Harrow School is one of the most celebrated schools in the British Isles. The schools is located in the London suburb of Harrow.
In the 1570s a businessman named Sir John Lyons approached Queen Elizabeth I. He requested her permission to found a school. Her Majesty was graciously pleased to accede to his humble petition. The country needed schools to be founded. 40 years earlier King Henry VIII had closed many schools as part of his Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Sir John founded the school. Harrow was then a village in the County of Middlesex. It was a dozen miles from London. The school was built on a hill. The school was for boys only. Back then perhaps a third of boys went to school. Most boys never learnt to read. Very few girls went to school.
The school was connected to the Church of England. The Church of England was the official form of Christianity. Other types of Christianity were not permitted. Almost every boy at the school was an Anglican – a member of the Church of England. A chapel was built at the school. The boys were required to attend divine worship daily.
The school was primarily for boys from the parish of Harrow. A parish is an area of land which belongs to a particular church. All the people living within a few miles of that church were supposed to worship in that church on Sunday. The parish was also the smallest unit of land for the purposes of governance. Those who were not from the parish were permitted to attend the school but were called ‘foreigners’. Boys from the parish went for free. Foreigners had to pay.
The curriculum chiefly consisted of Latin and Greek. People read the Bible a great deal. The brightest boys learnt Hebrew so they could read the Old Testament in the original. English was not considered a respectable language. Higher education was in Latin. Law courts operated in Latin. Governmental documents were composed in Latin. Diplomacy was conducted in the Latin language.
The school soon acquired a reputation for excellence. Within 200 years it was considered one of the most distinguished schools in the realm. It had a healthy rivalry with Eton which lay 20 miles to the south-west. Aristocrats sent their sons to Harrow.
Boys came to Harrow aged about 10 and stayed on till perhaps 15. Some went on to the two great English universities.
Sir William Jones was a celebrated philologist and jurist who studied here. The first Prime Minister who have been a schoolboy at Harrow was Spencer Perceval. He was assassinated in 1812. He is the only Prime Minister to have been assassinated. The man who killed Perceval was John Bellingham. John Bellingham’s descendants went to Eton.
In the 19th century Harrow expanded considerably. It came to have several boarding houses. The oldest one is called the Headmaster’s House. The headmaster was housemaster of the Headmaster’s House. He no longer is since the school is so huge that he cannot perform that duty now.
There was a French invasion scare in the 1860s. The school therefore founded a cadet corps. The boys did military training.
The boys often went hunting. They had horses at the school.
The school developed its own form of football called Harrow Football. However, in the late 19th century boys began to play Association Football – as in the sport that is known as ‘football’ in almost every country. Rugby also became popular. There was an outdoor pool. Boxing was also allowed. Cricket was played in the summer. There is no rowing here. That is because the school is far from the River Thames.
Harrow began to play cricket in a three sided competition against Eton College and Winchester College. This was played at Lord’s – the main cricket stadium. This was a three day event and a date on the London social season. In the late 19th century the Wykehamists (boys from Winchester) disgraced themselves so badly that Winchester was kicked out of the tournament. Eton and Harrow still play each other at Lord’s in June.
In the 19th century some boys from Scotland came to the school. They were Protestants but usually not Anglicans. They were mostly members of the Church of Scotland. They were welcomed by the school.
At the end of the 19th century Roman Catholics and Jewish boys were permitted to enter the school. Hindus and Muslims entered the schools. At first the non-Christians were a tiny, tiny proportion of the school.
Prime Ministers who attended this school included Sir Robert Peel, the Earl of Aberdeen and Viscount Palmerston. Later Sir Stanley Baldwin became Prime Minister too.
In 1905 an Indian boy named Jawahar Lal Nehru enrolled at Harrow. He was diffident and very well behaved. He became Prime Minister of his nation.
Sir Winston Churchill was also at this school. He was considered an academic laggard. Like dull witted boys he went to join the army. He enlisted in the cavalry which was for the dimmest of the dim.
The school has a farm. Many boys go and run their family’s estates.
In the late 20th century Harrow lost its political edge. It has expanded though. It has boys from China, Nigeria and Malaysia.
Harrow has schools in Beijing and Bangkok. It remains all boys.
The colours of the school are black and white. Boys who have been here are called Old Harrovians. The school song is Forty Years on. Famous old boys include Alan de Boton, Lord Butler of Brockwell, Lord Guthrie, Richard Curtis, James Blunt and Benedict Cumberbatch.
- When was Harrow School founded?
- Which man founded it?
- Which queen gave him permission?
- What did a ‘foreigner’ mean at Harrow in the beginning?
- Which philologist attended the school?
- The headmaster was housemaster of which house?
- Which two languages were the basis of the curriculum?
- Which Christian denomination is this school attached to?
- What geographical feature is the school on?
- What are the colours of the school?
- Harrow played a three sided cricket competition against which two other schools?
- Where does Harrow play against Eton?
- Does Harrow row?
- Name two other sports played here?
- Name five British PMs who have been there?
- Which Indian PM was an Old Harrovian?
- Harrow has schools in which other lands?
- WHat non British nationalities attend Harrow?
- Are there girls at Harrow?
- What is your opinion of Harrow? Five marks.