Beaumont College

Beaumont College
Established 1861 (1861)
Closed 1967
Type Independent school
Religion Roman Catholic
Founder Society of Jesus
Location Old Windsor

Beaumont College was a Jesuit public school in Old Windsor, Berkshire, England. In 1967 the school closed. The property was later used as a training centre, a conference centre and a hotel. The preparatory school for boys aged 3–13, St John's Beaumont, continues.

History of the estate

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.

18th-century view of Beaumont Lodge – placed closer to the river Thames than it now is, whether because the river has moved or by artistic licence

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

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.

Preparatory School

St John's Beaumont
Motto Aeterna Non Caduca
Not for this life alone, but for eternity.
Established 1888
Type Preparatory school
Day & Boarding school
Religion Roman Catholic (Jesuit)
Headmaster Giles Delaney
Location Priest Hill
Old Windsor
Local authority Windsor and Maidenhead
DfE number 936/6422
Students 300~
Gender Boys
Ages 3–13
Affiliation IAPS

On 25 September 1888, St John's Beaumont Preparatory School was opened on Priest's Hill in the direction of Englefield Green. It is the oldest purpose built preparatory school in the UK.[5] The buildings were designed by John Francis Bentley in Tudor style with a Perpendicular chapel, and it was named St. John's, in honour of St. John Berchmans.[6]

It is still a day and boarding school in the Jesuit tradition and is for boys aged 3 to 13 years old. It is located 11 miles away from both Heathrow Airport and Central London.[7]

The school was built initially for 60 boys aged between 7 and 13 and this can still be seen in the provision of 60 carved wooden chapel pews and 60 individual dormitory cubicles. However, the school has expanded both its classroom provision and its facilities to accommodate over 300 pupils.[6]

In 1970, after an initial period of uncertainty following the closure of Beaumont, the governors of Stonyhurst College accepted responsibility for St. John's.

In 1993 a new swimming pool with four lanes was opened by David Wilkie, a former Olympic Champion and world record holder; it is run by a separate organisation called The Development Company. In October 2009, a new sports centre was opened by Queen Elizabeth II,[7] giving the school day pupils, boarders and the local community access to football, cricket, judo and rock climbing of a 30-foot wall.

Character of the school

The buildings were laid out attractively, the main drive curving round an open field to a rendered 18th-century mansion known as the White House, and 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 agreeable garden dominated by two specimen cedar trees and a war memorial by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

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.[8] This window is a replacement: the original was destroyed by a doodlebug which landed on the school during the war.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] Coco Chanel's nephew was a pupil, and the school blazer is said to have been the inspiration for the 1924 Chanel suit.[12]

Beaumont was easy of 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'. 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

11 November 2007: Remembrance Day service at Beaumont's Scott war memorial.[13] The St John's choir are to the left, and a tree planted by Queen Elizabeth II tin 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.

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 to the colloquialism "Pulling a Beaumont", referring to the unerring ability to cause mass confusion and protest in seemingly benign circumstance. After the closure, most of the current pupils transferred to Stonyhurst.

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 and used for many years as a training centre by a British computer company (ICL, which was eventually absorbed into Fujitsu). In 2003 it was acquired by Hayley Conference Centres, which carried out much new building on the site and very extensive extensions and alterations, including the closure of the sweeping front drive. In 2008 Hayley restored the chapel as a function space. A memorial to the dead of the South African War also survives in the former Lower Line refectory.

The old boys' association, known as the Beaumont Union, continues, largely through the efforts of Guy Bailey, a Beaumont old boy now resident in Monaco, with a bi-annual newsletter and an annual formal dinner at the East India Club in St. James' Square 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.

Other notes

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


  1. Knaggs, Jeff (2004). "1901 Census - Beaumont College, Priest Hill, Egham, Surrey". Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  2. 1 2 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.
  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. St John’s Beaumont Preparatory School from, retrieved 22 June 2016
  6. 1 2 "About St John's". 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  7. 1 2 Delaney, Giles (2013). "Headmaster's Introduction - St John's Beaumont". Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  8. Beaumont Union Review, 2009, p.9
  9. Beaumont Union Review, early 2010, p.11
  10. Howard, Anthony (2005). Basil Hume: the Monk Cardinal. London: Headline. p. 17.
  11. Levi, Peter. Beaumont 1861–1961. Andre Deutsch. On Evelyn Ellis, see articles on Frederick Richard Simms, Datchet, Micheldever railway station and Santler (car).
  12. Haedrich, Marcel (1987). Coco Chanel. Paris: P. Belfond.
  13. C F Kernot, British Public School War Memorials, pp 19,20
  14. "Count de la Bédoyère". Debrett’s People of Today. 2013. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  15. Semmler, Clement (1981). "Dalley, John Bede". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 8 (Online ed.). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. pp. 196–197. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  16. "Nicholas Danby". Biographical Dictionary of the Organ. 2013.
  17. Smith, Liz (20 January 1997). "Obituary: Stephen Fitz-Simon". The Independent. London: INM. ISSN 0951-9467. OCLC 185201487. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  18. "Anthony J. Leggett - Biographical". 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  19. "OBITUARY: THE VERY REV. CANON A. H. POWNALL.". The Tablet. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
  20. "H.H. Prince Michael Romanoff". The New York Times. New York: NYTC. September 26, 2008. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  21. "M. Philippe de Schoutheete". 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  22. Attard, Bernard (2013). "Abstract - interview with Sir Patrick Sergeant". School of Advanced Study. Retrieved 23 September 2013.


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St John's

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

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