Warwick School

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Warwick School
, ,
CV34 6PP

Coordinates52°16′45″N 1°34′26″W / 52.279234°N 1.573883°W / 52.279234; -1.573883Coordinates: 52°16′45″N 1°34′26″W / 52.279234°N 1.573883°W / 52.279234; -1.573883
TypePublic school
Independent day and boarding school
MottoAltiora Peto (Latin)
(I seek higher things)
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
Established914; 1106 years ago (914)
FounderÆthelflæd of Mercia
Department for Education URN125781 Tables
Chairman of GovernorsA. C. Firth
Head MasterJ. S. Barker, BA (Senior School)
A. Hymer, MAEd (Junior School)
Deputy HeadmasterS. Chapman, MA, PHD (Senior School)
T. Wurr, BA (Junior School)
Age7 to 18
Colours(Sports) Blue and White
(Old Warwickians) Maroon, Black and White
Former pupilsOld Warwickians

Warwick School is an independent school (also known as a public school) for boys, with boarding facilities, in Warwick, England. It is believed to be the oldest boys' public school in the world, and 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 also believed to be the oldest surviving school founded by a woman, claiming to have been established by Æthelflæd of Mercia in 914 CE. Its headmasters have been members of the Headmaster and Headmistresses Conference since 1896.


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

In 2019–20 there were 969 boys in the senior school (ages 11 to 18), and 250 in the junior school (ages 7 to 11). The schools form part of the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation which also includes King's High School and Warwick Preparatory School.

Entrance to Warwick School is competitive, with admissions are judged by a combination of internal exams and interview for both the junior and senior schools.[1] Entry to the senior school is permitted at 11+, 13+ and Sixth form (or Upper School). For the Upper School, at age 16, admissions are judged by subject-specific exams and interviews and offers are conditional upon GCSE and IGCSE results.


The 1879 main buildings of Warwick School, viewed from the top of the science block in 2015.

Boys in the senior school are assigned to one of six houses which compete against each other in sports and other activities, such as debating. The six houses are named after people connected with the history of the town of Warwick (Tudor, Guy, Greville, Brooke, Oken, and Leycester). The school's two boarding houses, Way House and School House are separate from the main house system, with boarders being members of both a boarding house and one of the six main houses.

House Namesake House Colours
Guy Guy of Warwick Magenta  
Brooke Earl Brooke Red  
Greville Earl of Warwick Green  
Leycester Lord Leycester Blue  
Oken Thomas Oken Black and Silver    
Tudor Henry VIII Yellow  

The Junior School has four houses named after historical figures with no special connection to Warwick (Drake, Scott, Wellington, and Nelson).


Visit of the Town Crier[edit]

The Town Crier of Warwick traditionally visits the school to announce an added week of holiday for the Michaelmas half term. The ceremony involves a speech, read from a parchment to the whole school in the chapel quad, a mock discussion with the headmaster, and the declaration of the holiday, to cheers from the boys. The Town Crier then takes up a collection for charity from the pupils and staff. This tradition is believed to date back to at least 1912.[2]

The School Arms[edit]

Rev John Pearce Way, headmaster from 1885 to 1896, was the first to attempt to draw up a school coat of arms. He also commissioned the first written history of the school, attempted to change its name from The King's School, Warwick to Warwick School, and introduced a school song and a school motto. He succeeded with the school motto, Altiora Peto (I seek higher things), introduced in 1893, but neither the name change nor the coat of arms were permitted by law.

Horace Seymour Pyne, headmaster from 1906 to 1928, also attempted to create a coat of arms – again illegal – and caused it to be incorporated into the stained glass window of the chapel, where it remains.

George Riding, headmaster from 1928 to 1933, eventually took the appropriate legal steps to request a coat of arms, which was awarded to Warwick School in 1931. Riding designed the coat of arms, which is officially described as follows:

Gules a Cross Flory in the first quarter a Fleur-de-lys Or on a chief of the second three Martlets Azure. Crest: On a wreath of the colours Upon a Portcullis Chained Or a Bear erect Argent Muzzled Gules supporting a Ragged Staff also Argent.

The three martlets are heraldic swallows, depicted without feet because of a medieval belief that they could not perch on the ground. Like the large golden cross, they are emblems used by King Edward the Confessor, reputed to be one of the original founders of the school. The gold fleur-de-lys and portcullis are emblems of King Henry VIII, who re-founded the school in 1545, and the Bear and Ragged Staff have been the crest of the family of the Earl of Warwick since at least the 14th century.[3]


Regular Uniform[edit]

In the 1920s the uniform at Warwick was simple: clothing was expected to be black, although trousers were also allowed to be grey and neckties dark blue. Boys below a certain height (5'6", or 1.68m) were required to wear the unpopular and uncomfortable Eton collar.[4] In the 1930s the current uniform was introduced: a navy blue blazer, worn with a white shirt (or grey in junior school), black or charcoal trousers (with shorts for Junior School), and a tie. Sixth form dress is a dark grey or navy suit.

Ties and awards[edit]

Special ties are awarded to pupils for achievement in different areas, and can be worn in place of their regular school tie:

  • Prefect tie: red and silver stripes
  • Full colours (for sport, drama and music): silver/white and blue stripes
  • Half colours (for sport, drama and music): blue and silver/white stripes (an inversion of "full colours")

Boarders also have a system for recognition of officials in their houses, being:

  • Head of boarding house – gold badge and prefect tie
  • Boarding prefects – silver badges and prefect tie

Heads of House are promoted from the existing prefect body, with the roles of deputy Head of House and captains of individual sports now being honorary.


Early beginnings and the move to St Mary's[edit]

The 1879 chapel of Warwick School, viewed from Chapel Quad.

The town of Warwick was first recorded in the 9th and 10th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 914 during the rule of Æthelflæd, daughter of Alfred the Great. Warwick School was active in the time of King Edward the Confessor (1042–1066) and probably for at least a century earlier,[5] 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. In 1545 King Henry VIII re-founded the school as "The King's New Scole of Warwyke" and the new grammar school moved to what is now the Lord Leycester Hospital.[5] Later it moved again to St Peter's Chapel, now part of King's High School. Schoolmasters in the 17th century included the epigrammatist John Owen (1595–1622) and Rev Thomas DuGard (1633–49), later Rector of Barford Church, who recorded the history and daily life of the school in his Latin diary.

Around 1697 the school moved to the disused medieval buildings of the Vicars Choral in St Mary's churchyard, and stayed there for the next 200 years.

Victorian era: growth followed by crisis[edit]

The late Victorian appearance of Big School

In the Victorian era, Rev Herbert Hill, head teacher from 1842 to 1876, implemented several educational reforms and a modern curriculum was introduced. Three new schools were proposed in the 1870s, and had all begun operations by 1879: 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 King's High School, in Landor House, Smith Street. The Junior Department (now the Junior School) opened in 1889. In 1887 "The Limes" (16 lime trees) were planted to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

Approximately sixteen lime trees 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 and the withdrawal of most of the boys. In 1906 the school merged with the King's Middle School.[6]

The World Wars and independence[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 boarders, almost double the permitted number.

The First World War had a shattering effect on the school. Eighty-eight Old Warwickians, including Pyne's son, were killed, as well as two former staff. Pyne paid for the chapel gallery and west window as a war memorial.

The incoming headmaster in 1928, G. A. Riding from Rugby School, saw himself as a "new broom sweeping clean" after the school had undergone some decline. His tenure was controversial and was marred by two arson attacks in 1930. He was succeeded by Eric Percival Smith (1933–36).[7]

Headmaster A. H. B. Bishop served the school from 1936 to 1962. During the Second World War the number of students grew, increasing to 450 by 1946. It was difficult to appoint and retain adequate staff, and the school was forced to share its premises with a school evacuated from Birmingham between 1939 and 1940.[8]

The Butler Education Act was passed in 1944, removing the substantial Local Education Authority subsidy to the school. In 1946 the governors were forced to declare that Warwick School would have to become independent.[8]

Late 20th Century stability and success[edit]

The Junior School
The Old Sixth Form Centre and Uniform Shop
The Masefield Centre contains the school library and the Computer Science department.
The new Science Centre

By 1962, there were 742 pupils and 44 staff in the senior and junior schools.[9] Recognition for the school included a 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).

Notable modernisation efforts were undertaken by headmasters P. W. Martin (1962 to 1977) and Dr P. J. Cheshire (1988–2002), who extensively improved the school's buildings and facilities. All teaching in the original 1879 classrooms finished and a museum and functions room was opened, named the Portcullis Room. In 1995 the school roll reached 1,000 pupils for the first time.[5]

In the 2000s, Sixth-form girls from the King's High School were allowed to participate in certain school activities, and some joint teaching started. The school's rugby team won the Daily Mail Cup in 2007, and the school's concert band and drama students received national recognition.

Two histories of the school have been published: History of Warwick School by A.F Leach (1906)[10] and Warwick School, A History by G. N. Frykman and E. J. Hadley (2004).[11] Gervald Frykman was the school's first Archivist, and Eric Hadley edited the school's yearly chronicle The Portcullis. A second edition of Frykman and Hadley was published in 2014, to commemorate the assumed 1,100th anniversary of the foundation of the school.

Modern buildings[edit]

Warwick School's Bridge House Theatre
The 2008 Thornton Building

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

The Junior School, opened in 1889, is next to the main school. Although it closed and re-opened several times in the first half of the twentieth century, it has been fully operational since 1938. In 2006 it catered for over 240 boys from 7 to 11 years of age, the majority of whom were expected to pass into the senior school.[12]

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

Warwick Hall replaced the Guy Nelson Hall in 2016.

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, much 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, Warwick Hall, which was opened in September 2016 by Michael Attenborough CBE.[9]

The school's theatre, the Bridge House Theatre,[13] holds 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.

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, Lord Coe.[14] On 2 June 2014, as the climax of the Jubilee year, Charles, Prince of Wales visited the school and unveiled a commemorative plaque.[15]

School magazines[edit]

The Portcullis and The Free Press are the official school magazines, the first having been in print since the late 19th century. Both are contributed to by the boys of the school, with the latter having a tradition of mocking and satirising school policies and teacher. Individual subjects also have their own publications, including The Scientist (Science) and Generation Rising (English).

School Song[edit]

The school has had two main songs throughout its history. Currently, the 1906 Latin song Floreat Domus is sung quite regularly - in chapel at the beginning of every term, and at Speech Day, for example. The original English School Song however is reserved now only for Old Warwickian gatherings, not being sung throughout the normal school year.

Floreat Domus[edit]

Gaudeamus nos alumni

Quod per infinita saecla

Schola perduravit ipsa.

Gaudeamus nos alumni.

Floreat! Floreat!

Schola Warwicensis

Floret atque floreat

Schola Warwicensis.

Haec domus duret per aevum

Floreant omnes alumni

Floreant semper magistri.

Gaudeamus nos alumni.

Floreat! Floreat!

Schola Warwicensis

Floret atque floreat

Schola Warwicensis.

Head Masters[edit]

  • 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
  • 2013–2018: Augustus R Lock
  • 2018–2020: Dr Deneal A Smith
  • 2020-Present: James S Barker[16]

Notable Old Warwickians[edit]

Notable Old Warwickians include:









Notable current and former teachers[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Senior School Admissions". Warwick School. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  2. ^ Hughes, Ian (4 November 2017). "Town Crier visits Warwick School to give announcement in historical style". Leamington Observer. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  3. ^ Frykman, G.N. (2008). "Warwick School Arms and Motto". Old Warwickians. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  4. ^ Frykman, G.N. (2018). "Warwick School Uniform in the 1920s". Old Warwickians. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "The Warwick School Story". Old Warwickians. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Crisis". Old Warwickians. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  7. ^ "Early 20th Century Growth". Old Warwickians. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  8. ^ a b "War and Independence". Old Warwickians. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Post-War Stability and Growth". Old Warwickians. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  10. ^ Leach, Arthur Francis (1906). History of Warwick School : with notices of the collegiate church, gilds, and borough of Warwick. Robarts – University of Toronto. London : A. Constable.
  11. ^ Frykman, G. N. (2004). Warwick School : a history. Hadley, Eric., Warwick School. Oxford: Gresham Books in partnership with Warwick School. ISBN 0946095469. OCLC 62274749.
  12. ^ "A brief history of Warwick Junior School". Old Warwickians. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  13. ^ "The Bridge House Theatre in Warwick". Bridge House Theatre. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  14. ^ "Let's keep legacy alive – Lord Coe". The Leamington Spa Courier. 23 March 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  15. ^ "HRH The Prince of Wales visits Warwick School". www.warwickschool.org. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  16. ^ "Staff and Governor List". Warwick School. Retrieved 27 July 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]