Royal Grammar School Worcester

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Royal Grammar School, Worcester
Motto Respice et Prospice
'Remember the Past and Look to the Future'
Established pre-1291
2007 (merger)
Type Independent day school
Headmaster Mr John Pitt
Chairman of Governors Mrs R F Ham
Founder Francis Wright
Location Upper Tything
DfE number 885/6028
Students Circa 1350 (2015)
Gender Coeducational
Ages 2–18
Houses Whiteladies, Elgar, Wylde, Ottley
Colours Blue, green, white             
Former pupils Old Elizabethans/AOOEs

The Royal Grammar School Worcester (also known as RGS Worcester or RGSW) is an independent coeducational school in Worcester, England. Founded before 1291, it is one of the oldest British independent schools.

In September 2007, it merged with the neighbouring Alice Ottley School and was briefly known as RGS Worcester and the Alice Ottley School before reverting to its original name, although the School began accepting girls in 2003 prior to the merger. The school now consists of the main senior school and two preparatory campuses known as Springfield (previously of Alice Ottley School)[1] and The Grange (opened 1996).[2]

Until 1992 it accepted boarders who resided in Whiteladies House, a building that is rumoured to contain hidden treasure from Charles I from when he sought refuge there during the Civil War.[3] It is now a day school.

Tracing its origins back to the 7th century, the school is the sixth oldest school in the world.


The school was originally founded as a secular monastic school in Worcester in around 685 by Bishop Bosel. This makes it the 6th oldest school in the world. It was located outside the monastic precincts (as with the King's School, Canterbury) and catered for the relatives of monks and children intending to go into the monastery. The first written reference to the school appears in 1265 when the Bishop of Worcester, Walter de Cantilupe, sent four chaplains into the city to teach.[4]

Conclusive evidence appears in 1291 when an argument was settled by Bishop Godfrey Giffard regarding who owned the wax from the candles used at the feast of St Swithun. It was decided that the scholars of the Worcester School owned it, and the Rector of Saint Nicholas Church had to rely on the generosity of the scholars in order to get candle wax. The headmaster is mentioned as Stephen of London. The letter dated December 1291 is in the County Records Office in Worcester.

The next headmaster was appointed in 1312 as Hugh of Northampton as recorded in the Bishop's register for that year. He was appointed personally by the Bishop of Worcester, Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Chancellor Walter Reynolds. The school continued to exist under the control of the city guilds through the centuries with various records of headmasters being appointed, again listed in the registers of the bishops of Worcester. One in particular was 'Sir Richard (Chaplain)', who was dismissed by the bishop of Worcester, Philip Morgan, in 1422 for taking money from the scholars for his own use. He was replaced the same year by Sir John Bredel. Sir Richard Pynnington was appointed in 1485 and is known to have given money to the Archbishop of Canterbury's fund[citation needed], showing the strong connection of the school with the church.

Rival schools

In 1501 an attempt was made at establishing a rival school in the city, but the Bishop of Worcester at the time, Silvestro de' Gigli, passed a law that stated any person who set up a school in the city or monastic precincts would be excommunicated. Thus all rivals ceased to exist, and the headmaster of that said school, Hugh Cratford MA, was created headmaster of the City School in 1504.[5]

In 1541, however, Henry VIII founded a new school in Worcester;[6] The King's School Worcester was based on the former site of the Royal Grammar School and became a rival school, with the rivalry manifesting itself in sports fixtures between the two schools. The rivalry continues to this day.

Royal charters

After a petition by some notable citizens of Worcester to endow the school permanently, the school was given a Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1561 and a governing body known as the Six Masters was set up, which remains as the governing body of the new RGS Worcester school today. Amongst famous Six masters are John Wall, Earl Beauchamp, Charles William Dyson Perrins and Sir Anthony Lechemere.[4]

The Six Masters acquired much land for the school including its current site bought in 1562, the Pitchcroft fields, now used as the city racecourse, and land in Herefordshire still owned by the school. The 1906 Charity Commission survey also recorded a number of Pubs in Worcester which still exist today.[3]

A second Royal Charter was granted in 1843 by Queen Victoria, and the title of 'Royal' was conferred in 1869.[7]


The house system was introduced in 1899 by the then headmaster Frederick Arthur Hillard. Initially six houses were established, and membership of houses was based on the place of residence of each boy. The original houses were: Boarders, Barbourne, City, St. John's, County A, and County B. In 1909 the house system was changed to reflect the increasing number of boys in the school, and the difficulty of allocating pupils on the basis of where they lived. The six houses created in 1909 were: School House, for boarders, (which, due to common usage, changed to Whiteladies, as this was the building in which the boarders lived); Temple (after Henry Temple, headmaster 1850s); Tudor (after Elizabeth I); Woolfe (after Richard Woolfe, benefactor 1877 ); Wylde (after Thomas Wylde, benefactor 1558); and Yewle (after Robert Yewle, Six Master 1561). In 1963 two additional houses were created by the then headmaster Godfrey Brown, namely Langley (after William Langley, Six Master 1561) and Moore (after John Moore, benefactor 1626).[3]

Every pupil in the school is a member of a House, with members of the same family always being in the same house. Pupils wear different ties to represent which house they are in, with the basic tie design being the same for all pupils (a navy blue tie with a repeated crown motif) but with different coloured stripes to represent the house.

The school house system changed in 2009 to Flagge (after the playing field), Cobham (after Cobham hall) Eld (after eld hall) Perrins (after perrins hall), Butler (after Butler library, now the fitness suite) and Britannia (after Britannia house) . The system changed again in 2014 to four houses: Whiteladies; Elgar; Ottley and Wylde, the aim being to increase the competitiveness and team spirit within the house system.

The current houses are:

House Colour

The school held a yearly house championship, Decided by a range of events throughout the school year in which all six houses competed, with the winners of each event being awarded eight points, the second placed house seven, down to the losing house one point. The house championship was traditionally called the 'Cock House' (or Cock House Cup Competition[3]) competition, its name deriving from that of the Cock. The original cup that was competed for is one which was presented to the school in 1902 by the Old Elizabethans' Association; in modern times competition is for a cup which was introduced in 1978.[8]

Flagge Meadow

Flagge Meadow (pronounced Flag) was first levelled and used for cricket in 1886.[3] The first recorded match to be held there was in 1939, when the school played Merton College, Oxford.[9] The ground has also played host to several Second XI fixtures for the Worcestershire Second XI in the Second XI Championship and Second XI Trophy.[10][11] In 2007, the ground held a single List-A match for Worcestershire when they played Sri Lanka A.[12] Each year in the summer term play cricket at Flagge Meadow

Other land

Flagge Meadow is located nearby at the back of the school, next to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. St Oswalds, the school's second playing field is located further down the canal and is mainly used for athletics, football and rounders.

School's halls

File:Clock block rgs.jpg
Front of the Clock Block.

The Old School buildings were built in 1868 on a site owned by the school since 1562.[3] The Main Hall, Eld Hall and adjoining buildings were designed by A E Perkins in the Gothic style. It is three bays long with a central lantern. A life-size statue of Elizabeth I by R L Boulton stands above the central window.[13]

The Perrins Hall was built in 1914 to the plans of Alfred Hill Parker (an Old Boy) in a Jacobethan style with an Oriel Window on the staircase end and balcony looking over the hall. The interior is panelled with fitted bookcases (which make up the Dowty Library[3]) and a plastered ceiling. Two war memorials for the two World Wars are housed in the hall. a life-size portrait of Charles William Dyson Perrins hangs opposite the fireplace. Portraits of the 20th-century headmasters hang below. The school organ is in this building, and is played regularly at assemblies.

The Clock Block is connected to the Perrins Hall and was built in 1927, and had extension work carried out in 1967 to link it to the Science Block. It has a bell tower and clock above the entrance. The clock is made of Cotswold Limestone, and is surmounted by the carved head of Old Father Time.[3] To commemorate the millennium a stained glass window was commissioned and installed over the main entrance to the Clock Block.

Other buildings of note

File:Long walk, Royal Grammar School Worcester.jpg
Long walk with the science block in the distance, note the small school crest in the foreground, featuring the three Black Pears.

The science buildings were built in 1922 and opened by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth).[3] The science buildings were subsequently re-furbished in 1996 and thereafter re-opened by Michael Portillo. The science block features at one end of a long path which comes from the main quad of the school, which is the location of Perrins Hall and the Main block. This long path is known as Long Walk.

Whiteladies House, built in the 17th century, was traditionally the Headmaster's house and stands opposite Clock Block across the gardens. Its West wall is part of the Whiteladies Priory chapel built in 1255.[5] Its name derives from the white habit that is worn by Cistercian nuns, who were based at a Nunnery, which was adjacent to Whiteladies.[3]

File:Rgs library.jpg
The School's library, with the old roof structure clearly visible.

Other buildings include Priory House (17th Century), Pullinger House (1980s), Gordon House (after Adam Lindsay Gordon OE) and Hillard Hall (1961, opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on her second visit to the school).[3] The Almshouses, built in 1877 in the Arts and Crafts style, were designed by Sir Aston Webb, the designer of the facade of Buckingham Palace, the Royal Naval College Dartmouth and the Victoria and Albert Museum and are an example of some of his earliest work.[13]

The most recent building work to a school building took place on the school's library. The library was refurbished in 2001, and was renamed the Philip Sawyer Library (after the former Chairman of the Governors). It was opened by the then Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. The library is situated above Eld Hall, and features a high vaulted roof structure.

Extracurricular activities

The school has a number of sports teams which compete with schools from both within the locality and those from around the country. The school fields teams in cricket, rounders, rugby union, association football, athletics, rowing, tennis, netball, field hockey and chess.

There is a large and active CCF section at the school, with the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force represented - but not the Royal Marines. Students also have the opportunity to participate in The Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, and all three levels of award are regularly achieved by students. One of the other activities that students can participate in is the Ten Tors event, with the school having had teams compete at all three distance levels.

Notable patrons

Notable Alumni

Famous Old Boys of the school or Worcester Old Elizabethans (more complete list here), include (in alphabetical order)

See also


  1. RGS Springfield - History
  2. RGS The Grange - History
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Wheeler, A R. Royal Grammar School Worcester, 1950 to 1991 with retrospect to 1291, Royal Grammar School Worcester, 1991. ISBN 0-9516775-0-0
  4. 4.0 4.1 Follet, F. V. History of the Worcester Royal Grammar School, Ebenezer Bayliss, Trinity Press, 1950.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Leach, A. F. Schools of Mediaeval England,Methuen Young Books, 1969. ISBN 0-416-13360-6.
  6. Craze, M. King's School, Worcester: 1541–1971., Ebenezer Baylis and Son, 1972
  7. Leach, A. F. Victoria County Histories: Worcestershire Vol IV- Schools, 1914.
  8. Wheeler, A R. Royal Grammar School Worcester, 1950 to 1991 with retrospect to 1291, Royal Grammar School Worcester, 1991. ISBN 0-9516775-0-0
  9. Other matches played on Flagge Meadow
  10. Second XI Championship Matches played on Flagge Meadow
  11. Second XI Trophy Matches played on Flagge Meadow
  12. List-A Matches played on Flagge Meadow
  13. 13.0 13.1 Pevsner, N. Buildings of England: Worcestershire, Yale University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-300-09660-7.
  14. "Arr signs on at Sixways". Worcester News. 19 January 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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