Unfortunately comparatively little is known about the early years of the school’s history as the historical records, along with those of Warwick Parish Vestry, were lost at sea in 1929. Mr. James Firth, who had possession of the records, was the purser of the vessel Fort Victoria that was rammed and sunk off New York Harbour when the ship was making a regular run to Bermuda.
There seems to be little doubt, however, that the first buildings were on land donated by the Riche Family (Earls of Warwick). Richard Norwood, an outstanding mathematician and navigator, was the first headmaster but only for a very short time as there seem to have been difficulties in agreement over salary, and about 1659 the Rev. Jonathan Burr took over.
Burr undertook to “teach, writing, ciphering (arithmetic) and Latin for nothing, and navigation for a fee” but did not succeed and once again Norwood returned. However, there were still financial problems owing to lack of support and Norwood could not agree with his ushers or assistants.
The Company made an enquiry at this time and informed the Governors that a learned schoolmaster was one of the greatest needs of the colony, as at least one-third of the men could not even write their own names and those who had had some instruction were educated only to the most elementary level.
It was originally suggested that ‘an inoffensive man’ should be found for tutoring in each parish but the Company, realising that funds for schools would not run to one in each parish, decided to have one in the Chapel in the ‘over plus’ (the land left over as common land after Norwood’s division of the islands into shares) and another at the Warwick school lands.
The Company sent a letter in November 1663, requiring that the person taking over the Warwick School should build two rooms of stone measuring 14’ by 16’. This was undoubtedly the beginning of Warwick Academy proper. It is more than coincidence that the outline of a building visible in the present school building corresponds to the dimensions of the original building.
Education in the colony in the late seventeenth century and eighteenth century was at very low ebb, being reduced to the levels of reading, writing and arithmetic. When the clergy were urged to help they added a little Latin - to people who were barely literate. At the beginning of Governor Bennett’s term in 1701, members of the House of Assembly were scathingly described as having “privateering principles and a Bermuda education.” The low standard is hardly surprising when the payment of the schoolmaster, who was also the Attorney General, was a meagre £4 a year.
It was not until the nineteenth century that the situation began to improve and this was somewhat spasmodic, depending on the calibre of the headmasters and the length of time they stayed. One of the most outstanding was Hugh Houston, who was headmaster from 1853 - 1883, and was renowned as a fine scholar and a good teacher. His school was attended by boys from all over the colony, amongst them several who are well remembered: The Reverend Dr. Francis Landy Patton, later to become President of Princeton University; Mr. Walter Thorburn, who became a Judge in the Supreme Court in Calcutta; and Sir James Hodson, who became a surgeon of repute in Edinburgh.
It was not until the twentieth century, however, that the school was embarked on the programme of expansion of physical facilities, which still seems to be in process. One of the earliest benefactors was Mr. James Morgan of Montreal, who owned property in Warwick Parish. His generosity (1918-1928) made possible the extension of buildings round a quadrangle area, which still remains the heart of the school. In addition, there was an assembly hall (now the gymnasium) and a well-equipped science laboratory.
Morgan, Dr. Francis Landy Patton and the Hon. A.B. Smith were also responsible for another action of far-reaching importance for Warwick Academy. They presented a petition to the House of Assembly which brought about the passing of an Act of Parliament - The Warwick Academy Trust Act (1922) from which the school has functioned with its own Board of Governors which first met in January, 1923, and from which date school records are still retained intact. The 1922 Act was rescinded in 1982 and replaced by the Warwick Academy Act 1982.
The headmaster at that time, Mr. R.C. Robertson (1895 - 1928, with a six-year break in Canada) had the pleasure of seeing six of his students awarded the Rhodes Scholarship. During the years 1912 -1918, while Mr. Robertson was in Canada, the school was blessed with another good headmaster, Mr. W. G. Waddington, M.A. His advertisement in the Royal Gazette contained the usual curriculum offered, and “special terms for those coming from Hamilton - hot dinners during the winter months.” Major W. B. Welch (1929-1940) was the first headmaster to enjoy the Headmaster’s House at the Northern end of the school lands overlooking Hamilton Harbour. Many of today’s prominent professional and business people received their education at the Academy at this time.
Academic standard in general, however, were not high and Mr. W. S. Blake, who was headmaster for four years (1943-47), complained at the first Board Meeting that standards were low, facilities seriously lacking, syllabuses non-existent and records incomplete. He introduced student records cards although they were often very sketchily completed.
Mr. George Perkins, headmaster (1947-53), began the academic development of the school, its students numbering 225 in December 1947. Owing to the generosity of Mr. W. S. Purvis, additional classrooms and cloakrooms were added in 1949. By 1950 enrolment had reached 275 and parental interest was marked by a revitalisation of the Warwick Academy Association of parents, old pupils and teachers. This Association began to take an active part in school affairs.
The school curriculum catered for an ‘A’ stream, which took the Cambridge School Certificate, while other students took commercial and business training.
In September 1953, Mr. G. G. Lamacraft became headmaster and was in office for nineteen years. It was during this time that the school’s reputation for high academic standards was firmly established and school enrolment steadily increased. There were many major changes and a great increase in school facilities, especially for the Science Department. In 1962, the 300th anniversary of the founding of the school, the Phoebe Purvis Memorial Hall was built in tribute to the continuing generosity of Mr. Purvis. Also, 1962 was a celebration year in another direction as the governors decided on an important change of policy. Warwick Academy, traditionally a school for white children, opened it secondary department to all children, the first of the traditionally white schools to do so. Two black children qualified in the entrance examinations but unfortunately neither took up the offer and it was not until 1963 that the first black child attended. The school is now completely integrated.
In 1967, the school regretfully parted with its ‘A’ level Sixth form when the government decided it would be more economical to concentrate all ‘A’ level teaching at a Sixth form centre.
In 1971, there was a further blow to tradition when government amalgamated several small primary schools and the primary department at Warwick Academy was one of the first to go. Needless to say, with the secondary department expanding first to a three-stream and then to a four-stream entry the space was rapidly taken up and soon the school was once more filled to over-flowing. An ‘infant’ music department, begun at this time, is now flourishing.
When Dr. Joseph M. Marshall was appointed headmaster in 1972, Warwick Academy operated as a typical British grammar school. However, his long experience as an educator in North America led him to believe that a more liberal programme could be introduced without sacrificing academic excellence and changes in this sphere have gradually been taking place.
Expansion, both in the academic and recreational spheres, has been achieved at a steady rate. Two hard surface tennis courts were built in 1974. The building housing the Science laboratories, Food, Nutrition and Needlework rooms was completed in 1975 and is the envy of many schools. In 1981, following extensive fund-raising, a very real need was met when a 25 metre swimming pool was completed. The earth excavated in the pool was utilised to level off an area, which is now an outdoor basketball court. However, it should be pointed out that the indoor gymnasium is substandard in size and safety features.
There have also been valuable additions to the staff room and there can be few schools with a more cosmopolitan make-up. Bermuda, Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the USA, are all represented by members of staff and this helps to provide the students with a well-rounded education.
1985 - Present
The nature of the school changed dramatically in the 1960s and early 1970s. Warwick Academy became a racially integrated school. Changes in the system of public education involved the loss to the school of both its sixth form and its primary department. From then until 1992 Warwick Academy developed as a four form entry, 11 to 16 selective, co-educational secondary school. Student enrollment climbed to nearly 500.
In 1989 the Ministry of Education announced its intention to abolish the secondary school entrance examination and to establish a comprehensive educational system of primary, middle and senior secondary schools. The Board of Governors announced in June 1990, that Warwick Academy would become a private 5 to 16 school from September 1992.
Later, the Board agreed to Government’s demand to delay the priviatisation of the secondary school until September 1995. Meanwhile, a fee-paying primary school was started in 1992, with one class in primary one and one in primary two.
Since becoming private again the school has had three Headteachers, Mr. Bernard Beacroft, who retired in 1997, Mr. Robert Lennox, who retired in 2008 and Mrs. Margaret McCorkell, currently in post. The school is now solidly established as a successful, happy, integrated establishment maintaining high academic standards in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, the General Certificate of secondary Education and the International Baccalaureate. Additionally the school offers a full range of sporting, musical and other extra-curricular opportunities.
The school opened a new facility in May of 2005, which boasts a fine full-size Sports Hall, new bathrooms, changing rooms and re-vamped swimming pool (now heated) in addition to three new classrooms and an expanded Design & Technology workshop as well as storage for the main hall. The school has ambitious plans to upgrade its existing facilities and to add further ones.