Shrewsbury School

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Shrewsbury School
King Edward VI School at Shrewsbury
Motto Intus Si Recte Ne Labora (Latin: "If Right Within, Trouble Not")
Established 1552[1]
Type Public school
Independent day and boarding
Headmaster Mark Turner[1]
Chairman of Governing Body Matthew Collins
Founder King Edward VI
Location Kingsland
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DfE URN 123608 Tables
Staff ca. 100 (full-time teachers)
Students ca. 770 students
Gender Coeducational
Ages 13–18
Colours Royal blue & white         
School Song Floreat Salopia
Boat Club Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club Rowing Blade.svg

Shrewsbury School is a co-educational independent school for pupils aged 13 to 18 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, founded by Royal Charter in 1552.[1] The present campus, to which the school moved in 1882, is on the banks of the River Severn.[1]

Originally a boarding school for boys, girls have been admitted into the Sixth Form since 2008 and there are approximately 130 day pupils.[2] Since 2014 Shrewsbury School has been fully co-educational. Pupils are admitted at the age of 13 by selective examination.[2] For approximately ten per cent of the pupils, English is a second or additional language.[1]

The school's old boys – or "Old Salopians" – include naturalist Charles Darwin, poet Sir Philip Sidney, his biographer whose virtues extolled the chivalrous code of his era, Fulke Greville, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, authors Samuel Butler and Nevil Shute, and broadcasters John Peel and Michael Palin.

The school's cross-country running club (the "Hunt") is the world's oldest and the first modern track and field meeting was held at the school. Old boys played a role in formulating the rules of association football and football is still played by most boys; the Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club is the most successful school rowing club in the history of the Henley Royal Regatta.


The school's original building now serves as Shrewsbury's town library.

Following a petition in 1542 to Henry VIII from the townspeople of Shrewsbury for a free grammar school, Shrewsbury School was founded by charter in 1552 under King Edward VI by Adam Jones in three rented wooden buildings, which included Riggs Hall, built in 1450, and now the only remaining part of the original foundation. Originally, the curriculum was based on Continental Calvinism, under its first headmaster, Thomas Ashton (appointed 1561) and boys were taught the catechism of Calvin. The school attracted large numbers of pupils from Protestant families in Shrewsbury, Shropshire and North Wales, with 266 boys on its roll at the end of 1562.[3] It had few facilities so early pupils lodged with local families. Philip Sidney, who attended Shrewsbury between the ages of nine and thirteen, lodged with the family of George Leigh, Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury. Having achieved a reputation for excellence under Ashton, in 1571 the school was augmented by Queen Elizabeth I. Although Ashton had resigned from his headmastership in 1568, he returned to Shrewsbury in 1578 to help draw up the ordinances governing the school, which were in force until 1798; under them, the borough bailiffs (mayors after 1638) had power to appoint masters, with Ashton's old St John's College, Cambridge having an academic veto.[4]

The stone buildings on Castle Gates, including a chapel, dormitories, library and classrooms were completed by 1630 and the school continued in these, until it was relocated in 1882. Subsequently the premises were converted to a public Free Library and Museum by the Shrewsbury Borough Council, opening in their new role in 1885.[5] In the twentieth century the library purpose gradually took over the building. After a period of structural deterioration, followed by extensive restoration work, the buildings were re-opened entirely as Shrewsbury Public Library in 1983.[6][7]

Examples of early graffiti in the former school building.

The reputation of the school declined in the following centuries. Samuel Butler became headmaster in 1798.[8] The school had just three headmasters during the 19th century. Butler was succeeded by his pupil Benjamin Hall Kennedy (of Latin Primer fame) in 1836,[8] who in turn gave way to Henry Whitehead Moss in 1866. Under Butler and Kennedy, Shrewsbury was one of three provincial schools among the nine studied by the Clarendon Commission of 1861–4.[9] Thus Shrewsbury was one of nine "Clarendon schools" (along with Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Merchant Taylors', Rugby, St Paul's, Westminster and Winchester) named in the Public Schools Act 1868 and said to be the 'great' public schools.[10]

The school's main building, a former workhouse, on the Kingsland site, to which the school moved in 1882.

In 1882, Moss moved the school from its original town centre location to a new site of 150 acres (61 ha) in Kingsland, on the south bank of the River Severn overlooking the town. A legacy of this move can be seen in the school campus being referred to as "The Site". The school was set up in a building that had at different times housed a foundling hospital and the Shrewsbury workhouse; buildings have since grown up around the edge of the campus with sports pitches in the centre.

Moss was succeeded in 1908 by the Cyril Alington, then Master in College at Eton. Alington, though a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, was a sportsman, evidenced by the 1914 appointment as his secretary of Neville Cardus, the future cricket journalist who had joined the school in 1912 as the school's assistant cricket professional. At the time of his appointment as Headmaster, Alington was younger than any of the masters on the staff, so to bring in new blood into the teaching staff, he recruited several former Collegers from Eton, most notably The Rev. Ronald Knox [See 'Ronald Knox' by Evelyn Waugh 1959 & 'The History of Shrewsbury School' by J.B.Oldham, 1952]. Alington revived attendance which had fallen away under Moss, and he was an energetic builder; the school hall is named after him.

Since the turn of the millennium, the school's site has seen investment. A new music school, The Maidment Building, was opened by Prince Charles in 2001.[11] The Main School Building saw an internal renovation over several years, modernising all classrooms. A new boarding house has been completed, as has a new world-class indoor cricket centre and a new swimming pool. In 2003 Shrewsbury International School, Bangkok was opened in Bangkok, Thailand, in a location on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.

To mark the turn of the Millennium, Shrewsbury unveiled a monument to its most famous alumnus - Charles Darwin.

In 2005 Shrewsbury School was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents.[12] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.[13] However, Mrs Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT director-general, saying, "They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer. They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed."[14]

In November 2005, a decision was taken by the governors to admit girls to the sixth form; initially aiming to admit 60 girls, then increasing to 100. In 2010, the governors unanimously agreed that the school should become co-educational from 2014.


The main sport in the Michaelmas (autumn) term is football, in the Lent term fives and rugby, and in summer cricket. Rowing is another main sport which happens all year. The admission of girls has seen the introduction of field hockey and netball and a decline of other sports.

Shrewsbury School viewed from The Quarry, with the school's boathouse in the foreground.

The Royal Shrewsbury School Hunt (RSSH or "the Hunt") is the oldest cross-country club in the world, with written records (the Hound Books) going back to 1831 and evidence that it was established by 1819.[15] The sport of "the Hunt" or "the Hounds", now known as a Paper Chase, was formalised at the school around 1800. Two runners (the "foxes") made a trail with paper shreds and after a set time they would be pursued by the other runners (the "hounds"). The club officers are the Huntsman, Senior and Junior Whips and the hounds start most races paired into "couples" as in real fox hunting; the winner of a race is said to "kill".[16] In his 1903 semi-autobiographical novel The Way of All Flesh, Old Salopian Samuel Butler describes a school based on Shrewsbury where the main protagonist's favourite recreation is running with "the Hounds" so "a run of six or seven miles across country was no more than he was used to".[17] The first definite record of the Annual Steeplechase is in 1834, making it the oldest cross country race of the modern era.[15] The main inter-house cross-country races are still called the Junior and Senior Paperchase, although no paper is dropped and urban development means the historical course can no longer be followed. Every October the whole school participates in a 3.5 mile run called "The Tucks", originally intended to prevent pupils attending a local horse race.[18] The school also lays claim to the oldest track and field meeting still in existence, which originated in the Second Spring Meeting first documented in 1840. This featured a series of mock horse races including the Derby Stakes, the Hurdle Race, the Trial Stakes and a programme of throwing and jumping events, with runners being entered by "owners" and named as though they were horses.[15]

The school's site is intersected by a number of shaded thoroughfares.

The school's original Castle Gates premises had little in way of provision for games. Under Dr Butler, there were two bat fives courts and playgrounds before and behind the buildings, but after the arrival of Dr Kennedy football was permitted, for which the school acquired a ground in Coton Hill (north of Castle Gates).[7]

The present school buildings in Kingsland are arranged around the sports fields which have nine grass football pitches and one of Astroturf; almost all boys play football in the Michaelmas term.[19] Salopians were prominent in the early history of the organised game at Cambridge University, according to Adrian Harvey "Salopians formed a club of their own in the late 1830s/early 1840s but that was presumably absorbed by the Cambridge University Football Club that they were so influential in creating in 1846".[20] This would make the club the oldest football club in the world. The school has an 1856 copy of the Cambridge rules of football, the oldest extant copy of the Laws of the Game[19] predating the 1863 rules of the FA.

The school's location overlooking the River Severn makes rowing a popular sport at the school and the Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club (RSSBC) is one of the top school rowing clubs in the country. Their victory in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup in 2007 was their 14th win at Henley Royal Regatta, the most successful school in the history of the regatta.[21] Shrewsbury is the only school other than Eton to hold bumps races ("Bumpers") over four days in the summer term,[22] in which coxed fours from each house try to catch the boat in front whilst avoiding being caught by the boat behind. Unlike Eton, houses have three boats, each racing in a separate division.[22] The old boys' rowing club is the Sabrina Club, named after the Celtic goddess of the River Severn.


Alongside the academic study of Theatre Studies at AS and A Level, Drama forms part of a diverse programme of theatre projects, including events devised and directed by the students themselves. As well as a programme of house plays, each year sees two major productions at school level: for juniors, a full-scale production during Speech Day week, and for seniors, the main School Play in either the Michaelmas or Lent term, which is usually a work by Shakespeare, a modern classic or a major musical.

Additionally Shrewsbury school aims to host at least one professional visiting company or artist in their studio theatre during the Michaelmas and Summer terms. Theatre visits are frequent and popular. Productions have included the RSC’s Julius Caesar at The Lowry and The Orphan of Zhao in Stratford.

Shrewsbury prides itself on the quality of its productions, which are held in high regard at the Edinburgh Festival and increasingly in London, where several home-grown musicals have been presented at Covent Garden and at the Royal College of Music.  A number of students continue to study and work in the performing arts after Shrewsbury.


Since 1994, the tradition has existed at Shrewsbury of creating homegrown musicals. In 1994, the writing team at Shrewsbury, which was to create the first three musicals, consisted of John Moore, Director of Music, Peter Fanning, then Housemaster of The Grove and Alex Went, English teacher.  Their first creation was 'Jekyll!', a reworking of Stevenson's classic novella, which went on the next year to win a coveted Fringe First at the Edinburgh Fringe.

'Jekyll!' was followed by 'The Time Machine', and soon after by 'The Lost Domain', based on the novel 'Le Grande Meaulnes' by Alain Fournier.  All of these were premiered at Shrewsbury in the school's own Ashton Theatre, and thereafter were taken to the Edinburgh Fringe for an extensive run.

The school's chapel.

Their next musical saw a change of writing personnel, and John Moore and Peter Fanning were joined by Julian Roach and Peter Hankin for the next project.  Julian had written scripts for Coronation Street, and Peter Hankin had been a highly successful author of Plays for Today for the BBC.  The result was 'The Bubble', a riotous and rumbustuous take on the tale of greed and corruption surrounding the South Seas Bubble fiasco of the early eighteenth century.  This musical was again seen both in Shrewsbury and Edinburgh.  Having also taken 'The Lost Domain' on to the Linbury Studio, Covent Garden, with considerable success, 'The Bubble' also gave the school a further opportunity for London performances. It was recently performed at their sister school, Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok.

Their next musical, 'Frankenstein', occupied the lives of its creators and its cast for the best part of two years. 

In January 2007 'Frankenstein' was taken to a new venue: the Royal College of Music and their wonderful Britten Theatre.  Being able to visit the work for the third time meant that it had grown in the meantime.  Susan Elkin wrote in the magazine 'Secondary Education:' "It's a damp, dark Saturday afternoon in January, and I'm in the Britten Theatre revelling in the most professional school play I've ever seen (and believe me I'm a veteran ...)  The boys of Shrewsbury School - with some talented girls from elsewhere - are wowing the audience with their musical version of 'Frankenstein'.  I'm bowled over by the standard that director, Peter Fanning and the musical director have coaxed out of these teenagers.  As for the stirring basso-profundo voice of David Shipley as Waldeman - sitting at my desk at home several days later, I can still feel the vibrations!"

Their next musical was 'Harry!'; this modern metamorphis of Hamlet was again written by Peter Fanning and John Moore and was performed first at Shrewsbury in November 2007.  It then went on to Edinburgh in August 2008, and finally to the Britten Theatre at the Royal College of Music in January 2009.

In August 2009, in conjunction with Severn Opera, our 2002 musical 'The Bubble' was revived.  Many of the original cast took a large chunk of their annual leave and returned to take up their original roles.  After a fortnight of rehearsals at Shrewsbury (followed by a one-night showing at the Ashton Theatre), the troupe took the production up to Edinburgh for a week, where they got a hat-trick of 5-star reviews.

The 2010 school musical was 'What You Will', based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and adapted by Peter Fanning, with the music written by John Moore.  It was shown in the Ashton Theatre in November 2010. As the School had taken two musicals up to Edinburgh in as many years, it had not been the intention to take 'What You Will' there in 2011.  However, the enthusiasm for this production was such that the lure of Edinburgh for the third year running was irresistible: 'What You Will' played at Edinburgh in August 2011, and then at the Royal College of Music in January 2012.


There are eight boys' boarding houses, two girls' boarding houses, one converted boarding house and two for dayboys, each with its own housemaster or housemistress, tutor team and matron. Each house also has its own colours. In football each house competes in four different leagues (two senior, two junior) and three knock-out competitions (two senior, one junior). A single house will hold around 60 pupils, although School House and each of the dayboy houses hold slightly more. Having about 90 pupils School House used to be divided into Doctors (black and white) and Headroom (magenta and white) for most sporting purposes whilst being one house in other respects but this distinction was abolished in around 2000. The houses and their colours are:

Benjamin Hall Kennedy, headmaster of Shrewsbury for thirty years, from 1836 to 1866.
  • Churchill's Hall Dark Blue & Light Blue (Richard Hudson) (opened in 1882, listed building)
  • The Grove Cornflower Blue and White (Clare Wilson) (converted to girls' house in the summer 2014)
  • Ingram's Hall Green & White (Mike Wright)
  • Moser's Hall Deep Red & Black (Paul Pattenden) (opened in 1884, listed building, girls house from September 2018)
  • Oldham's Hall Chocolate Brown & White (Marcus Johnson) (opened in 1911, listed building)
  • Port Hill (formerly merged with Radbrook as 'Dayboys Hall') Gold & Red (Andy Barnard)
  • Radbrook (formerly merged with Port Hill as 'Dayboys Hall') Violet & White (Richard Case)
  • Ridgemount Royal Blue & Old Gold (Will Hughes) (opened in 1926, listed building)
  • Rigg's Hall Chocolate & Gold (Peter Middleton) (opened in 1882, listed building)
  • School House Black, Magenta & White (Hugo Besterman)
  • Severn Hill (formerly known as 'Chances') Maroon & French Grey (Dan Nicholas)
  • Mary Sidney Hall Dark Blue & Pink (Anna Peak) (opened in September 2008)
  • Emma Darwin Hall Wedgwood Blue & Green (Kait Weston) (opened in September 2011)

School Arms

The Arms of the school are those of King Edward VI being The Arms of England (three lions passant) quartered with those of France (fleur-de-lys).


Sabrinae corolla in hortulis Regiae scholae salopiensis contextuerunt tres viri floribus legendis was a collection of Latin verse by members of the school which first appeared in 1850 (the publisher was George Bell, London). It was edited by Benjamin Hall Kennedy, James Riddell and William George Clark; there was also a revised edition (1890) with revisions by Henry Holden and Richard Dacre Archer-Hind.

The school publishes the Public Nose newspaper - a deliberate variation of the Private Eye magazine. Despite this the Public Nose is not a satirical magazine, but a current events one more akin to a student newspaper. However, the pupils do run and publish The Falopian,[23] which is entirely student controlled and satirises current events within the school much like the Private Eye does in wider society. The Salopian is a newsletter published by the school (mainly by the staff but with some direct contributions from pupils) and sent to parents to update them on current events within the school.[24]


  • 2010– : Mark Turner
  • 2001–2010: Jeremy W. R. Goulding
  • 1988–2001: Ted Maidment
  • 1981–1988: Simon J. B. Langdale
  • 1975–1980: Sir Eric Anderson
  • 1963–1975: A. R. D. Wright
  • 1950–1963: John "Jock" Magnus Peterson
  • 1944–1950: John Wolfenden
  • 1932–1944: H. H. Hardy (father of the actor Robert Hardy)
  • 1917–1932: Harold A. P. Sawyer
  • 1908–1917: Cyril Argentine Alington
  • 1866–1908: Henry Whitehead Moss
  • 1836–1865: Benjamin Hall Kennedy
  • 1798–1836: Dr Samuel Butler
  • 1771–1798: Revd. J. Atcherley
  • 1754–1770: Charles Newling
  • 1735–1754: Leonard Hotchkiss
  • 1727–1735: Robert Phillips
  • 1723–1727: Revd. H. Owen
  • 1687–1723: Revd. R. Lloyd
  • 1646–1687: Revd. A. Taylor
  • ?
  • 1637–1645: Revd.Thomas Chaloner
  • 1583–1635: John Meighen
  • 1571–1583: T. Lawrence
  • 1561–1571: Thomas Ashton

Notable masters

Old Salopians

Former pupils are referred to as Old Salopians (from the old name for Shropshire). Contemporary (i.e. living) Old Salopians include:

Victoria Cross holders

Two Old Salopians are known to have received the Victoria Cross, both in the First World War, 1914-18.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Ofsted Social Care report 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 Independent Schools Inspectorate report 2007 Retrieved 19 March 2010
  3. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 2. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 684. ISBN 0-19-861352-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Article on Thomas Ashton by Martin R. Speight.
  4. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 2. pp. 684–685.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Read All About It! Grand Opening of Shrewsbury's free library 100 years ago. The Shropshire Magazine. April 1985. p. 18-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>Article by Beryl Copsey.
  6. A plaque erected by The Rotary Club of Shrewsbury, commemorating the club's 60th anniversary in 1985, reads: Castle Gates Library erected by Edward VI in 1552, Shrewsbury School occupied this site until 1882. The stone buildings were built 1594-1630. Judge Jefferys and Charles Darwin were educated here. Re-opened as a library in 1983 after complete renovation.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Shrewsbury Library, Its History and Restoration. Shropshire Libraries. 1983. ISBN 0-903802-26-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>(Unpaginated)
  8. 8.0 8.1  Lee, Sidney (1886). [ "Butler, Samuel (1774-1839)" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 8. London: Smith, Elder & Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Stray, Christopher (2005) Histories of the Nine Clarendon Schools: v. 1 Thoemmes Continuum ISBN 1-84371-108-7, ISBN 978-1-84371-108-7.
  10. Ball, Stephen J. (2008). The Education Debate, Policy and Politics in the Twenty-First Century. The Policy Press. p. 60. ISBN 9781861349200.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Shrewsbury School". TES. Retrieved 21 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. [1] TimesOnline
  14. "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 15 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Robinson, Roger (December 1998). "On the Scent of History". Running Times: 28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "History of The Tucks". Shrewsbury School. 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Butler, Samuel (1903). "39". The Way of All Flesh. Project Gutenberg.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "The Tucks". Shrewsbury School. 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Football". Shrewsbury School. 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Harvey, Adrian (2005). Football: The first hundred years. Routledge. p. 251.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Henley". Shrewsbury School. 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Bumpers". Shrewsbury School. 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. The Falopian. ISSUU. Retrieved on 2013-08-13.
  24. Shrewsbury School
  25. 'Frank McEachran', obituary in Books and Bookmen, vol. 20 (Hanson Books, 1975), pp. 58–59.
  • "Philip Sidney: A Double Life" - Alan Stewart, Chatto and Windus, 2000 ISBN 0-7011-6859-5 and
  • "Shrewsbury Library: Its History and Restoration" - A.M Carr Shropshire Libraries 1983

Further reading

External links