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Beaumont College

Coordinates: 51°26′56″N 0°34′30″W / 51.449°N 0.575°W / 51.449; -0.575
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Beaumont College

TypePublic school
Private school
Boarding school
Religious affiliation(s)Roman Catholic
Established1861 (1861)
FounderSociety of Jesus

Beaumont College was between 1861 and 1967 a public school in Old Windsor in Berkshire. Founded and run by the Society of Jesus, it offered a Roman Catholic public school education in rural surroundings, while lying, like the neighbouring Eton College, within easy reach of London. It was therefore for many professional Catholics with school-age children a choice preferable to Stonyhurst College, the longer-standing Jesuit public school in North Lancashire. After the college's closure in 1967 the property was used in turn as a training centre, a conference centre and an hôtel; St John's Beaumont, the college's preparatory school for boys aged 3–13, continues, functioning in part as a feeder school for Stonyhurst.

History of the estate[edit]

Engraving of Beaumont Lodge, circa 1830 – placed closer to the river Thames than it now is, whether because the river has moved or by artistic licence

The estate lies by the River Thames on the historic highway from Staines to Windsor, near Runnymede. It was originally known as Remenham, after Hugo de Remenham, who held the land at the end of the 14th century. The estate was then owned for a period by the Tyle family, and subsequently by John Morley, Francis Kibblewhite, William Christmas and Henry Frederick Thynne (clerk to the Privy Council under Charles II) in the 17th century. In 1714 Thomas Thynne, 2nd Viscount Weymouth, inherited the estate. In the mid-eighteenth century it was acquired by Sophia, Duchess of Kent. In 1751 the Duke of Roxburghe purchased the land for his eldest son, the Marquess of Bowmont and Cessford (then a boy at Eton College), and renamed it Beaumont in his honour. In 1786 Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India, acquired Beaumont Lodge at the cost of £12,000. He lived at Beaumont for three years. In 1789 the estate was sold to Henry Griffith, an Anglo-Indian, who had the Windsor architect Henry Emlyn rebuild the house in 1790 as a nine-bay mansion with a substantial portico.

History as a school[edit]

In 1805 the Beaumont property was bought for about £14,000 by Henry Jeffrey Flower, 4th Viscount Ashbrook, a friend of George IV. After his death in 1847, his widow continued to reside there until 1854, when she sold it to the Society of Jesus as a training college.

For seven years it housed Jesuit novices of the (then) English province and on 10 October 1861 became a Catholic boarding school for boys, with the title of St. Stanislaus College, Beaumont, the dedication being to St. Stanislaus Kostka.

The 1901 census shows a John Lynch S.J. as headmaster. Resident at the date of the census were one other priest, three "clerks in minor orders" and a lay brother, 8 servants and 23 schoolboys including one American, one Canadian, one Mexican and two Spaniards; one of the latter was Luís Fernando de Orleans y Borbón, a Spanish royal prince.[1]

Joseph M. Bampton S.J., rector 1901–1908, replaced the traditional Jesuit arrangement of close supervision of pupils by masters of discipline with the so-called "Captain" system, or government of boys by boys – perhaps inspired by the reforms of Thomas Arnold at Rugby in the 1830s. Bampton's Captain system was adopted also at Stonyhurst and at sister Jesuit schools in France and Spain, and in 1906 Beaumont was admitted to the Headmasters' Conference.[2] Beaumont thus became, along with Stonyhurst College in Lancashire and St Aloysius' College, Glasgow, one of three public schools maintained by the English Province of the Jesuits.

Prominent men educated there included the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott OM FRIBA, the engineer Sir John Aspinall, and a number of members of the Spanish royal family. The Austrian monarchist intellectual Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn taught briefly at Beaumont in 1935–36, and from 1943 to 1946 A. H. Armstrong, later to become the world's leading authority on the ancient philosopher Plotinus, was a classics master at the college.

In 1937 the Papal Envoy, Mgr Giuseppe Pizzardo, visited the college. During the Second World War one of the first doodlebugs destroyed an inn ("The Bells of Ouseley") close to the school.

In 1948 John Sinnott S.J. was one of only two public school headmasters who detected a hoax letter by Humphry Berkeley, then a Cambridge student, purporting to come from a fellow-head H. Rochester Sneath (invited to lead an exorcism, Sinnott requested a packet of salt "capable of being taken up in pinches"). The "lovable but vague"[3] Sir Lewis Clifford S.J., a Jesuit holding a New Zealand baronetcy, was rector between 1950 and 1956, when he was replaced by John Coventry S.J.; and in the early 1950s the late Gerard W. Hughes S.J., now known as a prominent writer on spirituality, taught there.[4] On 15 May 1961 Queen Elizabeth II visited Beaumont to mark its centenary.

Character of the school[edit]

The main drive curves round an open field to a rendered 18th-century mansion known as the White House, most of the ancillary buildings being concealed by trees. The science laboratories were a single-storey 1930s block to the left of the main house. Other outbuildings ran backward from there, including the ambulacrum and tuck shop, but without obtruding unduly on the garden dominated by two specimen cedar trees and a war memorial by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.[citation needed]

Medallion of the Holy Ghost, the centrepiece of the rose window at the east end of the Beaumont chapel. The chapel was built in 1870 by Joseph Hansom and decorated in 1902 by William Romaine-Walker, who described his style as "the grandchild of the Pompeian". It was the inspiration for the chapel in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.[5] This window is a replacement: the original was destroyed by a doodlebug which landed on the school during the war.[6]

Behind the war memorial, woodland ran down the edge of the estate, where there was a path leading to Windsor Great Park, much used by the pupils for walks and cross-country runs. In the angle between the woodland and the garden was the cricket pitch. A boathouse lay on the Thames just outside the gates, and playing fields for rugby football were a little further down river on Runnymede. Beyond the cricket pitch was a home farm which supplied the school with milk and other products, and beyond that St John's.

As in other public schools, sport was important; indeed, an annual cricket match was played at Lord's against the Oratory until 1965.[7] Moreover, Beaumont held a number of sporting and similar distinctions. Only two public schools, Eton and Beaumont, came to send both their First Eleven to Lord's and their First Eight to Henley; and the first black player at Lord's was a Beaumont boy. When Pierre de Coubertin visited England in the course of researching the basis of his new Olympic movement, the four schools he looked at were Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Beaumont.

The Beaumont school Combined Cadet Force was the only one in the country to be affiliated to the Household Division – and had a Garter Star in the cap badge awarded by King George VI in recognition of the school's role in the Crown Land Battalion during WW2. The first motorist in England was the Hon Evelyn Ellis, who in 1885 drove a car from his home to Beaumont.[8] Coco Chanel's nephew was a pupil, and the school blazer is said to have been the inspiration for the 1924 Chanel suit.[9]

Beaumont was easy to access from London, and, being where it was, rapidly developed an awareness of being the "Catholic Eton": a tag at the school was "Beaumont is what Eton was: a school for the sons of Catholic gentlemen" (similar claims have been made for the Oratory, Stonyhurst and Ampleforth). Although all the boys at Beaumont were boarders, the school's nearness to London meant that, unlike at Stonyhurst or Ampleforth, many parents could fetch boys away for weekends during term; the number of such "exeats" was limited.

Prior to and during World War II, there were sufficient pupils to divide students into three separate Houses, Heathcote, Eccles and O'Hare, named after three previous Rectors. The respective 'House Colours' were brown, light blue and dark blue. However, Beaumont did not continue to be organised in such "Houses" as many British boarding schools are (cf Winchester, Harrow, or the fictional Hogwarts), but in various other ways: in this respect it resembled the other English Jesuit public school, Stonyhurst, but not St Aloysius' in Scotland. The main grouping was by year-class, the names of the classes being reminiscent of the medieval trivium: Rudiments, Grammar, Syntax, Poetry, and Rhetoric. There was also a broader age-division between the "Higher Line" and "Lower Line" (the cut-off being around the beginning of the sixth-form). Finally, all boys were on admission assigned either to be "Romans" or "Carthaginians": these two groups earned points during each term on the basis of the academic progress and behaviour of their members, and at the end of term there was a day's holiday at which the winning group earned a special tea (this last tradition lost force over the years and by the 1960s attracted little enthusiasm from the boys).

Beaumont chapel in 2008, restored as a function space.

Inevitably the school had its own song, put together in the late Victorian period in rather poor Latin:

Concinamus gnaviter

Omnes Beaumontani
Vocem demus suaviter
Novi, veterani;
Etsi mox pugnavimus
Iam condamus enses,
Seu Romani fuimus,
Seu Carthaginenses.
Numquam sit per saecula
Decus istud vanum:
Vivat sine macula

Nomen Beaumontanum!

The school had its own arms, with the motto Æterna non-Caduca (The eternal, not the earthly).

End of the school[edit]

11 November 2007: Remembrance Day service at Beaumont's Scott war memorial.[10] The St John's choir are to the left, and a tree planted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1961 is in the middle. Fr Kevin Donovan SJ OB (died 21 August 2008), on the right.

After the Second World War, the English Province of the Jesuits (which also had responsibilities in Rhodesia and British Guiana) suffered from an increasing shortage of priests. The financial viability of a school of only 280 pupils became more and more precarious. Moreover, by the 1960s the atmosphere of the Second Vatican Council was also lending weight to a feeling that the Order ought not to devote so large a part of its resources to the education of the better-off of the First World.[citation needed]

A decision was therefore made in 1965 to close the school. It finally shut in 1967, amid a storm of protest from parents and old boys who had been contributing to an appeal to fund an extension of the laboratories. This led among some to the colloquialism "Pulling a Beaumont", referring to an ability to cause mass confusion and protest in seemingly benign circumstance. After the closure, most of the current pupils transferred to Stonyhurst.[11]

Immediately thereafter the building was borrowed for one academic year by the Loreto Sisters on account of delays to their new teacher training college. By the early 1970s, the building was owned by the British computer company ICL, which used it for many years as a training centre. In 2003 it was acquired by Hayley Conference Centres, which carried out much new building on the site with very extensive extensions and alterations, including the closure of the sweeping front drive. In 2008 Hayley restored the chapel as a function space. [citation needed] The property is now owned and operated by Principal Hotel Company under the brand name De Vere Beaumont Estate. A memorial to the dead of the South African War survives in the former Lower Line refectory.

The old boys' association, known as the Beaumont Union, continues, largely through the efforts of Robert Wilkinson and Guy Bailey, now resident in Monaco. Robert produces an on-line newsletter and there is an annual formal lunch at the Caledonian Club in London. The Beaumont Union also arranges an annual service each Remembrance Day at the Beaumont War Memorial. Members of the Beaumont Union and their families formed the London Beaumont Region of HCPT - The Pilgrimage Trust and are still involved with an annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, where the Beaumont crest hangs at the Le Cintra cafe in the rue Ste Marie.[citation needed]

St John's Beaumont School[edit]

St John's Beaumont School

For some years a preparatory division was accommodated at Beaumont, but was found unsatisfactory, and Fr Frederick O'Hare, the Rector from 1884, commissioned John Francis Bentley to design a new preparatory school. This was erected nearby; it opened on 25 September 1888 under the name of St John's Beaumont, and is still a lively and successful school.[12]

Other notes[edit]

On 22 September 2007 cattle at Beaumont Farm were found with foot and mouth disease, in the course of the second outbreak following an escape of contamination from the Pirbright research establishment. The entire herd of 40 cattle was destroyed the same day.

Notable old boys[edit]


  1. ^ Knaggs, Jeff (2004). "1901 Census - Beaumont College, Priest Hill, Egham, Surrey". homepage.ntlworld.com. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b Caparrini, Bernardo Rodríguez (December 2003). "A Catholic Public School in the making: Beaumont College during the Rectorate of the reverend Joseph M. Bampton, S.J. (1901–1908). His implementation of the "Captain" system of discipline". Paedagogica Historica. 39 (6): 737–757. doi:10.1080/00309230320000128881. S2CID 145488690.
  3. ^ Editorial, Beaumont Union Review, early 2010 edition page 2. A photograph of Fr Sir Lewis is on page 11 of the same edition.
  4. ^ e.g. God of Surprises, 1985, London (winner of the Collins Religious Book Award 1987)
  5. ^ Beaumont Union Review, 2009, p.9
  6. ^ Beaumont Union Review, early 2010, p.11
  7. ^ Howard, Anthony (2005). Basil Hume: the Monk Cardinal. London: Headline. p. 17.
  8. ^ Levi, Peter. Beaumont 1861–1961. Andre Deutsch. On Evelyn Ellis, see articles on Frederick Richard Simms, Datchet, Micheldever railway station and Santler (car).
  9. ^ Haedrich, Marcel (1987). Coco Chanel. Paris: P. Belfond.
  10. ^ C F Kernot, British Public School War Memorials, pp 19,20
  11. ^ Alastair Russell, "The Spirit of Beaumont:A Composition of Place", The Tablet, August 14th 1965.
  12. ^ Delaney, Giles (2013). "Headmaster's Introduction - St John's Beaumont". stjohnsbeaumont.org.uk. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Count de la Bédoyère". Debrett’s People of Today. 2013. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  14. ^ Semmler, Clement (1981). "Dalley, John Bede (1876–1935)". Dalley, John Bede. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 8 (Online ed.). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. pp. 196–197. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  15. ^ "Nicholas Danby". Biographical Dictionary of the Organ. 2013.
  16. ^ Smith, Liz (20 January 1997). "Obituary: Stephen Fitz-Simon". The Independent. London: INM. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487.
  17. ^ "Anthony J. Leggett - Biographical". nobelprize.org. 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  18. ^ Oliver P. Rafferty, Irish Catholic Identities, Oxford 2015, ISBN 9780719097317, pp. 266-267
  19. ^ "OBITUARY: THE VERY REV. CANON A. H. POWNALL". The Tablet. Archived from the original on 20 September 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  20. ^ "H.H. Prince Michael Romanoff". The New York Times. New York. 26 September 2008. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  21. ^ "M. Philippe de Schoutheete". salzburgglobal.org. 2013. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  22. ^ Attard, Bernard (2013). "Abstract - interview with Sir Patrick Sergeant". School of Advanced Study. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  23. ^ according to other sources 1872-1949, Best Horros Stories 1850-1899. A 6A66LE Horror Anthology, s.l. 2016, ISBN 9781933747576, p. 11
  24. ^ Bernardo Rodríguez Caparrini, Alumnos españoles en el interado jesuita de Beaumont (Old Windsor, Inglaterra), 1888-1886, [in:] Hispania Sacra 66 (2014), p. 414
  25. ^ Rafferty 2015, pp. 266-267
  26. ^ "Woodlock Wins Laetare Medal". South Bend Tribune. South Bend, IN. 4 April 1943. p. 20 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon


  • David Hoy, SJ. The Story of St John's Beaumont 1888–1988, St. John's Beaumont, Old Windsor, 1987.

External links[edit]

St John's

51°26′56″N 0°34′30″W / 51.449°N 0.575°W / 51.449; -0.575