Newest Review: ... a visitor centre opposite which doubles as a gift shop as I understand. Our adult tickets cost £9 each. Tours are twice a day on days whe... more
Eton College (London)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Eton College (London)
Advantages: Fascinating tour if you get a good guide, reasonably priced
Disadvantages: Don't get full access
Eton College in Berkshire is one of the most famous public schools in the country, if not the world. It was founded in 1440 by Henry VI to educate young boys, who may not have had the opportunity previously. Initially the school taught just 100 boys, for 12 hours a day, six days a week in Latin, and only Latin. Mass would have been said up to eight times a day in the school's private chapel. Nowadays things are a bit different, and the 1300 boys aged between 13 and 18 study a much wider curriculum. Although scholarships are available, typical fees are £32,000 per year as well as passing a strict entrance exam. All boys are boarders.
I didn't know you could visit here until a meet-up group I am a member of organised it. The school is a ten minute walk from Windsor & Eton Riverside rail station, which in turn is just under an hour by train from London Waterloo. There is a visitor centre opposite which doubles as a gift shop as I understand. Our adult tickets cost £9 each. Tours are twice a day on days when the college is open (check the website as it gets quite complicated), but parties of 14 or more can pre-book a private tour, as we did. We were assigned a guide and we were very fortunate to be allocated an Old Etonian called James. The other guide was not a former student and I understand he was not as good at answering the questions posed.
You can view part of the chapel from outside, but to access it you need to go into the main complex with your guide. Bags will be searched.
Our first stop was the Eton Life Museum. Our guide informed us of much of the information as we were a big group, but I would have liked some free time to browse further. I was interested to see the section on famous old boys, some I knew had been here and some I didn't. Nineteen prime ministers have been here, including the first, Lord Walpole, and the current incumbent, David Cameron. Other politicians such as Boris Johnson and Oliver Letwin also attended. Sportsmen like Matthew Pinsent, writers such as Ian Fleming and actors such as Eddie Redmayne (he was in the same house as our guide, and a big success in the choir). Here you will also see a dummy in uniform, some instruments of punishment from the days of corporal punishment, info on the sports played and a 19th century room set, with an explanation to the old school tradition of fagging (nothing to do with the more recent interpretation of the word). You also see photographs of current accomodation and living quarters, although you don't get to visit any.
Back through the courtyard, to the old schoolroom. This was the original school room and would have been used from the beginning up until the 17th century. The upper and lower schools both would have studied in the same room and the shutters and desks are thoroughly carved with the names of the students with their pen knives (to sharpen their quills, modern students don't bring knives into the classroom!). Sadly we don't see a current classroom but James assured us it looks pretty much like any other school classroom.
Following on from here we visited the chapel and sadly you cannot take photos in here. It is a very impressive chapel, with a ceiling that reminds me of the one at Kings College, Cambridge. The organ is also stunning, with decorated pipes up to 12m in height. All pupils attend assemblies here, but students of other faiths can find spiritual guidance within the faculty - an imam and a rabbi are also here at the school, for example.
We had many questions for James, which he fully answered most patiently even though we ran over our allotted hour by a good fifteen minutes. I found the tour very interesting and recommend it is you can get here. I think it is best to check the website for tour availability, especially at weekends.
Summary: Nice to see