Westminster School is in the centre of London. This area of London is called ‘Westminster’ because it is beside Westminster Abbey. St Paul’s Cathedral is the main cathedral in London. St Paul’s is 10 km to the east of Westminster. Then a new cathedral (‘minster) was built in the 11th century. It was to the west of St Paul’s. This new cathedral became known as Westminster. Originally London and Westminster were separate cities. In Mediaeval Christendom every city had a cathedral. A city could not have two cathedrals. A very large town was a town and not a city if it did not have a cathedral.
In the 1530s Henry VIII closed down many schools. This was part of his Dissolution of the Monasteries. Religious houses were suppressed. These were places that monks and nuns lived. They provided education. Henry VIII said that the monks and nuns were continuing the old form of Christianity – Roman Catholicism. Henry VIII had set up the Church of England. This form of Christianity was called Anglicanism as in it was founded in England (Anglia).
In 1558 Elizabeth I became queen. She decided to fill the educational gap created by his most illustrious father. She set up many schools. One of these is Westminster School. It is right beside Westminster Abbey. This is the royal church. Coronations take place there. Kings and queens are laid to rest there. Royal weddings have taken place there. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is there. There is poets’ corner in which poets are memorialized. The throne there is St Edward’s Throne – as in it was sat upon by Edward the Confessor. Some have called it a national Valhalla. It is inspiring indeed for a young historian. Westminster scholars are allowed to take part in the coronation.
Westminster Abbey is one of the most historic places of worship in the realm. Edward the Confessor built it in the 1050s. The coat of Arms of the Saxon kings is etched into its stone. There were Benedictine monks there. The large community of monks was called an abbey. The head monk had the title of abbot. The abbey was closed in the 1530s and the monks were sent away. Despite that the word ‘abbey ‘ still applies to the cathedral there.
Those who win scholarships to Westminster care called Queen’s Scholars. This is because of Elizabeth I. There are also pupils who pay fees. At first the school was for boys only.
The curriculum was originally about Latin and Ancient Greek. There was some history and divinity. These were taught through Latin. Over time other subjects assumed greater importance such as Maths, the sciences, modern languages, art, technology and drama.
Many boys from the school went on to the two great English universities. This was a school for well to do professionals. It was unusual for the sons of the gentry to attend this school but some did.
Old boys of the school are called Old Westminsters. Many most distinguished personages have attended this estimable school. Among them are Sir Christopher Wren, Kim Philby, St John Philby, Samuel Pepys, Cowper, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne.
The school is very close to Parliament. Therefore there is a strong political connection.
For the past few decades girls have been able to attend the school in sixth form. There is a prep school called Westminster Under School.
- Which city is Westminster School in?
- How did the City of Westminster get its name?
- What is an abbey?
- Is this school well regarded?
- Do any of the pupils go to university?
- Are there girls at the school?
- What is the name of the prep school?
- Is the school near Parliament?
- Name three famous pupils?
- Who founded the school?