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Winchester College is a famous boys' independent school, set in the city of Winchestermarker in Hampshire, Englandmarker, the ancient capital. Officially known as Collegium Sanctae Mariae prope Wintoniam (or Collegium Beatae Mariae Wintoniensis prope Winton), or St Mary's College near Winchester, the College is commonly referred to as "Win: Coll:" or just "Winchester". The school has lived and worked in its present site and buildings for over six hundred years and thus claims the longest unbroken history of any school in Englandmarker. Winchester is the oldest of the original nine English public schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868. "Winchester has arguably the finest tradition of scholarship of any school in the country", says The Good Schools Guide describing the school as "uniquely civilised" and providing an "academically, comradely and architecturally privileged boyhood most Wykehamists treasure throughout their lives."


Winchester College was founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor to both Edward III and Richard II, and the first seventy poor scholars entered the school in 1394. It was founded in conjunction with New College, Oxfordmarker, for which it was designed to act as a feeder: the buildings of both colleges were designed by master mason William Wynford. This double foundation was the model for Eton Collegemarker and King's College, Cambridgemarker some 50 years later (a sod of earth from Winchester and a number of scholars were sent to Eton for its foundation), and for Westminster Schoolmarker, Christ Church, Oxfordmarker and Trinity College, Cambridgemarker in Tudor times.

In addition to the seventy scholars and 16 "Quiristers" (choristers), the statutes provided for ten "noble Commoners". These Commoners ("Commoners in Collegio") were paying guests of the Head Master or Second Master in his official apartments in College. Other paying pupils ("Commoners extra Collegium"), either guests of one of the Masters in his private house or living in lodgings in town, grew in numbers till the late 18th century, when they were all required to live in "Old Commoners" and town boarding was banned. In the 19th century this was replaced by "New Commoners", and the numbers fluctuated between 70 and 130: the new building was compared unfavourably to a workhouse, and as it was built over an underground stream epidemics of typhus and malaria were common.

In the late 1850s four boarding houses were planned (but only three built, namely A, B and C), to be headed by masters: the plan, since dropped, was to increase the number of scholars to 100 so that there would be "College", "Commoners" and "Houses" consisting of 100 pupils each. In the 1860s "New Commoners" was closed and converted to classrooms, and its members were divided among four further boarding houses (D, E, G and H, collectively known as "Commoner Block"). At the same time two more houses (F and I) were acquired and added to the "Houses" category; a tenth (K) was acquired in 1905 and allotted to "Commoners". (The distinction between "Commoners" and "Houses" is now of purely sporting significance, and "a Commoner" means any pupil who is not a scholar.) There are therefore now ten houses in addition to College, which continues to occupy the original 14th century buildings, and the total number of pupils is almost 700. From the late 1970s there has been a continual process of extension to and upgrading of College Chambers.

In 2005 the school was one of fifty of the country's leading private 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 three million pounds into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.

The headmaster is currently Dr Ralph Townsend, formerly of Sydney Grammar Schoolmarker and Oundle Schoolmarker.

Boarding houses

Official Name Informal Name House Letter
Chernocke House Furley's A
Moberly's Toye's B
Du Boulay's Cook's C
Fearon's Kenny's D
Morshead's Freddie's E
Hawkins' Chawker's F
Sergeant's Phil's G
Bramston's Trant's H
Turner's Hopper's I
Kingsgate House Beloe's K

The Scholars live in the original buildings, known as College; individual scholars are known as "Collegemen". College is not usually referred to as a house, except for the purposes of categorisation: hence the terms 'housemaster of College' and 'College house' are not generally used. The housemaster of College is now known as the 'Master in College', though these duties formerly belonged to the Second Master. Within the school, 'College' refers only to the body of scholars (and their buildings); 'Winchester College' and 'the college' refer to the school as a whole.

Every pupil at Winchester, apart from the Scholars, lives in a boarding house, chosen when applying to Winchester. It is here that he eats and sleeps. Each house is presided over by a housemaster (who takes on the role in addition to teaching duties) and a number of house tutors. Houses compete in school competitions, and in particular in sporting competitions. Each house has an official name, used mainly as a postal address, and an informal name, usually based on the name or nickname of an early housemaster. Each house also has a letter assigned to it, in the order of their founding, to act as an abbreviation. A member of a house is described by the informal name of the house with "-ite" suffixed, as "a Furleyite", "a Toyite", "a Cookite" and so on. The houses have been ordered by their year of founding. College does not have an informal name, although the abbreviation Coll: is sometimes used, especially on written work. It also has a letter assigned to it, X, but it is considered bad form to use this except as a laundry mark or in lists of sporting fixtures. (In the early part of the twentieth century the Commoner houses were limited to 35 members each, and for sporting purposes College was divided into "College East" and "College West", denoted by X and Y respectively. This division is now wholly obsolete.)

Each house also had a set of house colours, which adorned the ribbon worn around boys' "strats" (straw hats). The wearing of strats was abolished for Commoners in around 1984 - Collegemen had ceased to wear them years earlier.


Winchester has its own entrance examination, and does not use Common Entrance like other major Public Schools. Those wishing to enter a Commoner house make their arrangements with the relevant housemaster some time before sitting the exam, usually sitting a test set by the housemaster and an interview. Those applying to College do not take the normal entrance examination but instead sit a separate, harder, exam called "Election": successful candidates may obtain, according to their performance, a scholarship, an exhibition or a Headmaster's nomination to join a Commoner House.

Admission to College is on academic merit, as measured in the Election examination, regardless of financial means, though the original statutes specified that the foundation existed for poor scholars and required entrants to take an oath that their net income did not exceed a figure chosen as the average income for the time. Scholars enjoyed a remission of fees, amounting for much of the twentieth century to two-thirds of the total. This remission has since been progressively reduced, and is due to be abolished altogether. The intention is to maintain the academic and institutional distinction between Scholars and Commoners, while using the money saved in bursaries for those pupils least able to pay, Scholars and Commoners alike.


Image:Winchester_College_Chapel.jpg | Winchester College ChapelImage:Winchester_College_Chapel_East_Window.jpg | East WindowImage:Winchester_College_Chapel_ceiling.jpg | Chapel Ceiling

The Chapel of Winchester College is definitely the symbol of Winchester College. As the headmaster has indicated that the chapel is the living expression of our understanding of the nature of the human person. The Chapel is definitely a significant image inside Winchester College.

Situated on the south side of Chamber Court, the Chapel is part of the original College buildings and retains its original wooden fan-vaulted ceiling. Built to easily accommodate just over 100 people, it is now too small for the current school population of around 660. Additional seating installed in 1908 allows the Chapel to seat just over 300 people with the remainder (generally first and second years) worshipping in the nearby St. Michael's Church (known as Michla). Occasional services are also held in Fromond's Chantry, which is in the middle of the Cloisters.

The Chapel's most striking feature is its stained glass. The East window depicts the stem of Jesse. Down the Chapel's north and south sides is a collection of saints. Little of the original medieval glass, designed by Thomas Glazier, survives. A firm of glaziers in Shrewsbury was tasked with cleaning the glass in the 1820s. At that time there was no known process for cleaning the badly deteriorated glass and so it was copied, while most of the original glass was scattered or destroyed. Some pieces have been recovered. The south west corner holds the largest piece, bought and donated by Kenneth Clark. Five other figures bequeathed by Otto von Kienbusch and two more donated by Coleorton Church, Leicestershire were placed in Fromond's Chantry in 1978.

Until Victorian times the chapel was divided into a Chapel and Ante-Chapel, and had decorative panelling. This panelling was recovered by the school in the 1960s and used in the building of New Hall, the school concert hall, the design of which was specifically planned so as to house it.

The Chapel Choir sings regular services in the Chapel, as well as other venues. This consists of sixteen Quiristers (who attend the Pilgrims School) and a similar number of senior boys and a few dons (masters). There is also a choir to sing the services in Church (known as Michla), between which and the Chapel the School is divided for Sunday worship .

Image:Winchester_College_Chapel_North_Side_stonework_pre_estoration.JPG |North Side (Pre-restoration)Image:Winchester_College_Chapel_North_Side_stonework_post_restoration.JPG |North Side (Post-restoration)The exterior of the Chapel and the Hall have recently undergone extensive restoration of the stonework.

Academic structure

Until the 1860s the predominant subject of instruction was classics, and there was one main schoolroom used as both the classroom and the place of preparation, under extremely noisy conditions: there were adjacent rooms used for French and mathematics. Under the headmastership of George Ridding proper classrooms were built, and pupils had the option of joining "Parallel Div" for the study of history and modern languages. Later still a "Sen: Science Div" was added. Science teaching at Winchester had a high reputation: one of the early science masters duplicated the experiments of Hertz about radio waves, the equipment for which being still preserved at Science School.

For much of the twentieth century the senior forms were divided among three "ladders": the A ladder for classics, the B ladder for history and modern languages and the C ladder for mathematics and science. There was also a vertical division, in descending order, into Sixth Book (equivalent to the sixth form at other schools), Senior Part, Middle Part and Junior Part: depending on ability, new boys were placed in either Junior or Middle Part.

The school now offers a wide range of subjects, and no longer has a system of ladders. In 2008 it abandoned A-level as its matriculation credential and adopted the Cambridge Pre-U on the grounds that this will strengthen the quality of the school's intellectual life. In addition to normal lessons, all boys throughout the school are required to attend a class called Division, Div for short, which focuses on parts of history, literature and politics that do not lead to external examinations. The purpose is to ensure a broad education which does not focus solely on examinations.


A notion is a manner or tradition peculiar to Winchester College. The word notion is also used to refer to unique and peculiar words used (with diminishing frequency) in the school. An example is "toytime", meaning prep or homework. It can also refer to more recent slang, some of which features the altering of vowels in certain words for facetious emphasis.

The Notions Test was until recently an important tradition in most houses, in which juniors were required to answer questions about notions. Although now banned on good grounds including the European human rights conventions, the test was usually administered to new boys during their first term at the school by more senior boys, and aimed to test and demonstrate their familiarity with the vocabulary, history and traditions of the school. College Notions was more elaborate and continued for a few years longer than the Commoner tests. It took the form of an end-of-term celebration and marked the point at which new Collegemen formally became known as Jun: Men.

War Cloister

War Cloister

Situated to the west of College Meads, this cloister serves as a memorial to the Wykehamist dead of the two World Wars. It was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and dedicated in 1924 and again in 1948.

A bronze bust of Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding sits on the west side of the cloister.

War Cloister occupies a strategic position in Kingsgate Street (accessed via "South Africa Gate", which commemorates the Wykehamist dead of the 1899–1902 Boer War), so that all Commoners go through it on their way to and from class.

Another older war memorial in the school is the entry chamber to Chapel, known as "Crimea" after the Crimean War of the early 1850s, and bearing the names of Wykehamists who died at the siege of Sevastopol.

Prefectorial system


Traditionally there were always 18 prefects in College, though since the mid-twentieth century there have been fewer, 10 to 14 being typical. Of these, five (later increased to six) hold salaried offices. Historically, these were as follows, in descending order of seniority:

  • Aulae Praefectus (Aul: Prae:, Prefect of Hall), the head boy of the school. ("Hall", in this connection, is not restricted to the dining hall but means the College as a whole, as in the phrases "Trinity Hall" and "hall of residence".) He acts jointly with the Sen: Co: Prae: (see below).

  • Bibliothecae Praefectus (Bib: Prae:, Prefect of Library), until recently in charge of Moberly Library (the school academic library); this function has now been taken over by a full-time librarian.

  • Scholae Praefectus (Schol: Prae:, Prefect of School), in charge of bookings of the old School building and miscellaneous other functions.

  • two Capellae Praefecti (Cap: Prae:, Prefects of Chapel): functions obvious. Formerly they took turns to officiate; until recently practice has been to differentiate between the "Sen: Cap: Prae:" and the "Jun: Cap: Prae:". Nowadays there is only one Cap: Prae:

The post of Jun: Cap: Prae: (junior chapel prefect) has recently been abolished and has been replaced by Ollae Praefectus (Oll: Prae:), which literally translates as "prefect of tub". (This is the revival of an ancient office, which was suppressed in the nineteenth century when the office of Bib: Prae: was created. The duties were to do with catering, especially the disposal of uneaten food from College lunch, which was collected in a special wooden vat and given to the poor. This vat or tub is still on display in College Hall.)

Each Officer, in addition to his specialized duties, has charge of a College Chamber (day-room). Thus when IVth Chamber was reopened, increasing the number of chambers to six, a sixth Officer was created, the Coll: Lib: Prae:, in charge of Upper Coll: Lib: (the fiction library available to Collegemen). The post had previously existed informally, but the holder used not to rank as an Officer.

Formerly, there were one or two (originally five) further prefects "in full power", invariably, though improperly, known as Co: Praes. Officers and Co: Praes had authority throughout the school; the remaining prefects had authority only in College. Nowadays, while there are still six officers, they have little to do with the running of the school and are mainly responsible for their respective chambers, and there are no other College Co: Praes. In practice, only the Prefect of Hall has significant duties outside College.

The present practice is for all fifth-years in College to be prefects. Each officer nominates a prefect from those members of his year who are not officers to act as his deputy within his chamber; any prefects left over are sometimes known as "Jemimas" (reason unknown). The seven senior inferiors (non-prefects) in College are known as Custodes Candelarum (tollykeepers), but this is a purely nominal dignity. The next senior person in a chamber after the prefects and tollykeepers was once known as the in loco, and kept the accounts for Chamber Tea.

Commoner Houses

Outside College there is a Sen: Co: Prae: (Senior Commoner Prefect), who acts as joint Head Boy with the Prefect of Hall. There are then a number of Co: Praes (Commensalibus Praefecti, Commoner Prefects) with authority over all Commoners: traditionally, no Commoner has authority over any Collegeman. Nowadays, there is generally only one Co: Prae: per house, who acts as the senior house prefect. However, in the house where the "Sen: Co: Prae:" is resident, there is sometimes another "Co: Prae:" who has been nominated as the Deputy Head of House. In addition, each house has a number of House Prefects, with authority only in that house. The Co: Praes (heads of houses) meet weekly together with the Prefect of Hall and Head Master to discuss the running of the school.


There has been no system of fagging for some decades. College prefects used to engage junior boys as "valets": by the 1960s this had become a voluntary arrangement in which the valets were paid for their services, and the system disappeared altogether in the early 1970s. Similarly in the 1970s some Commoner houses retained traditions, for example in Toye's, of "trap-cads", who would perform services for senior boys for money and other benefits. Junior Collegemen still take it in turns to perform services ("sweat") for the whole Chamber such as bringing down bread and milk. The College Officers each engage (and pay) a second-year as a "writer" (Latin: "Scriptor"), to perform a variety of duties, more or less related to the position held by their Officer - for example, the Cap: Prae:'s writer lights the candles in Chapel before services, while the Schol: Prae:'s writer collects and delivers the morning's newspapers to each chamber. Sweats were officially abolished in 2005. However they remain commonplace in most houses and are organised for first and second year boys to do by their respective Housemasters.


Winchester College has its own game, Winchester College football (also known as 'Win: Co: Fo:' or, more recently, 'Winkies'), played only at Winchester. It is played in Common Time (the spring term), the main game in Short Half (the autumn term) being Association football.

Winchester Football could be considered a cross between football and rugby, though this analogy shouldn't be taken too far since there are significant differences. For example, the ball can only be carried, like in rugby, if caught full toss. Furthermore, no football-type "dribbling" is allowed since the player has to kick the ball as hard as he can at all times, making it difficult for a player to touch the ball more than once at a time, though the ball can be passed to a teammate backwards. Furthermore, a player who finds himself upfield must return to the point at which his teammate last kicked the ball before being able to join in the game again. The current form of the game can be played by teams of 6, 10, or 15. There are also rugby-type scrums known as "hots", which feature 8 forwards in the 15-player version and 3 in the 6-player version of the game. The objective is to kick the ball over the opponent's goal line ("worms"). The field ("canvas") is 73m long and 24.5m wide. It is delimited lengthwise by canvas netting and by posts threaded with a heavy rope that run parallel to and about 1 metre inside the netting.

There is also a distinctive Winchester version of Fives, resembling Rugby Fives but with a buttress on the court. Winchester currently has 4 active Winchester fives courts.

At one time Winchester was one of the Lord'smarker schools, competing in a trilateral cricket tournament with Etonmarker and Harrowmarker; and for this reason the first cricket eleven is still known as "Lords" (with or without the apostrophe). Since 1855 Winchester has not taken part in this, instead playing Eton alternately at the two schools. Eton Match, when played at Winchester, was until recently the major event attended by Old Wykehamists and the main showcase for the school and its activities, but now most of the non-cricket-related functions have been moved to "Wykeham Day" in the autumn. Eton Match itself has now been replaced by "Winchester Day", featuring a match between Wykehamists and Old Wykehamists.

Rackets is also played. Should the same person be Captain of Lord's and Captain of Rackets, he is known as "Lord of Lords and Prince of Princes", in allusion to Prince's Club in London.

The "Winchester Ice Club" was formed in 1904 by R. L. G. Irving; amongst its first members was George Mallory, who later disappeared on Mount Everest.

Former pupils

See List of Old Wykehamists.


The school song is "Dulce Domum", which is sung on the approach of and at the break-up of the school for the Summer holidays. It is also sung at Abingdon Schoolmarker and Stamford Schoolmarker under similar circumstances, and was popular among 19th century English public schoolboys. For example, it is mentioned in the early chapters of Tom Brown's Schooldays. Paradoxically, although the subject of the song is the joy of breaking from the school grind and returning home for the holidays, it is often taken as symbolising the idyllic, nostalgic view of English public school life in the 19th century. It should not be confused with another song of the same name, but with completely different tune and lyrics, written by Robert S. Ambrose.

According to legend, it was composed by a pupil in the 17th or 18th century, who was confined for misconduct during the Whitsun holidays. (On one account, he was tied to a pillar.) It is said that he carved the words on the bark of a tree, which was thereafter called "Domum Tree", and cast himself into Logie (the river running through the school grounds). There is still a "Domum Cottage" in that area.

The song is sung at the end of the summer term, and on other occasions when a school song is normally sung. There is also a "Domum Dinner" held around the same time, for leavers. (It was formerly restricted to those former scholars of Winchester who were also scholars of New College and various distinguished guests). Until the reforms of the nineteenth century, there were three successive Election Dinners held during Election Week, culminating in a Domum Ball. Originally these festivities occurred around Whitsun, as suggested by the seasonal references in the song, but when Election Week was moved to the end of the summer term in June or July the Domum celebrations were moved with it.

It is rather remarkable that the author apparently treated 'domum' as a neuter noun. One could argue that domum is the accusative, meaning "homeward", and that dulce is used adverbially.

Here is the chorus (in Latin, with English translation):

Domum, domum, dulce domum!

Domum, domum, dulce domum;

Dulce, dulce dulce domum!

Dulce domum resonemus.

Home, home, joyous home! (or: Homeward, homeward, joyously homeward!)

Home, home, joyous home!

Joyous, joyous, joyous home!

Hurrah for joyous home!

Winchester quotations

Manners makyth man

- William of Wykeham Motto of Winchester College and New College, Oxfordmarker

Broad of Church and broad of mind,
Broad before and broad behind,

A keen ecclesiologist,
A rather dirty Wykehamist.

- John Betjeman "The Wykehamist"

Leader in London's preservation lists

And least Wykehamical of Wykehamists{:}

Clan chief of Paddington's distinguished set,

Pray go on living to a hundred yet!

- John Betjeman "For Patrick" (about Patrick Balfour, 3rd Baron Kinross)

You can always tell a Wykehamist, but you can never tell him much

- Anon.

These Wykehamists have the kind of mind that likes to relax by composing Alcaics on the moving parts of their toy trains.

- Evelyn Waugh

Would you doubt the word of a Wykehamist?

- Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon

O, Eternal God, the Life and the Resurrection of all them that believe in Thee, always to be praised as well for the Dead as for those that be Alive, we give Thee most hearty Thanks for our Founder, William of Wykeham; and all other our Benefactors, by whose Benefits we are here brought up to Godliness and the studies of good Learning; beseeching Thee that we, well using all these Thy Blessings to the Praise and Honour of Thy Holy Name, may at length be brought to the Immortal Glory of the Resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

- "Thanksgiving for the Founder" as at present used on commemoration days


Further reading

  • Adams, Wykehamica: Oxford, London and Winchester 1878
  • Cook, A. K., About Winchester College: London 1917
  • Custance, R., (ed.), Winchester College: Sixth Centenary Essays: Oxford, 1982 ISBN 019920103X
  • Dilke, Christopher, Dr Moberly's Mint-Mark: A Study of Winchester College: London 1965
  • Fearon, W. A., The Passing of Old Winchester: Winchester 1924, repr. 1936
  • Firth, J. D'E., Winchester College: Winchester 1961
  • Kirby, T. F., Annals of Winchester College: London 1892
  • Leach, Arthur F., A History of Winchester College: London 1899
  • Mansfield, Robert, School Life at Winchester College: 1866
  • Sabben-Clare, James, Winchester College: Paul Cave Publications, 1981, ISBN 0861460235
  • Stevens, Charles, Winchester Notions: The English Dialect of Winchester College: London, 1998
  • Tuckwell, The Ancient Ways: Winchester Fifty Years Ago: 1893

See also

External links

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