New College Worcester (NCW), Whittington Road, Worcester, WR5 2JX
A History of Four Schools
Secondary education for young people with a visual impairment began when Worcester College was established in 1866 for the ‘blind sons of gentlemen’. It started at the Commandery, a building which had been used as the Royalist headquarters during the Battle of Worcester.
Notably, Edward Elgar, considered to be England’s greatest composer of his generation, was professor of the violin at the Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen. Elgar's numerous works have been played through the decades at some of the most prestigious concert halls both in the United Kingdom and abroad. His continuing worldwide recognition as a composer of note is important not only to Worcestershire and England but to the classical music world at large.
The need for more space led the College to move in 1887 to Slaughter’s Court, a house in Powick. However, this was still rented. In 1902 Worcester College gained a permanent home on the Whittington Road site. The land and money towards the building were donated by Miss Eliza Warrington, a lady from Malvern. The main part of the school building is still known as the Warrington wing. Unfortunately, Eliza Warrington died in 1901 before she was able to see the project completed.
The College expanded from 1913 under G.C. Brown. He was keen for the boys to compete in sports against their sighted peers, so an open air swimming pool was built, and rowing crews competed in regattas (including the Henley Regatta of 1927). An important change came in 1936 when the, then, National Institute for the Blind undertook all financial responsibility for the College. The immediate consequence of this was the further expansion of the school building. The Baldwin Wing was opened by the former Prime Minister, Earl Stanley Baldwin of Bewdley in 1939.
After the passing of the 1944 Act Worcester College for the Blind was designated as a grammar school for blind boys. The school was able to consider further expansion, and, after the Isaac Wolfson Foundation gave £50,000, a Chapel, Braille Library, additional teaching space and a new laboratory were added.
Although the boys of Worcester College had the opportunity to progress on to higher education from the mid-nineteenth century, there was no such establishment for girls who were visually impaired until Chorleywood College for girls with little or no sight was set up by the National Institute for the Blind in 1921. The school was located in the Cedars, a large Renaissance-style mansion in Hertfordshire. After the Education Act of 1944, the school was designated as a grammar school for girls.
By the 1980s changes in mainstream education had meant that fewer students were being sent to boarding schools. In 1987, the decision was made to close Worcester College and Chorleywood College and ‘merge’ them to form the co-educational, comprehensive, RNIB New College Worcester. In order to provide suitable living accommodation, the old large dormitories were replaced with new boarding houses. Also a new Science wing was built.
In 2007, negotiations between the governors of the college and the RNIB resulted in a consensus that enabled the college to become an independent non-maintained special school, although it continues to collaborate with the RNIB to the benefit of visually impaired children and young people. The school was renamed New College Worcester and given a new logo.
In 2016 the College celebrated its 150th year.
2016 marked the 150th anniversary of New College Worcester, and a year of celebratory events and projects was launched in April with a Jubilee Day, when all former students of the College were invited back for a day of reunion, activities and celebrations. The year ended with a spectacular Christmas concert on 16th December at Worcester Cathedral.