least one foot within the marked line which joins the outer end of one sidewall to the outer end of the other sidewall. If this rule is not observed, the opposing side may claim 'all side out' but the claim must be made before the next service.
  • The server, after dapping the ball (three daps only are allowed), must strike it so that it rebounds off the middle wall and falls outside the black line.
  • If at the service the ball rebounds from the middle wall to a sidewall and falls outside the marked line, the opposing side may claim a 'baulk' or a fresh service.
  • A 'squi' may be claimed by the opposing side if the ball rebounds either perpendicularly from the middle wall or back in the server's direction; then a second service must be given. However, if the opposing side successfully returns a 'squi', the ball is 'in play'.
  • The server is 'put out' when the opposing side wins a rally.
  • That side wins a rally which last returns the ball to the wall successfully. A rally is lost if the ball goes off the court, or daps twice, or does not strike the wall above the ledge. A 'ledger' is'not up'.
  • A 'baulk' (or a fresh service) may be claimed i) if before touching the wall the ball touches one of the side opposing the striker, ii) if on rebounding from the wall the ball touches one of the lost striker's side.
  • When a side has scored twenty points, then the server in all following serves must cry 'game' on dapping the ball and must cry 'ball' on striking it. The opposing side, if they wish, may refuse to take two serves. If the server fails to cry either 'game' on dapping the ball or 'ball' on striking it, the opposing side may claim 'all sides out'; this claim must be made before the ball is dapped for the next service; no claim may be made unless the ball has been struck by the server.
  • No player may impede another player's access to the ball; if he is unavoidably in the way, he must stand still or move one foot only; otherwise a 'baulk' (or a fresh service) may be claimed.
  • Any ball landing on the middle wall or sidewall below the ledge or on the brickwork above is out of court. Any ball landing outside the line around the court is out of court.

List of Headmasters[edit]

1707 – Richard Barry
1742 – Thomas Martin
1771 – Philip Dart
1773 – Thomas Huntingford
1787 – George Isaac Huntingford
1790 – Henry Dison Gabell
1793 – John Griffith
1816 – Robert Clavey Griffith
1820 – Charles Tapp Griffith
1841 – Charles Maddock Arnold
1848 – William Alexander Whannell Hewitt Brunton
1857 – Thomas Edward Crallan
1864 – Charles Alcock
1895 – William Foulkes Blaxter
1920 – Charles Miller Stanley
1930 – John Henry Goldsmith
1940 – Ian Pendlebury Macdonald
1958 – Peter Lewis Deschamps Chamier
1959 – James Francis Clifford Brown
1971 – Ian Green
1979 – Gerald Vinestock
1984 – Malcolm Green
1990 – Tim Holgate
1996 – Michael Pipes
1998 – David Dowdles
2006 – Martin Priestley
2014 – Mark Mortimer


  1. ^ "Old Verlucians". Warminster School. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  2. ^ Boniface House
  3. ^ St Monica's School, Warminster
  4. ^ "School Swap - The Class Divide, Episode 2". ITV Press Centre. August 2015. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  5. ^ 十萬紅衣夾道 百棒聖火樂傳 紅軍圍橙軍起推撞, Ming Pao (in Chinese), 2008-05-03, retrieved 2008-05-03
  6. ^ "HK Olympic torch relay proceeding smoothly", South China Morning Post, retrieved 2008-05-02
  7. ^ Foreman, William (2008-05-02), "Torch relay inspires show of patriotism in Hong Kong", Fox News, retrieved 2009-01-24

External links[edit]