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The Record of Old Westminsters 1540-1883

19 June 2014

The Record of Old Westminsters, published in two volumes edited by G.F.Russell Barker and A.H.Stenning in 1928, endeavoured to list and as far as possible to identify every pupil educated at Westminster School from the school’s foundation by King Henry VIII in 1540 onwards. The present on-line edition of the Record aims to provide improved and expanded information on all pupils educated at the school between 1540 and 1883.

The pupils concerned include around one thousand individuals for whom there are currently entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and the contribution which those educated at Westminster School made within this period to politics, law, the Church of England, the armed forces, literature, the theatre and to every aspect of English public and social life was only rivalled, although not surpassed, by that made by pupils at Eton College.

Readers should note that the information recorded here that is not to be found in the first two volumes of the Record of Old Westminsters, edited by G.F.Russell Barker and A.H.Stenning, and its first Supplement, edited by J.B.Whitmore and G.R.Y.Radcliffe, has been assembled from various published and manuscript sources by Hugh Edmund Pagan MA FSA, and all new resulting text is his copyright, © 2014.


As explained in A.H.Stenning’s preface to the first volume of the Record of Old Westminsters, the oldest surviving admission book for Westminster School commences in January 1714/5.

For the period before January 1714/5 the evidence for those educated at the School is patchy and primarily relates to the names and identities of the forty resident scholars on the foundations of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, denominated Queen’s Scholars in the reigns of Elizabeth I and Anne, and as King’s Scholars in other reigns.

Subsequent to the publication of the original volumes of the Record in 1928, the extant published and documentary evidence on scholars and other pupils attending the school from 1540 onwards was revisited by John Beach Whitmore TD FSA (1882-1957), a London solicitor and well-known genealogist, both for the purposes of the Record’s first Supplement, published in 1937, and during a twenty-year period between 1937 and his death in 1957 when he and Dr.G.R.Y.Radcliffe were collecting material for an intended further supplement that never materialised. Whitmore’s post-1937 research is evidenced today by the surviving interleaves of his annotated copy of the printed volumes of the Record, on which he noted a substantial number of additions and corrections.

In the period before 1715 Whitmore’s annotations were most extensive for the later sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth century, partly because this was his own area of expertise as a genealogist, and partly as a result of discoveries made after 1928 in the Westminster Abbey Muniments by his friend and fellow Old Westminster Lawrence Edward Tanner CVO FSA (1890-1979).

For the period after January 1714/5 Whitmore rechecked the evidence provided by the admission books and extant school lists, and was enabled to make many small improvements to entries for individual pupils. It should be noted that although the interleaves from his annotated set of the Record survive complete in the archives of Westminster School (and were kindly made available for the purposes of the present research by Dr E.A.Smith, lately the School’s Senior Master and Archivist), the associated printed pages of his set of the Record only survive for pupils with surnames between Edwards and Kyte. It is evident from these that he was also in the habit of making annotations on the printed pages themselves, and it is unfortunate that the printed pages with entries for pupils in the rest of the alphabet have not survived. Additionally, it is apparent from a study of the interleaves that the information written on them by Whitmore merely summarised information written by him on a separate set of “slips”. The present whereabouts of this set of “slips” has not been ascertained, and it may be that it does not survive.

There are two significant gaps in the series of surviving admission books. One covers the Head Mastership of Dr.William Markham, between February 1753 and May 1764, and this is especially unfortunate, as the School was then close to its apogee of prestige, and was attracting pupils of high calibre from the elite of society. As there are no surviving school lists for the period 1755-63 it has been difficult to add significantly to the very incomplete roster of names recorded for this period by Russell Barker and Stenning.

The remaining gap extends from October 1788 to December 1805, and although this gap is a little less serious for historians of the school, since various manuscript school lists for this period have long been known, Whitmore was fortunate enough to obtain access after the Second World War to the surviving papers of Rev.John Smith, an Usher at the School between October 1788 and December 1802, who from 1789 onwards shared in the management of Clapham’s, one of the school’s largest and most favoured boarding houses. These, preserved in the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, provide the names of many pupils taught or tutored by Smith or who boarded up Clapham’s, and the resulting new information was entered by Whitmore on the interleaves already mentioned.

Although the two volumes of G.F.Russell Barker and A.H.Stenning’s original edition of the Record of Old Westminsters contained full biographical entries for all those educated at Westminster School up to 1920, and briefer entries for those admitted to the School between 1921 and 1927, improved entries for all those admitted to the School from September 1883 onwards were included in a third volume, recording those admitted between 1883 and 1960, edited by L.C.Spaull from material compiled by Whitmore, Radcliffe and D.C.Simpson, and published in 1963. This has justified the omission from this revised version of all the entries contained in the original volumes for those who entered the School after the summer of 1883.

The present writer has been able to profit from many published works of reference which have appeared in the half century since Whitmore’s death, including the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography ; from a typescript listing of the Students of Christ Church, Oxford, for the period 1660-1800, compiled by the late Dr. E.G.W.Bill and made available by the courtesy of Mark Curthoys, lately Archivist of Christ Church ; and also from much information of varying kinds now retrievable from open access sites on the internet. Such sources have been particularly useful in amplifying the existing summaries of pupils’ post-school careers. The present version of the Record is however merely a work in progress, and almost every entry can be improved in some manner, however small.

Entries which commence and conclude with square brackets are predominantly entries for individuals treated as having been educated at Westminster School by the editors of the Record or of its first Supplement, but who seem not in fact to have been educated there. One particular area of concern in this respect is a list given by William Hickey of those attending an Old Westminster dinner held at Calcutta in June 1783 (Hickey, Memoirs, iii, 245-6), for a number of those whom he names cannot otherwise be evidenced as having been educated at the School ; Hickey, who had been a pupil at the School between 1757 and 1763, is otherwise a reliable witness on Old Westminster matters, but it is probable that his memory misled him in this instance, and that the dinner concerned was not solely attended by individuals who had been at Westminster School.

It should also be noted that a school list for December 1736, preserved in the British Library, Harleian MS 7025, although generally accurate as regards pupils’ surnames and relatively accurate as regards the Christian names of King’s Scholars and of pupils in the fifth and third forms, is not at all reliable as regards the Christian names of pupils in other forms. This is because although the underlying school list appears to have been authentic, what survives is merely a later fair copy, for the purposes of which the transcriber seems in some cases to have simply invented pupils’ Christian names, whether because their real Christian names could not be read in the original list from which he was copying, or, perhaps more probably, because in the original list no Christian names were given for the particular pupils concerned. Russell Barker and Stenning were certainly aware of the unreliability of the list in question, but their volumes nonetheless contain various entries derived from it evidencing apparent pupils who are probably or certainly “ghosts”.

A few entries within square brackets are for individuals recorded for the first time as pupils at the School by Whitmore in his manuscript notes on the surviving interleaves, but without accompanying evidence other than the words “see new slip” (or similar). In the absence of the “slips”, the claims of such individuals to have been educated at the School cannot easily be verified.

Comments within square brackets which form part of an entry not itself within square brackets relate to facts that need checking, or to identifications which are currently conjectural.

Information on the boarding houses attended by pupils who were not King’s (or Queen’s) Scholars has been appended where known. For those pupils who boarded up Grant’s (2 Little Dean’s Yard), the school’s boarding house with the longest continuing identity, the present writer’s primary source has been the late Lawrence Tanner’s annotated copy of The Westminster School Register 1764-1883, published in 1892, in which Tanner put a pencil mark against the name of those pupils known to him to have boarded up Grant’s between those dates, and in the entries for pupils so identified by Tanner a letter G has been added after their date of admission.

The neighbouring boarding house at 1 Little Dean’s Yard was owned by various differently named proprietors between the eighteenth century and 1884, but since the middle of the nineteenth century has been continuously known as Rigaud’s, in memory of Rev.Stephen Jordan Rigaud, subsequently Bishop of Antigua, its house master between 1846 and 1850. The entries for pupils who are known to have boarded at 1 Little Dean’s Yard from 1846 onwards have been distinguished by the letter R.

Similarly, the initial H has been used to distinguish day boy pupils who from 1877 onwards were brought together in school hours as “Home Boarders”, under the supervision of a house master based from at least 1880 at 1 Dean’s Yard (with an overflow in Ashburnham House under a separate house master after 1882) ; and the initial D has been used for those pupils who between 1878 and 1883 were boarders or half-boarders at a small and short-lived boarding house at 14 Barton Street, managed as house master by Rev. Reginald Francis Dale.

Information on those boarding at 1 Little Dean’s Yard before the middle of the nineteenth century, and at other privately owned boarding houses within the Abbey precincts or in the Abbey’s immediate vicinity, is much scantier, and where a pupil is known to have attended a particular boarding house, the name of that boarding house is given in full. It should be noted that although in entries for the pupils concerned the name of the boarding house is habitually placed immediately after the dates of the pupils’ admissions, this is for convenience only, and should not necessarily be taken as evidence that the pupil concerned entered the relevant boarding house at the same time that he was admitted to the School.

The original edition of the Record included a number of related Appendices. Of these, the present writer has so far revised only Appendixes VII, VIII and IX. Appendixes VII and VIII list the School’s Head Masters and the School’s Under Masters, while Appendix IX lists the rest of the School’s teaching staff and the proprietors of its boarding houses. The text of these appendices provided by Russell Barker and Stenning was not revised for the 1937 Supplement, nor significantly improved by Whitmore’s subsequent research, and it has been necessary to provide a wholly recast version of Appendix IX. Much though still remains to be discovered about the identities and careers of those members of the teaching staff who had not themselves been educated at the School, and the details available about those who took in boarders remain inadequate also.

Hugh Pagan

May 2014

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