OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Some Famous Public Schools

Pages: <1> 2

A Famous Public School has been defined as an aristocratic school which is wholly, or almost wholly, a boarding-school, is under some form of more or less public control, and is "non-local," i.e. that the school is not mainly concerned with meeting the needs of people living in the immediate neighbourhood. The seven "Great" schools included in the Public Schools Act of 1867 - the reform act of Public Schools - were Winchester, Eton, Westminster, Harrow, Rugby, Charterhouse and Shrewsbury. The idea of the Public School is that it is mainly "non-local," that it has a good endowment, and that it has a national reputation. Thus, save for the requirement that a Public School should have a long history, these conditions are fulfilled by such schools as Wellington, Clifton, Haileybury, Bradfield, Cheltenham, Marl-borough, Rossall, S. Paul's and Merchant Taylors'. Christ's Hospital (dealt with in a special chapter on the Bluecoat Schools) is unique. But all the older schools named above are essentially grammar schools. Winchester is the grammar school of the College of the Blessed Mary of Winchester, and Eton is the grammar school of the College of the Blessed Mary of Eton. Though Winchester College entered into its building in a.d. 1394, the school of the college was substantially a continuation of the school of the Priory of S. Swithin, the cathedral monastery of Winchester, in which William of Wyke-ham, Bishop of Winchester, had been brought up and which he took over and developed in the new college. Eton College was founded in the year 1440 by King Henry VI, and the statutes of Eton were modelled on those of Winchester. One of the most important resemblances is that each school was placed in connexion with a college in each of the old Universities. The grammar school of Winchester College was carefully planned as a nursery-school to Wyke-ham's New College at Oxford. Similarly, King Henry VI founded King's College, Cambridge, and the grammar school of the College of "The Blessed Marie of Etone beside Wyndesore" was a seminary for the Cambridge King's College, "whither" (says Lambarde, the antiquary, as the histories of Eton repeat) "Eton sendeth annually her ripe fruit." In short, Winchester and Eton are the most splendid of the old grammar schools, with a continuous history of nearly six hundred years, and (escaping as they did the spoliation of the great mass of the schools under Henry VIII and Edward VI) are unique amongst schools, not only in England, but in the world, alike by their architecture, their constitution and their customs.

The constitution of Winchester is framed upon the medieval and ecclesiastical basis. The early provision was for a warden, ten fellows, seventy scholars, a head master (informator) and under-master (ostiarius, or usher), three chaplains, three clerks or singing men, a large staff of servants and sixteen choristers. At Eton the seventy beneficiaries, now the Collegers or King's Scholars, were, in 1440, that is, originally, the provost and ten "sad priests," four lay clerks, six choristers, twenty-five "poor and indigent" scholars and twenty-five poor men. As Sir Lionel Cust says: "Eton College then comprised the elements of a college, a grammar school and an alms-house." In 1443 King Henry VI recast the numbers on the Foundation to a further approximation to Wykeham's arrangements at Winchester. The warden and ten fellows were intended to symbolise the eleven Disciples, Judas being excluded, and the scholars and two masters probably represented the "Seventy Disciples" according to the Vulgate. As Mr. Leach says, in his excellent " History of Winchester College," the idea of a college was the association in living and working together of the clergy in a district, and he suggests that the Black Death had brought about a shortage of clergy, and was thus the immediate cause of the foundation of Sainte Marie College of Wynchester, in Oxenford, now called "New College". The college and the school were in close co-operation. The underlying cause for the foundation was the desire for a learned clergy. The statutes of New College consist of forty-six chapters or rubrics, and of these forty, says Mr. Leach, might belong to any collegiate church, and only six deal in any way with scholars and learning.

The seventy Scholars at Winchester and the seventy Collegers at Eton (or King's Scholars as they have been called since the time of George III) were required to comply with the statutory qualifications of being poor and needy (pauperes et indigentes), apt for study, of good morals and competently skilled in reading, plain-song and grammar. Boys were formerly admitted as Collegers by nomination. Places are now won by competitive examination.

The schools at Eton and Winchester originally consisted of the seventy Foundationers, maintained and educated at small or no expense. The non-Foundationers, or Oppidans as they are called at Eton now, enormously outnumber the King's Scholars. "Eton College has become, in fact, an accessory to Eton School." So with Winchester.

The curious boy-drama of the boy-bishop, going back as far as a little before a.d. 1000, was associated with the name of S. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, the especial saint of schoolboys. On the eve of S. John's Day, at vespers, when the words in the Magnificat were reached "Deposuit potentes" ("He hath put down the mighty from their seat"), the chief authority, the bishop or dean, or the warden, probably, at Winchester, descended from his stall, and in accordance with the words " and hath exalted the humble and meek " his place was taken by the boy chosen to represent the ancient Bishop Nicholas, patron of children. Afterwards came supper, dancing and singing and torches, wine-drinking, and, apparently, there sometimes followed tumult, burlesque and saturnalia. The statutes of Winchester (in a.d. 1400) and those of Eton (a.d. 1443) allowed, at any rate, portions of this ceremony.

Another custom, on the face of it less boisterous and unseemly, was common to Winchester and Eton, that of "nutting" in September. As late as 1711 "nutting-money" was a regular payment made by Winchester boys for the expenses of an outing in the country woods, nut-gathering. One of the most characteristic of the customs of Eton is known by the name of Montem. As far back as 1560 the then head master gave an account of it. About the time of Feast of the Conversion of S. Paul the boys set out in procession at nine in the morning to the Mount, which they made a sacred place dedicated to Apollo and the Muses. The new boys were sprinkled with salt, then addressed and described with as much salt and wit as possible. Finally, the novices were initiated into the company of the older members of the school. From 1844 the custom ceased.

Eton and Winchester, in time, go back for nearly half a thousand years. In space, their influence is felt as far as the Empire - for the pupils in these schools have been among our prominent governors of colonies and dependencies - and along with other Famous Public Schools have provided many of our leading statesmen at home.

Westminster School is usually counted as a foundation of Queen Elizabeth in 1560. Essentially, however, Westminster School is best regarded as a refoundation of an old grammar school in connexion with S. Peter's Abbey Church, and has its origin well back in the Middle Ages, like Eton and Winchester. The aim and character of the re-founded school were essentially connected with the Reformation. Nowell, for some years head master, produced a Catechism. Izaak Walton's description of Nowell and his Catechism is well known. "The good old man, though he was very learned, yet - knowing that God leads us not to heaven by many or by hard questions - like an honest Angler, made that good, plain, unperplexed Catechism which is printed with our good old Service Book." The Westminster Play in the Latin of Plautus and Terence (with topical scenes also in Latin) is the feature of the school best known to outsiders. The spirit of classical education is suggested by the representation of a Latin play each Christmas. Correct action and elocution have always been enjoined. Garrick, amongst others, took an interest in making suggestions as to the school acting.

The history of Charterhouse School can be traced back more directly to the Middle Ages. In 1371 Sir Walter de Manny of Hainault was the main founder of a priory for twenty-four Carthusian monks, and received a charter from the king for this foundation on the site of estates originally belonging to the Hospital of S. John of Jerusalem. This priory was situated in what is now Charterhouse Square. The foundation flourished till the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. After passing through several private hands, the old Charterhouse was sold to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, one of whose sons sold the whole estate to "the mighty-monied" Sir Thomas Sutton, who formed the plan of devoting the old Charterhouse to the purposes of an almshouse and a free school for the maintenance and education of poor children. The "poor brothers," of whom there are now sixty, receive a yearly pension, besides maintenance and a private room. In 1872 the school was removed to a most beautiful modern school building amid country surroundings at Godalming, Surrey, and the old site in Charterhouse Square was sold to the Merchant Taylors' Company, and their London school is now carried on there, in new buildings.

The Charterhouse has always had a high reputation for scholarship and for athletics. Amongst the distinguished old Carthusians are the names of Black-stone, Steele, Addison, John Wesley and Thackeray. The last-named, it will be remembered, gave a charming recollection of the Charterhouse in his novel, "The Newcomes."

S. Paul's School in London, in its refoundation by Dean Colet, is unique in its association of an English school with the famous name of Erasmus, the great European leader of the Northern Renaissance. S. Paul's School, as reconstituted in 1509 by John Colet, dean of St. Paul's, furnishes in its statutes one of the most interesting of all English educational documents. In this respect as the typical early Renaissance Foundation, in associating the English forward movement with the European sixteenth century Renaissance, S. Paul's School is unique. Another important feature is that Colet's statutes were the model for other schools, of which the Merchant Taylors' is a good example. One of the enlightened provisions was that the school should be open to the children of "all nations and countries indifferently." Another was the liberty to amend the statutes, if felt desirable, in the future, thus leaving elasticity of development. Erasmus praises Colet for placing the control of the school with lay instead of ecclesiastical governors. Originally, the school was planned for 153 scholars, symbolical, it is thought, of the traditional number of fishes taken in the miraculous draught.

The exact title of Shrewsbury School is "The Royal Free Grammar School of King Edward VI" (1551). It was Thomas Ashton, head master 1562-1571, who "made" the fame of the school, and might be called its real founder. He devised the important statutes and ordinances. He made Shrewsbury the greatest Public School in north-west England. Inhabitants of Shrewsbury were entered as "Oppidani" and all other boys as "Alieni," and at first with a list of 266 boys exactly half were "oppidani" and half were "alieni." In the course of six years Ashton admitted nearly twice as many "alieni" as "oppidani." The "alieni" came from many aristocratic and noble families, and Shrewsbury was the school of Fulkc-Greville Lord Brooke and Sir Philip Sidney. The school dramatic performances directed by Ashton were very famous. Ashton's dramatic influence was felt far away. At the performance of a play "Ricardus Tertius," at St. John's College, Cambridge, no less than five of the actors were old Salopians. Shrewsbury School was especially in close relation with St. John's College, Cambridge.

Rugby School was founded by Lawrence Sheriff as a free school in 1567, along with an almshouse. Sheriff was a grocer of London, whose father had lived near Rugby, apparently a yeoman. In 1755 a manor house and four fields were bought, and a new schoolroom erected. The greatness of Rugby was settled by the advent of Thomas James as head master in 1778-1794, "the creator of Rugby as it now is." He brought to Rugby the Eton scholarship and discipline and raised the numbers from about 52 to nearly 300. Dr. Wooll further raised the roll-call to 381. From 1829 to 1842 Thomas Arnold ruled, and tried to infuse the principles of religion and morals and gentlemanly conduct, as well as the development of intellectual ability. It was predicted of Arnold that he would, if elected, change the face of public education in England. He developed (though it is going too far to say he initiated) the system of governing the school by the senior boys of the school. There is no single personality of his times who contributed so distinctive an influence in insisting upon the development of character as being essentially the main work of the Public School.

Harrow has not the antiquity of Winchester, Eton or Westminster, but it has definiteness of date of foundation. The "Free School of Harrow" was founded in 1571 by John Lyon, a wealthy yeoman. The school was intended for children of parishioners, but "Foreigners" (i.e. non-parishioners) may be received and the head master "may take such stipends and wages as he can get, except they be of the kindred of John Lyon the Founder." With width of wisdom the founder gave permission for later governors to amend, alter or abolish any of his prescriptive rules. Thus a great Public School has arisen from what might have developed into a parochial free school. It was about 1660 that the Reverend William Horne, of King's College, Cambridge, first set himself to attract boarders from families of good standing.

Harrow, before 1771, had t;.aBB| famous shooting matches with the bow and arrow. Originally six, but subsequently twelve boys contended for a silver arrow. In our generation the social gathering of parents or friends of scholars at the great cricket match of Harrow and Eton is one of the most important events in Society in the summer.

The Merchant Taylors' School, since 1875 occupying new buildings erected in Charterhouse Square, was originally established in the parish of S. Lawrence Poultney in 1561 and is directly under the government of the Merchant Taylors' Company. The numbers were in the first place limited to 250, but on removal to the Charterhouse Square the maximum was increased to 500 Sir Thomas White, founder of St. John's College, Oxford, linked the London School to the Oxford College by establishing, liberally, leaving scholarships to carry boys through their University course.

>>> Next page >>>
Pages: <1> 2

Pictures for Some Famous Public Schools

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About