Royal Grammar School Worcester

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Education

Royal Grammar School Worcester
Motto: Respice et Prospice
'Remember the Past and Look to the Future'
Established ante 1291
Type Private coeducational secondary
Principal Andrew Rattue
Founder Bishop Bosel
Students 1223
Grades 1-13
Location Worcester, UK
Colours Blue, green and white

The Royal Grammar School Worcester (RGS Worcester) is a British independent public school founded before 1291.It is in the north of the city and has its origins in the seventh century. The school has many notable buildings, architecturally and historically, of which Perrins Hall is the most striking. The school has an active Old Pupils' Association, the Old Elizabethans, whose membership includes famous names.

The school turned coeducational at the end of 2002, after a history of more than 700 years, and includes pre-preparatory and preparatory departments, RGS The Grange (both of which are coeducational). The school is a day-school; until 1992 accepted boarders, who resided in Whiteladies house, a building that is rumoured to contain hidden treasure from Charles I, when he sought refuge there during the Civil War.


The School was originally founded as a secular monastic school in Worcester around 685 by Bishop Bosel. It was located outside the monastic precincts (as with the 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 Cantelupe, sent four chaplains into the city to teach.

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 the wax, 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, 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, Sylvestre de Giglis, 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.

In 1541, however, Henry VIII founded a new public school in Worcester; The King's School Worcester was based on the former site of the Royal Grammar School, and to this day there still exists a level of rivalry between the two schools, which manifests itself most obviously at sports fixtures (mainly rugby) between the two schools. On 22/11/06 R.G.S won 11-6. This win was the second in a row for the Royal Grammar School, as Cameron Pimlow scored the winning try with ten seconds left on the clock.

Royal charters

Bishop Hugh Latimer wrote to Thomas Cromwell, Lord Chancellor, in 1535 asking for money to help with the City Walls, the Bridge and the School again showing the school's connection with the Bishop. Indeed the school was often referred to as the Bishop's School. 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 today. Amongst famous Six masters are John Wall, Earl Beauchamp and Sir Anthony Lechemere.

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.

A second Royal Charter was granted in 1843 by Queen Victoria, and the title of 'Royal' was conferred in 1869 after the school moved to its present site in Worcester. (It is interesting to note that when Queen Victoria presented the school with three volumes, personally signed by her, she seemed to forget the title of the school. The first volume, Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands 1848 to 1861, referred to the school as the 'Royal Free School of Worcester'; whilst the second volume she presented, More Leaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands 1862 to 1882, had the name of the school as 'Queen Elizabeth's Free Grammar School, Worcester.)

Modern times

In the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries the school has had connections with Worcester Academy USA, with which the RGS is twinned, and is currently forming a connection with a secondary school based in Tanzania. The school has close links with private schools in the local region due to its membership of the 'Monmouth Group', which is a collection of schools similar in aims and membership to that of the Eton Group. The school is also a member of the HMC meaning it has links with schools across the globe. The school has links with four (of the other six) Royal Grammar Schools in the country due to its participation in an annual cricket competition between five of the RGS Schools. The other four RGS schools that compete are those in Colchester, Guildford, High Wycombe, and Newcastle with the host school changing each year, this year the competition will be held at Guildford. (It is interesting to note that RGS Guildford is Andrew Rattue's former employer, he was Deputy Head there until he took up the post of Headmaster at RGS Worcester.)

Land and buildings

Many of the current buildings were paid for by the great benefactor and collector Charles William Dyson Perrins, who was an Old Boy and a Six Master. Perrins Hall was named after his father James Dyson Perrins, owner of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, who went to the school. The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) was set up in 1910 and continues to this day, with a rifle range being incorporated into the basement of Perrins Hall in 1914.

Eld Hall and Library from the front of school.
Eld Hall and Library from the front of school.

The School Playing Fields are located nearby at the back of the school, next to the Birmingham and Worcester Canal. Flagge Meadow (pronounced Flag) was first levelled and used for cricket in 1886 and has seen many famous international cricketers play there (see Past Pupils). The other playing field across the road from Flagge Meadow is St Oswald's Field mainly used for athletics. Athletics is one of the oldest recorded sports of the school being played before the 1860s. Today it continues as a major summer sport along with cricket, with tournaments being held against rival Public Schools from around the country.

In 1996 the school acquired a site to the north of the city where the Prep School moved in 2003, known as RGS The Grange. There are over 40 acres of playing fields used by both junior and senior school pupils. Fresh building work took place at the turn of the millennium as after over seven hundred years of recorded history the school decided to accept girls into the sixth form in 2002, and by 2007 the school will be fully coeducational.

School's halls

Front of the Clock Block.
Front of the Clock Block.

The Old School buildings were built in 1868 on a site owned by the school since 1562. 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.

The Perrins Hall is arguably the finest building.Built in 1914 to the plans of Alfred Hill Parker (an Old Boy), it is 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 ) and a plastered ceiling. The organ is on the stage. Two war memorials for the two World Wars are housed in the hall. The hall is named after James Dyson Perrins of the Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce factory and was built by his son Charles William Dyson Perrins, whose life size portrait hangs opposite the fireplace. Portraits of the 20th-century headmasters hang below.

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 bell is made of Cotswold Limestone, and is surmounted by the carved head of Old Father Time. To commemorate the millennium a stained glass window was commissioned and installed over the main entrance to the Clock Block.

Other buildings of note

Long walk with the science block in the distance, note the small school crest in the foreground, featuring the three Black Pears.
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 form the third side of the courtyard. These were built in 1922 and opened in that year by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). 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, in reference not only to its length, but the hope that pupils will not run along it!

Whiteladies House, built in the seventeenth 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. Its name derives from the White Habbit that worn by Cistercian nuns, who were based at a Nunnery, which was adjacent to Whiteladies.

The School's library, with the old roof structure clearly visible.
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). The Almshouses, built in 1877 in the Arts and Crafts style, were designed by the famous architect Sir Aston Webb and are an example of some of his earliest work. Sir Aston Webb designed the facade of Buckingham Palace, the Royal Naval College Dartmouth and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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). The library is situated above Eld Hall, and features a high vaulted roof structure.

Trees of note

The school has a rare Black Pear tree, planted in 1961,in its main courtyard. The tree is associated with Worcester after the visit of Queen Elizabeth I in 1574 (at which a scholar from her school welcomed her to the city) when she commented on the Black Pear trees. Hence the City, County, and the School have three black pears on their Arms. Worcestershire County Cricket Club also has a connection with black pears, and this can be seen in their logo which features three black pears. The club have planted a black pear tree in their ground so that there should be an apt link, and have planted younger trees ready for the future. The black pears are in fact not black but are dark red and taste very bitter and so, it is alleged, taste better when poached in red wine..

During the period of Godfrey Brown's headmastership he was keen to increase the number and variety of trees around the school. To that end he planted a false acacia (Robina pseudoacacia) in his first year at the school, outside of the Clock Building. By the time Mr. Brown came to leave the school (28 years later) the tree had grown so rapidly that it overtopped the building. However, shortly after he left the tree mysteriously wilted and died .

The most celebrated tree of all at the school, however, was not the Black Pear tree but a very ancient mulberry growing near to Whiteladies. However in 1955 extension to the Whiteladies meant it had to be removed.

School houses

A school tie showing that the pupil is in Wylde.
A school tie showing that the pupil is in Wylde.

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).

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. In house sports events pupils wear different coloured socks to indicate which house they are in (this colour being the same as the colour of the tie stripe).

A table summarising house information
House Year of foundation Named after
Langley 1963 William Langley
Moore 1963 John Moore
Temple 1909 Henry Temple
Tudor 1909 Elizabeth I
Woolfe 1909 Richard Woolfe
Yewle 1909 Richard Yewle
Whiteladies 1909 The school's boarding house
Wylde 1909 Thomas Wylde

The colours that represent each house are as follows: Langley is represented by Salmon Pink; Moore by Red (although as the original beneficiaries of Moore's scholarship to the school had to wear "blue coats of ancient cut" the colour, perhaps, ought to be blue); Temple by Green; Tudor by Purple; Whiteladies by White, but on the socks for sports by Black; Woolfe by Orange; Wylde by a Light Blue; and Yewle by Yellow.

The school has a yearly house championship, which is decided by events (which include sporting events such as football, rugby, cricket and athletics; shooting; general knowledge; art; chess; and more recently dance) throughout the school year in which all eight houses compete, with the winners of each event being awarded eight points, the second placed house seven, down to the losing house one point. (Some events have been tried but not retained as part of the competition, the most recent of which is house fishing, which was tried once and not retained; some events have changed in format over the years (most notably cricket, which went from being a 50- over a side outdoor competition, to a much faster paced indoor 6-a-side comeptition). The house championship is traditionally called the 'Cock House' (or Cock House Cup Competition ) 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.

Among the housemasters of note is John Fletcher Twycross Hills, who was housemaster of Yewle from 1930 until 1963. The strongest house in recent years has been Wylde, which has won the championship for the last 12 years running. Its housemaster, Jon Shorrocks, may well rival John Hills as the most note-worthy housemaster: In his 25 years at the school, 18 as housemaster, Wylde has won the house championship 16 times.


The school operates on a 9:00 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. schedule, which includes 8 periods (of either 35 or 40 minute durations), a morning break (of 20 minutes) and a lunch break, where senior students may go off site.

The school offers 17 subjects at A-level and 18 subjects at GCSE level (the difference in subjects is due to the fact that the school does not offer English A-Level, although it does offer English Literature at A-level). The school has had a strong academic track record in recent years. In 2005 its A-Level results were the highest in Worcestershire, and in the top 150 schools nationally. The school has had a record year, this year, of offers to Oxbridge, with 14 students being offered conditional offers. In 2005 over a 99% secured places at universities, with 6% deciding to take GAP years. This year the school has had considerable success in national competitions.

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, rugby, football, athletics, rowing, tennis, netball, hockey and chess. The cricket team had its most successful season in the school's history in 2005, with the highest number of games won, as well as that it retained the RGS Cup, and the Chesterton Cup. In 2006 the Chesterton Cup was won again by the school, meaning that it has won it five time, which is more then any other school. The rugby team has had success in recent years: reaching the quarter-final in the Daily Mail Cup in 2005, and in 2006 beating local rivals Kings in the annual derby.

The school also has a general knowledge team, which in 2006 reached the regional final of the National General Knowledge Competition. In 2006 the school's debating team, similarly, reached the West of England finals of the ESU's Schools' Mace Debating Competition, in which they were just knocked out by the eventual national winners. In 2004 and 2005 the school reached the national finals of this competition.

There is a large and active CCF section at the school, with all three branches of the services represented. Students also have the opportunity to participate in the 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

  • Bishop Godfrey Giffard (1240-1306) Bishop of Worcester and Lord Chancellor of England.
  • Bishop Walter Reynolds (d.1327) Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England.
  • Hugh Latimer (1470-1555) Bishop of Worcester and Protestant Martyr.
  • C.W. Dyson Perrins Chairman Royal Worcester Porcelain and collector.
  • Queen Elizabeth I
  • Queen Victoria
  • Godfrey Brown Headmaster 1950-78,Olympic Gold Medallist.

Past pupils

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

  • John Mark Ainsley (1963-) Tenor
  • Sir Roy Allen (R.G.D. Allen) (1906-1980) Economist
  • Dom Augustine Bradshaw (1574-1618) Catholic missionary
  • Sir Reginald Bray KG (d.1503) Statesman and Architect
  • Tim Curtis (1960-) Cricketer, former captain of Worcestershire.
  • Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-1870) National Poet of Australia
  • Dean Headley (1970-) Former England International Cricketer
  • Imran Khan (1952-) Cricketer
  • William Langland (1330-1387)
  • Benjamin Williams Leader RA (1831-1923) Artist
  • Sir Thomas Littleton (1407-1481) Lawyer
  • Graham Robb (1958-) Author
  • T J Cobden Sanderson (1840-1922) Arts and Crafts movement pioneer
  • Philip Serrell TV Auctioneer. He is this year's Old Elizabethans' President.
  • Jon Turley (1971-) Children's writer
  • Professor Michael Wilding (1942-) Australian Author
  • Sir Edward Leader Williams (1828-1910) civil engineer ( Manchester Ship Canal)
  • Augustine Bradshaw (1575-1618) A Benedictine monk.
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