School History

For a summary of our school history please see below.

If you would like to purchase "Dame Alice Owen's School - A History 1613-2013" please click here.

For information about our Headteachers please click here.

For information about our War Memorials please click here.

Dame Alice Owen's Legacy

Dame Alice Owen's School has a long and distinguished history dating back to the foundation in 1613 and we have maintained many unique traditions from that time, such as the giving of a small amount of 'beer money' to every pupil (see below) and the school's long standing close association with the brewing industry and the Worshipful Company of Brewers.

Our story: few schools owe their origin to a cow, a village maiden and an archer's arrow. The cow was being milked in a field outside the village of Islington in the mid 16th century; the maid, Alice Wilkes - accompanied by a young servant - stopped to watch and try her hand in milking; the arrow from nearby butts, sailed across the field and pierced the crown of her hat, miraculously without injuring her. Much impressed by her providential escape, she vowed that when rich enough she would do something for posterity to mark her gratitude.

The Frampton statue of Dame Alice Owen, 1897
The Frampton statue of
Dame Alice Owen, 1897
Dame Alice Owen's Boys' School 1962 Some 50 years later, Alice Wilkes, thrice widowed by a brewer, a mercer and latterly by Judge Thomas Owen, was a lady of considerable wealth. Reminded of her vow by the servant, she established a school for 30 boy scholars from Islington in 1613. Arrows feature prominently on our school's crest, which is in itself largely identical to the crest of the Worshipful Company of Brewers; other motifs include barrels and hops. Dame Alice Owen entrusted the administration of the school and its endowment to the Worshipful Company of Brewers which, for four centuries as Trustees of the Dame Alice Owen Foundation, has supported and encouraged our school.

Dame Alice Owen's Girls' School 1886-1960After the foundation of the boys' school, a girls' school was built over two and a half centuries later in 1886, also in Islington, which eventually merged with the boys' school in 1973. This was then run as a mixed school until July 1976 when the transfer of pupils to our new location in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire was completed.

To this day, several roads on and around the site of the original school in Islington maintain names such as Owen Street, Owen's Row and Owen Fields.

Our new school in Potters Bar opened as a mixed comprehensive in September 1973 and we celebrated our 400th Anniversary in 2013. Archive information for our 400th Anniversary can be found here.

Our school mottos:

Dame Alice Owen's School, Potters Bar - "The Owen's Way" (see below - created in 2011) and "In God is All our Trust" (from Owen's Boys' School)

O - Opportunity for all
W - Window to the world
E - Excellence in everything
N - Never Stop Learning
S - Supportive Community

Owen's Boys' School, Islington - "In God is All Our Trust" (as that of the Brewers' Company - see crest from 1544, right)

Dame Alice Owen's Girls' School, Islington - "Instead of being made - make yourself" (created in 1896 by Mr Herbert Spencer, famous philosopher, as requested by the girls' school's first Headmistress, Miss Emily Armstrong)

Historic traditions

Memorial to Dame Alice Owen

Memorial to
Dame Alice Owen


Certain traditions and customs have been retained, the two most notable being -


Dame Alice herself instructed the Governors to visit the school annually to inspect the scholars' progress. Today, this visit forms part of our school's Annual Open Day and prize giving ceremony.

The original scholars collected flowers from the surrounding fields to make buttonholes for themselves and to decorate the school; the custom today is for white carnations to be worn by all pupils in Years 7 to 11, red carnations by the Sixth Form and any Old Owenians present. Governors are presented with white carnations, unless they are Old Owenians!

Our School Song (adapted from The Boys' School Football Song) is also sung as part of the ceremony - you can actually hear the song being sung by students and staff on the 400th Anniversary News page - see link below). Words of both the original boys' and girls' school songs, as recorded in A History of Owen's School (1613-1976), R.A. Dare B.A., are shown below. When our school moved to Potters Bar in September 1973, Mr Bill Hamilton-Hinds, past pupil (1955-1963), maths master (from 1966) and now Administration Manager, changed three words of the old Boys Football based School Song to those highlighted in red below to reflect the unisex nature of the new school. The Girls' School Song is no longer used, however, the music still exists in the school archives. We also have a record of a second earlier Girls' School song, from a Visitation Programme dated 1936 (image shown below).

A new publication on the history of our School was published in 2012 as part of the 400th celebrations - once again, see reference to how you can purchase a copy below.

The Boys' School Song

(Words by G.J. Baldock, Music by Richard Triggs)

1. On many a well remembered field
Have Owen's fought and won!
At times we lose but never yield
Before the game is done.
And as the years roll on and on,
And players bid goodbye,
Their comrades still in spirit don
The mantles they've cast by.

Chorus - Then strive with a will, Owenians,
Success attend your play;
Never let your ardour cool
For the honour of the School,
On, Owen's - to the fray.

2. Though they are gone, their names live yet,
To stimulate our play;
Their memory doth strength beget,
And drives despair away.
With pride we look back on the days
When those old heroes fought -
How eager was our youthful gaze!
How much to us was taught.

Chorus - Then strive...

3. And now we fight ourselves for Fame,
On us the School relies
Her ancient glory to maintain -
An honour that we prize.
Right manfully we play the game,
The whole team works as one;
To win the match is our sole aim,
All selfish play we shun.

Chorus - Then strive...

4. In future years we shall reflect
With pleasure on these games;
Then shall we feel the good effect
This grand old pastime claims.
'Tis thus we learn how to succeed
In life's far sterner strife;
'Tis thus we learn to live indeed
A manly, useful life.

Chorus - Then strive...

The Girls' School Song

"Honour Dame Alice Owen"

(Words by Eleanor E.Willis, Music by K.W.Flemming-Williams)

1. Lift your hearts and lift your voices,
Sing Dame Alice Owen's praise,
In her name our School rejoices,
May her wisdom guide our ways.

Chorus - Our noble Foundress sowed the seed,
Bear fruit well: in thought and deed
Honour Dame Alice Owen.

2. Day by day we grow in stature,
Mind and body like a tree;
Every task we face with courage
Makes us strong, and straight, and free.

Chorus - Our noble Foundress...

3. Owen's girls, like pilgrims marching,
Tread where Owen's girls have trod,
Seeking truth in fuller service,
Putting all their trust in God.

Chorus - Our noble Foundress...

4. What the years may bring we know not,
Fame or Fortune, joy or pain;
Faithful to our School tradition,
We shall never strive in vain.

Chorus - Our noble Foundress...

5. Onward then, to new endeavour,
Strong in hope and free from fear,
One in loyalty and purpose,
One in will to persevere.

Honour our noble Foundress' name.
Bear the torch, keep bright the flame.
Honour Dame Alice Owen.

Girls' School Song 1936

Beer Money

It was long-established for the Governors to present the boy who welcomed them at Visitation with a small sum of money. From this probably derives the custom of presenting pupils with "beer money". Around 1881 the "money grant" was separated out from the Visitation ceremony and presented by the Clerk of Governors to pupils in the Entrance Hall the morning after, with Dame Alice, from her Frampton pedestal, gazing down at pupils, who received their "beer money" in complete silence.

Nowadays, during their first year at the school, all students attend a formal Beer Money ceremony at The Brewers Hall in London where they receive a £5 commemorative coin from The Master of the Worshipful Company of Brewers.

Students from Years 8-13 complete the ceremony at our school in Potters Bar, but still receive the money from The Master. By tradition, the ceremony is held on the very last day of the Summer Term and although students are now allowed to acknowledge the gift, it is still mostly conducted in silence to emphasize the solemnity of the occasion.

The amount given depends on the students age:
Year 8 - £1
Year 9 - £2
Year 10 - £3
Year 11 - £4
Year 12 - £5
Year 13 - £6

The Head Boy and Head Girl receive £10 in recognition of their additional commitments beyond their own study.

Building Programme

Since our original Islington Schools moved to Potters Bar between 1973 & 1976 to secure the future of the school (which was opened by HRH Princess Anne on 8th June 1976), we have continued to improve our facilities.

New buildings added to our site since 1973:

Edinburgh Centre (Library, Information Technology and Physics, opened by HRH Duke of Edinburgh 1990)

Bernard Ryan Centre (Sixth Form and Modern Languages, opened by HRH the Princess Royal in 1997) - Bernard Ryan was one of our Chair of Governors

Edward Guinness Hall (Concert Hall, opened by Edward Guinness CVO in 2002) -
Edward Guinness is a former Chairman of Guinness Brewing Worldwide and member of our school’s governing body from 1981-1992

Arnold Lynch Centre (Maths, Art and Design Technology, opened by HRH Duke of Kent 2007) - Arnold Lynch was an Old Owenian who worked in the team who designed Colossus (world’s first computer) at Bletchley Park during WW2

Sports Cricket Pavilion (opened by Monty Panesar in 2010) - Monty Panesar is an English cricketer

Myddelton Building (Science facility named after Sir Hugh Myddelton, opened by Lord Robert Winston, Feb 2014). See photos

Sir Alan Parker Building (Drama, Languages and Learning Support, opened by Sir Alan Parker, July 2015). See photos         

Back to top