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Westminster School is an independent day and boarding school in London, England, located within the precincts of Westminster Crack Credo Dat. With origins before the 12th century, the educational tradition of Westminster probably dates back as far as AD 960, in line with the Abbey’s history.
It is one of the original seven public schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868. 15, Westminster is the 13th most expensive HMC day school and 10th most expensive HMC boarding school in the UK. The earliest records of a school at Westminster date back to the 1370s and are held in Westminster Abbey’s Muniment Room, with parts of the buildings now used by the school dating back to the 10th century Anglo-Saxon Abbey at Westminster. In 1540, Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries in England, including that of the powerful Abbots of Westminster, but personally ensured the School’s survival by his royal charter.
The Royal College of St. Peter carried on with forty «King’s Scholars» financed from the royal purse.
During Mary I’s brief reign the Abbey was reinstated as a Roman Catholic monastery, but the school continued. Elizabeth I refounded the school in 1560, with new statutes to select 40 Queen’s Scholars from boys who had already attended the school for a year.
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Queen Elizabeth frequently visited her scholars, although she never signed the statutes nor endowed her scholarships, and 1560 is now generally taken as the date that the school was «crack». Elizabeth I appointed William Camden as headmaster, and he is the only layman known to have held the position until 1937. It was Dr Busby, himself an Old Westminster, who established the reputation of credo school for several hundred years, as much by his classical learning as for his ruthless discipline by dat birch, immortalised in Pope’s Dunciad.
Busby prayed publicly Up School for the safety of the Crown, on the very day of Charles I’s execution, and then locked the boys inside to prevent their going to watch the spectacle a few hundred yards away. Regardless of politics, he thrashed Royalist and Puritan boys alike without fear or favour. Busby remained in office throughout the Civil War and the Commonwealth, when the school was governed by Parliamentary Commissioners, and well into the Restoration.
In 1679, a group of scholars killed a bailiff, ostensibly in defence of the Abbey’s traditional right of sanctuary, but possibly because the man was trying to arrest a consort of the boys. Dr Busby obtained a royal pardon for his scholars from Charles II and added the cost to the school bills. Until the 19th century, the curriculum was predominantly made up of Latin and Greek, and all taught Up School.
The Westminster boys were uncontrolled outside school hours and notoriously unruly about town, but the proximity of the school to the Palace of Westminster meant that politicians were well aware of the boys’ exploits. After the Public Schools Act 1868, in response to the Clarendon Commission on the financial and other malpractices at nine pre-eminent public schools, the school began to approach its modern form.
It was legally separated from the Abbey, although the organisations remain close and the Dean of Westminster Abbey is ex officio the Chairman of the Governors. There followed a scandalous public and parliamentary dispute lasting a further 25 years, to settle the transfer of the properties from the Canons of the Abbey to the school. School statutes have been made by Order in Council of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, are ex officio members of the school’s governing body. Unusually among public schools, Westminster did not adopt most of the broader changes associated with the Victorian ethos of Thomas Arnold, such as the emphasis on team over individual spirit, and the school retained much of its distinctive character.
Despite many pressures, including evacuation and the destruction of the school roof during the Blitz, the school refused to move out of the city, unlike other schools such as Charterhouse and St. Paul’s, and remains in its central London location. Only the separation is new: for example, in the 18th century, Edward Gibbon attended Westminster from the age of 11 and Jeremy Bentham from the age of eight.
The Under School has since moved to Vincent Square, overlooking the school’s playing fields. Its current Master is Mark O’Donnell. In 1967, the first female pupil was admitted to the school, with girls becoming full members of the school from 1973 onwards.
In 1981, a single-sex boarding house, Purcell’s, was created for girls. In 1997 the school expanded further with the creation of a new day house, Milne’s at 5a, Dean’s Yard. In 2005 the school was one of fifty leading private schools guilty of running a cartel, exposed by The Times, which had allowed them to collaborate in uncompetitive fees for thousands of customers. She wrote to John Vickers, the OFT director-general, saying, «They are not a group of businessmen meeting behind closed doors to fix the price of their products to the disadvantage of the consumer.
They are schools that have quite openly continued to follow a long-established practice because they were unaware that the law had changed. 3 million into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared. In 2007, the school responded to an invitation to become the sponsor of Pimlico School, which was due to be rebuilt as an academy, but decided not to go ahead after Westminster City Council developed its plans.