Beaumont College

Beaumont College

Beaumont College was a Jesuit public school in Old Windsor, Berkshire, England. In 1967 the school closed. The property is now occupied by a conference centre.

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., 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 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 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 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 [see consulted 18 February 2008] .

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. So successful was Bampton that the 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 ["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", Bernardo Rodríguez Caparrini, Paedagogica Historica, Volume 39, Number 6, December 2003 , pp. 737-757.] . Beaumont thus became, along with Stonyhurst College in Lancashire and St Aloysius' College, Glasgow, one of three public schools maintained by the British 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 Plotinus, was a classics master at the college.

In 1937 the Papal Envoy, Mgr Giuseppe Pizzardo, visited the College. During the Second World War a doodlebug struck the White House, causing extensive damage ["Beaumont Union Review" summer 2008 pages 3 & 6 (with photographs).] .

In 1948 John Sinnott S.J. was one of only two public school headmasters who detected a hoax letter from 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"). Sir Lewis Clifford S.J., a Jesuit holding a New Zealand baronetcy, was rector between 1950 and 1956, and in the early 1950s Gerard W. Hughes S.J., now a prominent writer on spirituality, taught there [ eg "God of Surprises", 1985, London (winner of the Collins Religious Book Award 1987)] . On 15 May 1961 Queen Elizabeth II visited Beaumont to mark its centenary.

In 1888, a preparatory school was opened on Priest's Hill above the main school, in the direction of Englefield Green; 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. After an initial period of uncertainty following the closure of Beaumont, in 1970 the governors of Stonyhurst College accepted responsibility for St. John's, which still serves as a preparatory school for Stonyhurst.

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 Edwin Lutyens.

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 [Anthony Howard, "Basil Hume: the monk cardinal", Headline, London, 2005 p 17] . 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. And the first motorist in England was the Hon Evelyn Ellis, who in 1885 drove a car from his home to Beaumont ["Beaumont 1861-1961" by Peter Levi, pub Andre Deutsch. On Evelyn Ellis, see articles on Frederick Richard Simms, Datchet, Micheldever railway station and Santler (car).] . Coco Chanel's nephew was a pupil, and the school blazer is said to have been the inspiration for the 1924 Chanel suit [Biography of Coco Chanel, Marcel Haedrich 1987] .

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 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.

Beaumont was not organised in “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).

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

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, 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 extension of the laboratories. 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). It is now a highly-specified commercial conference centre: there has been much new building on the site and very extensive extensions and alterations, including the complete conversion of the chapel and closure of the sweeping front drive. 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 [Any Beaumont Old Boy may join the Beaumont Union. There is no subscription or fee.] , 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

* Sir Giles Gilbert Scott OM FRIBA, architect
* Sir Henry Burke KCVO CB FSA (1859-1930), Garter King of Arms and grandson of the founder of Burke's Peerage
* Sir John Knill Bt, Lord Mayor of London in 1909, the first Catholic to hold the office since the Reformation.
* Sir John Aspinall, engineer
* Bernard Capes, novelist
* Prince Reginald de Croy, Belgian diplomat
* Jaime de Borbón y de Borbón-Parma, called Duke of Madrid and known in France as Jacques de Bourbon, Duke of Anjou (b. 1870), the Carlist claimant to the throne of Spain under the name Jaime I and the Legitimist claimant to the throne of France under the name Jacques I.
* General Cuthbert Fuller, DSO, CMG (b. 1874).
* Chevalier Philippe de Schoutheete, Belgian diplomat
* Gilbert Pownall RA, responsible for the mosaics in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Cathedral
* Sir Francis Rose Bt, artist and aesthete
* Baron Peeter de Vleeschauwer, Belgian diplomat
* Raffaele Altwegg, cellist
* Bernard Arthur William Patrick Hastings Forbes, 8th Earl of Granard, KP, GCVO, PC (17 September 1874 – 10 September 1948), known as Viscount Forbes from 1874 to 1889, an Anglo-Irish soldier and Liberal politician, and Master of the Horse.
* Lt-Col. Edward Lisle Strutt CBE, DSO (b. 1874), soldier and mountaineer
* John Bede Dalley (b. 1876), Australian journalist and writer cite encyclopedia | last = Semmler | first = Clement | encyclopedia =Australian Dictionary of Biography | title =Dalley, John Bede (1876 - 1935) | url = | accessdate = 2008-02-01| edition = Online | year = 1981| publisher = Melbourne University Press | volume = 8 | location = Melbourne | pages = pp. 196-197]
*Carlos Aramayo, Bolivian diplomat
* Captain Count Charles Moore MC, Royal Stud and Racing Manager
* Bernard Howell Leach, CH, (1887-1979) world renowned potter based in St Ives, Cornwall
* In 1899 Alfonso de Orleans y Borbón, the Infante of Spain, and his younger brother Luís Fernando were sent to England to be educated at Beaumont [B. R. Caparrini, "op. cit." p 743.] . They remained there until 1904.
* Sonny Hale, actor
* Prince Michael Obolensky
* Michael Burgess, coroner to the Royal Household
* Frederick Wolff, CBE, TD (b. 1910) Olympic gold medallist in 1936.
* Charles Laughton, actor
* Kynaston Reeves, actor
* Nicholas Danby, organist
* Luis Federico Leloir, Argentine doctor and biochemist who received the 1970 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
* Ralph Bates, actor
* Hugh Burden, actor
* Sir Christopher William Kelly, KCB (b 18 August 1946), former British Permanent Secretary, currently Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and Chairman of the NSPCC.
* Anthony Darnborough, film director and producer
* Sir Reginald Secondé, KCMG, CVO, HM British Ambassador to Chile, Roumania and Venezuela.
* Malcolm Hay of Seaton, historian
* Christopher Hewett, US and UK actor
* Peter Drummond-Murray of Mastrick, Slains Pursuivant of Arms
* George More O’Ferrall. Film and television director
* William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008), founder of the modern American conservative movement which laid the groundwork for the presidential candidacies of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
* Peter Holman, Director, The Parley of Instruments
* Sergio Osmeña III (b. 1943), a Filipino politician.
* Clarence Mackay, Director of the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera
* Peter Hammill (b. 1948), a founding member of the progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator.
* Baron Michael de Wolff Aristocratic former salesman of IBM equipment


*David Hoy, SJ. "The Story of St John's Beaumont 1888-1988", St. John's Beaumont, Old Windsor, 1987.

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