The Alice Ottley School was founded on 21 June 1883 by Alice Ottley and Canon William Butler of Wantage, opening with a roll of 11 pupils.
Miss Ottley proved to be a pioneer of education for girls and remained Headmistress until 1912. She had already resigned when she fell ill in June 1912 and died in London on 18 September, by coincidence the first day of the new term under her successor, Miss Margaret Spurling. She was buried with the inscription ‘In Thy Light we shall see Light’. In 1957, the City of Worcester added its own, more lasting commemoration in the form of a window in the Cloisters of the Cathedral. It remains to this day.
Spurling was Headmistress from 1912 until 1934. During Hilda Roden’s 30 year tenure the school expanded from 600 to around 750 girls, both daygirls and boarders. In its 124-year history, the school had six headmistresses, and a portrait of each hangs in Main Hall. In the last portrait of Mrs Chapman, who was the last of the Heads, she wears an enamel brooch which had belonged to Alice Ottley, depicting a white lily – the emblem of the School.
Former Head of Physics Martyn Williams sums up the fondness felt for the school by former pupils and staff alike: “Every AO pupil will remember singing Candida Rectaque, in Latin, each Speech Day,” he reminisces. “Receiving a choc ice in break time and wearing blue or white flowers in your lapel on 20 June, The Alice Ottley School birthday, are other examples of the school’s traditions, which I believe are really important.”