Ellesmere College

Ellesmere College is a fully independent co-educational day and boarding school set in rural northern Shropshire,[1] located near the market town of Ellesmere. Belonging to the Woodard Corporation, it was founded in 1884 by Canon Nathaniel Woodard.

Ellesmere College
SY12 9AB

Coordinates52°53′43″N 2°53′31″W / 52.89522°N 2.89189°W / 52.89522; -2.89189Coordinates: 52°53′43″N 2°53′31″W / 52.89522°N 2.89189°W / 52.89522; -2.89189
TypePublic school
Independent school
Boarding school
Day School
MottoLatin: "Pro Patria Dimicans"
(Striving for one's country)
Religious affiliation(s)Church of England
FounderCanon Nathaniel Woodard
Local authorityShropshire
Department for Education URN123600 Tables
Head teacherBrendan Wignall
Age7 to 18
PublicationThe Ellesmerian

The Woodard Corporation is a significant charity. Today, Woodard educates over 30,000 pupils across academy, independent, and state-maintained schools.

The College consists of a Lower School (Years 3-8), a Middle School (Years 9-11) and a Sixth Form (Year 12-13) where students can choose their own A-Level, BTEC, and International Baccalaureate subjects.


The College was founded in 1879 by Canon Nathaniel Woodard as a boys' school in association with the Church of England, with the 114-acre (460,000 m2) land being provided by Lord Brownlow. Originally called St. Oswald's School, the building was designed by Richard Carpenter and Benjamin Ingelow, and the College opened on 5 August 1884 with 70 boys and four masters. The College-based itself on Anglo-Catholic values within a traditional public school framework, with the aim of providing education at a low cost for the sons of families with limited finances.

Despite the school's Christian foundation, there was no permanent chapel until 1926, and a temporary chapel operated in the crypt beneath the dining hall. In 1926, an official chapel was designed by Sir Aston Webb, but only the first portion was built in 1928. Modified plans were then drawn up in 1932 by Sir Charles Nicholson, and the building was completed in 1959. Unfortunately, the newly completed chapel and dining hall were then destroyed by a fire in 1966.[2] They were both reopened in 1969, and building work continued at the College throughout the 1970s, including new classrooms and additional boarding accommodation.

During World War II, the College stored a number of notable paintings from the Walker Art Gallery including Dante's Dream. Additionally, in 1978, the College became the location for the filming of Absolution, starring Richard Burton and was also the first film role for Billy Connolly, though the chapel scenes were filmed at Pinewood and Bradfield College.

Since 1980, the College has been home to a Schulze Organ, originally installed at St Mary's Parish Church, Tyne Dock.[3]

Coat of ArmsEdit

Arms were granted to "Saint Mary and Saint Nicholas Corporation Trustee" for the use of Ellesmere College on 12 April 1954, the cost of the grant being met by the Old Boys' Association. The grant is kept displayed in a case fastened to the wall of ante-chapel. The arms are:

Shield: Per chevron Purpure and Or two Celestial Crowns Fessewise of the last in Chief & cross Flory also Gold in base & Raven Proper holding in the beak a golden Annulet.

Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours standing on a Mount Vert & Raven as in the Arms.

Motto: Pro Patria Dimicans

The blazon (heraldic description) means that the shield is divided per chevron, the upper part being purple (Purpure) and the lower part being gold (Or). The Celestial Crowns have eight points, five of which are conventionally shown in the illustration and each end in a star. They are "of the last" tincture mentioned, that is, gold, and are horizontally arranged (Fessewise). At the top of the shield (In Chief), is a golden cross with each limb ending in a fleur de lis (Flory), and at the base of the shield is a raven in its natural colours (Proper) holding a golden ring (Annulet) in its beak. The Wreath is the conventional representation of the twisted band of material that is the principal metal and colour of the shield, in this case, gold and purple, which was worn around the helmet and helped to bind the crest mantling to it. The mantling represents the cloth worn over the back of the helmet and body-armour to prevent overheating by the sun. The crest is a raven, as in the Arms, standing on a green mound.

The shield, crest and motto are all connected to the saintly King Oswald, to whom the School is dedicated and who fought a battle at nearby Oswestry. The Celestial Crowns represent Oswald's kingship and the heavenly crown gained by him; the cross stands for the cross which the king raised before his victory against the heathen Penda of Mercia at Heavenfield, ans for Oswald's saintly life. Purple and gold are royal colours, and the raven directly refers to the legend concerning Oswald's coronation, when the chrismatory was accidentally broken and a raven miraculously appeared with new oil, bearing in its beak a letter containing the assurance that the oil had been consecrated by St. Peter himself. The ring in the raven's beak refers to the story of Oswald sending the bird to a heathen princess whom he wished to convert and marry. This emblem is also used by the College Scout Group (by permission of the Headmaster and the Headquarters of the Boy Scouts' Association' as the Group emblem which is embroidered in black on the points of their scarves which are yellow bordered with purple. The motto, which may be translated as "Striving for One's Country", can also refer to Oswald's struggle to maintain the independence of Northumbria against heathen aggression. The motto was likely chosen by the School's first Custos, Sir Offley Wakeman.

Ellesmere College Lower SchoolEdit

Key Stage 2Edit

The academic curriculum for Key Stage 2 reflects the National Curriculum, but is wider in scope in order to prepare pupils for GCSE, A-Level and the International Baccalaureate. All subjects are taught by subject specialist teachers, and there are teaching assistants in the younger classes in order to more readily meet the needs of the individual learner.

Pupils are assessed at the beginning of the academic year, and targets are consistently set. Each pupil is tracked regularly through in-class assessments in English, Mathematics and Science. Thus, at the end of Year 6, pupils have a smooth and seamless transition into Year 7.

Key Stage 3Edit

During Key Stage 3 (Ages 11–13), classes continue to be taught by subject specialists and the students' form tutor provides pastoral care and monitors progress regularly. Progress and effort attainment grades (period grades) are reported twice a term, and reflect progress in each topic. Parents are reported to every term through a parents' meeting or a written report, and regular assessment alongside clear communication ensures that progress is closely monitored and appropriate targets are set.


The subjects taught at Lower School include:

  • Art
  • Design and Technology
  • Drama
  • English
  • French
  • Geography
  • History
  • ICT/Computer Science
  • Latin (Year 7+8 Only)
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Religious Studies
  • Science
  • Spanish (Year 7+8 Only)

Ellesmere College Middle SchoolEdit

The curriculum is streamlined from Year 9 to Year 10 with the focus placed upon courses leading to GCSE. All pupils study the core subjects of the National Curriculum: English, Mathematics, Sciences, and a range of chosen subjects. The College puts a strong emphasis on serving the individual, and strives for each pupil to achieve the best results of which they are capable of. Whilst not bound by the constraints of the National Curriculum, English and Mathematics are compulsory subjects to KS4 and a Modern Foreign Language is also urged alongside a form of Technology and/or Art. Additionally, all pupils follow a non-examinable course in Physical Education whilst PHSE and Careers Education is provided via the tutor system.

Ellesmere College Sixth FormEdit

The Sixth Form offers full-time courses for over 200 students which includes the International Baccalaureate Diploma and the BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Sport, as well as A-Levels. Recently, students have been performing to a high standard and have ensured that the College is noted both nationally and internationally for its achievements. University entrance sees over 85% of students gaining their first choice place in a range of universities and courses including Oxford, Cambridge, and Russell Group Institutions.


Ellesmere College's A-Level courses lead to university entry and/or can provide the specialist qualification for direct entry into work. It is expected that students will choose 3 A-Level subjects, and there are two termly reviews which support students and guides their performance and career aspirations.

There are a range of subjects available such as:

  • Art & Design/Visual Arts
  • Biology
  • Business Studies
  • Computer Science
  • Chemistry
  • Design & Technology
  • Drama & Theatre Studies
  • Economics
  • English Literature
  • French
  • Further Mathematics
  • German
  • Geography
  • Government & Politics
  • History
  • Information Technology
  • Latin
  • Media Studies
  • Music
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Religious Studies
  • Sociology
  • Spanish
  • Sports Science

International BaccalaureateEdit

Students undertaking the IB Diploma Programme are required to study six subjects; three at Higher Level and three at Standard Level. These subjects typically include a mix of Language & Literature, Sciences, Mathematics, Humanities, Arts, and a range of other elective subjects alongside a second language. In addition to the aforementioned, there are three more obligatory components: an Extended Essay, Theory of Knowledge and Creativity Activity Service (CAS).

BTEC National DiplomaEdit

Ellesmere College provides an alternative to A-Level P.E. with the BTEC National Diploma and Extended Diploma in Sport, which is an applied general qualification which is equivalent to two A-Levels. It has been designed as part of a two-year programme ideal for students who wish to pursue a course that specialises in sport, health and fitness, and can also be combined with one other A-Level.

Music at EllesmereEdit

Ellesmere College offers GCSE Music, AS and A2 Music Technology (following the Edexcel syllabus) and International Baccalaureate Music as options for students in Years 10–13. These courses seek to develop students as performers, composers and appraisers. All three skills are intertwined and afforded equal importance, and students study music theory and notation throughout their time at the College in order to have a solid base from which to build on their skills. Ellesmere College recently celebrated success after being named the winners in the Education Business Award for Music 2018.[4]

Ellesmere College's instrumental teaching staff currently teaches over 120 students on a wide range of instruments including voice, piano, organ, guitar, drums, strings, harp, woodwind, and brass. Ellesmere College hosts the Associated Board for exam sessions termly, meaning students can take their exams in familiar surroundings. The instrumental lessons can be arranged by the Director of Music.

Singing is an area of real excellence, and students are given the opportunity to participate in four possible choirs; all of whom rehearse and perform regularly. This approach ensures a sufficient challenge for all students and provides a thorough preparation for choral scholarships at University. There are also a wide range of instrumental ensembles available such as the Lower School Band, Clarinet Quartet, Saxophone Quartet, Flute Choir, Tom-Tom Club, and lower strings ensemble.


There are numerous drama projects in rehearsal and production every term at Ellesmere. Some are pupil directed, and use groups of students in 'playwright' productions such as the annual House Play Festival. There are also weekly drama clubs provided throughout the year, and specific year groups are all given the opportunity to perform.

The Senior School Play performed in the Easter Term is open to all pupils in Year 11 and Sixth Form, and either a musical or two direct productions are performed biannually (one of which is taken on tour to the U.S.A.). As part of the drama course, there are frequent visits to professional theatres, but there is also a termly 'open' theatre trip available for all Sixth Form students.

Year 9 and 10 have a regular Shakespeare slot, and often participate in the Shakespeare Schools Festival. They also perform frequently and attend workshops at professional theatres. The GCSE Drama and AS/A-Level Drama & Theatre studies courses, alongside the International Baccalaureate Theatre Arts course, produce end-of-year shows in which the high quality of their performance work is demonstrated for examination purposes.

A selection of students from the Year 9-13 year groups are given the opportunity to visit the Tabor Academy in Massachusetts as part of their Easter break, following the successful visit of the Academy to the College where they performed their production 'Lucky Me', which was impressively written, produced and acted by students of the Academy.

The studio theatre is run by a professional theatre technician who works in conjunction with a pupil stage crew who learn to light, stage manage and run complex shows as a tightly knit team of hard-working technicians. Script writing competitions are open to the students on an annual basis, and our most gifted students are encouraged towards summer schools of excellence, such as the National Youth Theatre.

Combined Cadet Force (CCF)Edit

The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) within Ellesmere College comprises three sections (Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force), and is led under the overall command of Lt. Col. M.P. Clewlow.

During term time, CCF training takes place on a Thursday afternoon with all three sections offering a variety of activities to the cadets. These activities enable them to acquire useful life skills, develop their leadership and management capabilities and use their initiative in unfamiliar and challenging environments. Camps and courses throughout the year enable cadets to build upon this weekly training, enabling the consolidation of the many skills learnt in different Ministry of Defence establishments and training facilities across the UK.


The popularity of the outdoor pursuit programmes at the College leads naturally to a programme of expeditions both within the United Kingdom and beyond. Recent overseas expeditions have included canoeing in France, alongside treks in Guyana and the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Ecuador.

Duke of Edinburgh AwardEdit

Cadets have the opportunity to pursue the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme (Bronze, Silver and Gold) through the CCF via a dedicated adventurous training camp at Easter.

  • Volunteering
  • Physical
  • Skills
  • Expedition

There is an additional fifth Residential section at Gold Level.

Pastoral CareEdit

Day pupils and boarders alike benefit from a team of tutors and a 'housemother' who are all marshalled by a Housemaster or a Housemistress. Each pupil is provided with a personal tutor whilst in Lower School, and this role is taken by the form teacher.

All pupils are required to attend Chapel services that take place during the school days. Where services are shown in the calendar as weekend attendance, it is compulsory for pupils resident in College at that time to attend, but voluntary for others. However, attendance at Confirmation Services is voluntary for all.


The school has seven boarding houses which mostly have single and twin rooms, but there are also some larger multi-bedded rooms available.

St. Cuthbert's & St. Patrick's - Boys - Ages 13-16Edit

There are two boarding houses dedicated to Middle School boys; St. Cuthbert's and St. Patrick's.

St. Aidan's - Girls - Ages 13-16Edit

St. Aidan's is a boarding house for Middle School girls.

St. Bede's & St. Luke's - Boys - Ages 16-18Edit

There are two Sixth Form boys boarding houses; St. Bede's and St. Luke's.

St. Oswald's & St. Hilda's - Girls - Ages 16-18Edit

St. Oswald's & St. Hilda's are both Sixth Form girls boarding houses.

Sports AcademiesEdit

Ellesmere College has seven different academies to help young players achieve their full potential, and many who have joined Ellesmere College's academies have gone on to represent their county and country.[5]

Scholarships & BursariesEdit

Ellesmere College has a long tradition of recognising talent and supporting students for whom the full fees would prove a barrier to entry. As a result, a wide variety of scholarships, exhibitions and awards are available, plus means-tested bursaries can be offered to further supplement these awards.


Academic AwardEdit

Scholarships and Exhibitions are awarded each year as a result of a candidate's performance in examinations across a range of academic subjects; the examination may be supplemented by an interview and other assessment methods. These awards are worth up to a maximum of 50% of the school fees.

An academic scholar will be of a standard that would lead to As & A*s or Level 8 and 9 equivalent at GCSE.

The EllesmerianEdit

The Ellesmerian is an annual magazine that details all of the activity at the College throughout the academic year. It contains the following reports:

  • Headmaster's Summary
  • Prize Winners
  • Common Room Arrivals/Departures
  • Chapel Notes
  • Competitive House Reports
  • Lower School/Middle School/Sixth Form Reports
  • University Destinations
  • CCF/DofE Reports
  • Arts Summaries (including Music, Drama, Art, Design & Technology, Dance...)
  • News Stories
  • Charity Work
  • Parents' Society Report
  • Old Ellesmerian Updates
  • Sports Reports from Every Term
  • Sports Academy Reports

The Ellesmerian is available digitally and by print.


Ellesmere College has been recognised as an Athlete Friendly Education Centre (AFEC) by the World Academy of Sport (WAoS) in recognition of the way it helps student-athletes on the International Baccalaureate course balance sport and education as they follow an athletic pathway concurrently with their studies. Ellesmere College is one of only 22 schools in the world to receive this accreditation.[6]

Student numbersEdit

Total number of pupils: 550; age range: 7–18

  • Number of boys: 362
  • Number of girls: 187
  • Number of boarders: 162
  • Number in 6th form: 192


  • J. Bullock (1884 - 1890)
  • J. Harrison (1890 - 1894)
  • J. Beviss Thompson (1894 - 1903)
  • E. Illiff Robson (1903 - 1907)
  • H. Woolsey (1907 - 1910)
  • T.H. Hedworth (1910 - 1927)
  • A.V. Billen (1927 - 1935)
  • R.A. Evans-Prosser (1935 - 1961)
  • I.D.S. Beer (1961 - 1969)
  • D.J. Skipper (1969 - 1982)
  • F.E. Maidment (1982 - 1988)
  • D.R. Du Cros (1988 - 1996)
  • B.J. Wignall (1996–Present)

Ellesmere College's current headmaster, Mr. Brendan Wignall, has been recognised in National Awards, has been named one of the UK's best leaders of a public school, and was shortlisted in the best Headmaster category at the Tatler School Awards 2017.[7]

Notable Old EllesmeriansEdit

Former pupils of Ellesmere College are referred to as "Old Ellesmerians".


  1. ^ "History - Ellesmere College".
  2. ^ "Midlands News: Fire at Ellesmere College". Mace Archive. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  3. ^ Allen, Roger (September 1980). "The Tyne Dock Schulze at Ellesmere". The Musical Times. 121 (1651): 579–582. doi:10.2307/961373. JSTOR 961373.
  4. ^ "School Music Award 2018 Winner". Education Business Awards. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  5. ^ "Ellesmere College Sport". Ellesmere College. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  6. ^ "World Academy of Sport: School Finder". World Academy of Sport: World Sport's Education Partner. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  7. ^ "Tatler Schools Awards 2017-2018 Winner List". Tatler. 11 September 2017. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  8. ^ "Deputy Lieutenant of Kent". Archived from the original on 13 August 2016. Retrieved 19 August 2016.

External linksEdit