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Harrow School, commonly known simply as "Harrow", is an independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrowmarker, in north-west Londonmarker. Harrow has educated boys since 1243 but was officially founded by John Lyon under a Royal Charter of Elizabeth I in 1572.

The school has an enrolment of approximately 800 boys spread across twelve boarding houses, all of whom board full time.

Harrow is famous for its many traditions and rich history, which includes a very long line of famous alumni including eight former Prime Ministers (including Winston Churchill, Pandit Nehru & Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston), numerous foreign statesmen, former and current British Lords and members of Parliament, two Kings and several other members of various royal families, 19 Victoria Cross holders, and a great many notable figures in both the arts and the sciences. It is one of the original nine English public schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868.


A school in the location of the school is known to have boys since 1243 but the school in its current state was founded in February 1572 under the Royal Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I to John Lyon, a local wealthy farmer. It was only after the death of his wife in 1608 that the construction of the first school building began. It was completed in 1615 and remains to this day, however it is now much larger.The school grew gradually over time but growth became rapid during Imperial times as British prosperity grew. Lyon died in 1592, leaving his assets to two causes, the lesser being the school, and by far the greater beneficiary being the maintenance of a road to Londonmarker, 10 miles (16 km) away. The school owned and maintained this road for many years following Lyon’s death and the whole school still runs along this 10 mile road in an event called “Long Ducker” every November. At its beginning, the primary subject taught was Latin, and the only sport was archery with both subjects being compulsory. Although most boys were taught for free, their tuition paid for by Lyon's endowment, there were a number of fee-paying "foreigners" (boys from outside the parish). It was their presence that amplified the need for boarding facilities. By 1701 for every local there were two foreign pupils; this was used as a way to generate funds for the school as fees increased. By 1876 the ratio was so high that John Lyon Lower Schoolmarker was brought under the authority of the governors of the Upper School so that the school remained within its charge of providing education for the boys of the parish. It is now known as The John Lyon School and is a prominent independent school in Englandmarker. It maintains close links with Harrow. The majority of boarding houses were constructed in Victorian times, when the number of boys increased dramatically.
Old Schools

The 20th century saw the innovation of a central dining hall, the demolition of small houses and further modernisation of the curriculum. Presently there are approximately 800 boys boarding at Harrow.

In 2005 the school was one of fifty of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, exposed by The Times, which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents. Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling £3,000,000 into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.

The School Governors recently introduced Harrow to the international community by opening two new schools, one in Beijing, Chinamarker, and Harrow International School in Bangkokmarker, Thailandmarker. A twelfth school house is in the early stages of development.Also, in 2012 a new Harrow International School will open in Hong Kong.

Notable alumni

The original Old Schools, as they were in 1615
Harrow has many notable alumni, who are known as Old Harrovians, including seven former British Prime Ministers including Winston Churchill and Robert Peel (the creator of the modern Police Force and founder of the Conservative Party), and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. In addition, nineteen Old Harrovians have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

The school has educated two national Kings: King Hussein of Jordan and his cousin, Faisal II, the last King of Iraqmarker, and had among its pupils a large number from the Thai, Indian, Malaysian and Middle Eastern royal families. A number of members of the British Royal Family have also attended the school.

Other notable alumni include writers (including Lord Byron, Sir Terence Rattigan and Richard Curtis), numerous aristocrats (including the current richest British subject, the Duke of Westminster and the prominent reformist Lord Shaftesbury) and business people (including DeBeers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer and Pret a Manger founder Julian Metcalfe) and the big game hunter and artist General Douglas Hamilton. Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, was also educated at the school.

Prominent modern celebrities who attended Harrow include eccentric horse-racing pundit John McCririck and singer James Blunt, while fictional Old Harrovians include the character Withnail from the film Withnail and I.

School Traditions


Boys at Harrow have two uniforms.

Everyday dress, worn to most lessons, consists of a white shirt, black silk tie, grey trousers, black shoes, blue jumper (sweater), a dark blue woollen uniform jacket, the school blue and white scarf on cold days and, notably, a boater style straw hat with a dark blue band. Variations include Boys who are monitors who are allowed to wear a jumper of their choice and members of certain societies who may earn the right to replace the school standard tie with one of a variety of scarves, cravats, neck and bow ties.

An alternative uniform, Sunday dress, worn every Sunday and for public engagements, consists of a morning suit; a black tailcoat, pinstriped trousers, a black waistcoat, black tie, braces and a white shirt. Variations include a grey waistcoat for those in the top sports teams, red waistcoats for members of “The Guild” which is the school’s prominent arts society, a hat with black speckles for boys in the 1st XI Cricket.

All school monitors wear a top hat instead of the Harrow boater and carry a personalised cane. The Head of School has the distinction of wearing full white tie as Sunday Dress.


Every new boy who enters the school is given a two week period of time called "grace" when they are not fully subject to all school rules and are shown the ropes by an assigned boy in the year above called a "Shepherd". When this period of time ends the boy sits the "new boys' test" which tests general knowledge of the school’s traditions. Some time later all new boys also sing a solo in front of their house at a house songs, officially ending their time as a new boy.

All boys are required to wear their hats on High Street and to "cap" all adults who pass them which is done by the boy raising his forefinger to the brim of his hat.


Songs have been an important part of Harrow life ever since John Farmer, a former head of music, wrote the first song in 1864. The school considers them to be a unifying force as they are sung by the boys in their houses every term. Songs are sung by the whole school to audiences of parents, former pupils of the school, and guests of honour that have, in the past, included members of the royal family and representatives from previous governments. The song Forty Years On has become known as the school song, although in reality it is one of many.

Harrow football

Harrow has its own unique style of soccer called Harrow Football.The purpose of the game is to score a 'base', which is achieved by kicking the ball between a pair of vertical posts, located at each end of the ground, similar to rugby posts but without a cross-bar. This may be done either from open play or from 'yards' and the kick may be of any height. An important feature is the offside rule whereby a player must be behind the ball before he can play it. Handling is allowed from a kick on the volley: the ball may be caught and a call of "yards" allows the catcher a space of three running yards unmolested and a free kick out of the hands.

The Harrovian

The Harrovian is the school newspaper that is published weekly during term time. Its articles are written anonymously and the school stresses that the opinions expressed in the newspaper do not reflect school policy. The newspaper is published as both an organ of record and a forum for comment, debate and the expression of individual opinions in the school. The Harrovian is also published online by the Harrow Association.

Harrow terminology

Harrow is famous for its unusually large amount of jargon specific to the school that pupils use. The following words and phrases serve as a small example of the terminology used during everyday life at Harrow. The origins of many of the terms have been lost through the passage of time.

Slang Term Meaning
Beak Teacher
Bill or Call-over A roll call held in each House that boys from the House must attend.
Bluer Dark blue uniform jacket
Copy Awarded for 12 pieces of good work (Send Up) or to the top boy in each subject every term
Dossers Heavy light grey flannel trousers worn by a select few - a Sixth Form Privilege. Originally three notes from three different beaks (teachers) had to be obtained stating that the boy was indeed 'a dosser'.
Double Lines on special paper set as a punishment
Ducker The swimming pool
Eccer Any form of games
Flannels School colours for sport
Georgic 500 double
Greyers The grey school trousers
Guild The school's best actors, artists and musicians
V2's Third Year Pupils (Fifth form, V2's or L5 (Lower Fifth))
Lock-up The deadline by which any work or punishments must be handed in. It is also the time after which pupils may not leave their House without putting their name in the 'signing out' book.
Monitor (School) School prefect
Monitor (House) House prefect (called a Sixth Former or 'priv' in some houses)
Philathletic club The school's top athletes
Queue Time of day to see the house master for matters of business or concern
Remove Second year group at Harrow
Sixth Form (Lower Sixth - VI 3’S OR Upper Sixth - VI 2’s)
Send up A very good piece of work
Shell First-year student
Shepherd A boy in the year above whose task it is to look after and mentor new boys in their first two weeks at the school
Skew Punishment given by a teacher for a poor or incomplete piece of work, also given by House Monitors to members of their house.
Sunday dress Tailcoat and striped trousers worn on Sundays and other special occasions
Tolley up Permission to work after lights out
Torpids House sports team (under 16s)
Torpid Shags House sports team (under 16s second team or seconders)
Tosh A bath or shower
Trials Internal school examinations
Yarder Outdoor recreation area
Yearlings First year teams or groups

Harrow curriculum

During their first year boys take English, French, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Geography, Latin or Classical Civilisation or Mandarin, Religious Studies, Art, Music, Design Technology and Information Technology. Greek, German or Spanish is offered to boys with good linguistic ability. Classics (Latin and Ancient Greek) are considered very important at Harrow School.

During their second and third years, boys work towards their GCSE examinations. By the end of the third year all boys will have taken English Language, English Literature, French, Mathematics, Religious Studies and a Science. In addition to these core subjects pupils choose, in a wide variety of combinations, four other subjects from History, Geography, Latin, Classical Civilisation, Greek, German, Spanish, Italian, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Music, Art and Design Technology.

In the Sixth Forms all pupils are expected to take AS-level in at least four main subjects, going on to A-level in at least three. There are many to choose from including English Literature, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, History, Geography, Economics, Business Studies, Ancient History, Classical Civilisation, Political Studies, Religious Studies, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Design Technology, Physical Education, Music, Music Technology, Art, History of Art, Theatre Studies, Statistics and Photography.

School Grounds

Harrow is not built on a campus: it is fully integrated into the surrounding area; there are private houses and shops on the hill, and the main road through the hill is a normal public highway and indeed a bus route. The school is made up of some of playing fields, tennis courts, golf course, woodland and gardens.

The School also owns its own working farm. Currently on the farm are a herd of English Longhorn cattle and a flock of Shetland Sheep, until 2003 it was a working dairy farm.

School houses

House name
The Grove
The Headmaster's
The Knoll
Lyons (Not yet complete)
The Park
West Acre
Harrow School divides its boarders into twelve houses, each of about seventy boys, with one these houses, Gayton, used as an overflow. Each house has its own facilities, customs and traditions, and each competes in sporting events against the others.

Until the 1950s there existed what were known as 'small houses' where only 5-10 boys stayed at one time while they waited for a space in a 'large house' to become available (hence the use of the term large house in this article). A thirteenth house (to be known as Lyon's, after the founder of the School) is in the planning stages and is not aimed to increase the population of the school. Instead, each of the present houses will reduce its population in each year thus reducing their individual numbers and filling the thirteenth house. The opening date is set for September 2011.

House Masters and their families live in the boarding houses and are assisted by House Tutors appointed from the teaching staff. Every House has a residential House Tutor. The House Master oversees the welfare of every boy in his care; for parents he is the main point of contact with the School.

Each House has a resident Matron and sick room. The Matrons are supported by the School's Medical Centre where trained nursing staff offer round the clock care. The Medical Centre is under the direct supervision of the School Doctor who is available on the Hill every day for consultation.

There are no dormitories: a boy shares his room with a boy of the same age for the first three to six terms and thereafter has a room to himself. It is very much his own place, his home for the term, where he keeps his belongings, puts up his pictures, does his work and leads much of his social life. Each House has a Common Room with newspapers, television and video. All have their own gardens and sports facilities.

Fees and Charges

As of 2009, Harrow School charges parents £28,545 (about €33,000 or $47,000) per year for board and tuition - considerably more than average annual earnings in the UK.

A few select students can obtain either means-tested bursaries for exceptionally able students of poorer parents or excellence-based scholarships to reduce this amount. Scholarships (30 per year, awarded before the admission to Harrow) can reduce fees by 5-10%, bursaries can reduce fees in some rare hardship cases by up to 95%.


In September 2008, Head Master Barnaby Lenon issued a statement explaining that the deputy head boy had been promoted to the position of head boy because the head boy designate had taken cocaine during the summer holidays. "He [head boy designate] was a first rate pupil. He made a serious mistake in the holidays and when asked by the school was completely frank about it. Harrow has a zero tolerance policy towards illegal drugs and his parents withdrew him from the school. The incident in question took place away from Harrow School and during the holidays."

See also


  4. Cf. Oxford "-er"
  5. Scholarships and bursaries, Harrow School, 2009


  • Rimmer, Rambles round Eton and Harrow, (London, 1882)
  • Thornton, Harrow School and its Surroundings, (London, 1885)
  • Harrow School Register, 1801-93, (London, 1894)
  • Minchin, Old Harrow Days, (London, 1898)
  • Williams, Harrow, (London, 1901)
  • Archibald Fox, Harrow, (London, 1911)
  • G. T. Warner, Harrow in Prose and Verse (London, 1913)
  • Christopher Tyerman, 'A History of Harrow School 1324-1991 (Oxford, 2000)

External links

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