Harrow School

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Harrow School
Mottoes Latin: Stet Fortuna Domus
("Let the Fortune of the House Stand")
Latin: Donorum Dei Dispensatio Fidelis
("The Faithful Dispensation of the Gifts of God")
Established 1243
1572 (Royal Charter)
Type Independent boarding school
Public school
Religion Anglicanism
Head Master Mr Jim Hawkins[1]
Chairman of the Governors Mr J P Batting
Founder John Lyon of Preston
Location Harrow on the Hill
London Borough of Harrow
United Kingdom
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DfE URN 102245 Tables
Staff ~200 (full-time)
Students ~800 pupils
Gender Male
Ages 13–18
Houses 12
Colours Blue & White         
Publication The Harrovian
Former pupils Old Harrovians
Badges Rampant Lion
Crossed Arrows
School Song Forty Years On
Website www.harrowschool.org.uk

Harrow School /ˈhær/,[2] commonly referred to as "Harrow", is an English independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrow, in north-west London.[3] There is some evidence that there has been a school on the site since 1243, but the Harrow School of today was formally founded in 1572 by John Lyon under a Royal Charter of Elizabeth I.[4] Harrow is one of the original ten public schools that were regulated by the Public Schools Act 1868.

The School has an enrollment of 814 boys[5] spread across twelve boarding houses,[6] all of whom board full-time. It remains one of the four all-boys, full-boarding schools in Britain, the others being Eton College, Radley College and Winchester College. Harrow's uniform includes straw hats, morning suits, top hats and canes. Its alumni includes eight former British or Indian Prime Ministers (including Peel, Palmerston, Baldwin, Churchill and Nehru), foreign statesmen, former and current members of both houses of the U.K. Parliament, two Kings and several other members of various royal families, 20 Victoria Cross and one George Cross holders, and many figures in the Arts and the Sciences. The Good Schools Guide published in 2014, said, "Parents looking for a top notch, blue chip, full boarding, all boys' school will be hard-pressed to beat Harrow. This is a school on top of its game".


Various schools[citation needed] in the same location have educated boys since 1243, but the School in its current form was founded in February 1572 under a Royal Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I to John Lyon, a local wealthy farmer.[7] In the School's original charter, six governors were named, including two members of the Gerard family of Flambards, and two members of the Page family of Wembley and Sudbury Court.[8] It was only after the death of Lyon's wife in 1608 that the construction of the first school building began. It was completed in 1615 and remains to this day, however it is now much larger.

The School grew gradually at first, but growth became rapid during Imperial times as British prosperity grew. Lyon died in 1592, leaving his assets to two causes, the lesser being the School, and by far the greater beneficiary being the maintenance of a road to London, 10 miles (16 km) away. The school owned and maintained this road for many years following Lyon's death, and the whole school still runs along this 10-mile road in an event called "Long Ducker" every November. At first the primary subject taught was Latin, and the only sport was archery. Both subjects were compulsory; archery was dropped in 1771.[9] Although most boys were taught for free, their tuition paid for by Lyon's endowment, there were a number of fee-paying "foreigners" (boys from outside the parish). It was their presence that amplified the need for boarding facilities. By 1701 for every local there were two "foreign" pupils; this was used to generate funds for the School as fees increased. By 1876 the ratio was so high that John Lyon Lower School was brought under the authority of the governors of the Upper School so that the School complied with its object of providing education for the boys of the parish. It is now known as The John Lyon School and is a prominent independent school in England. It maintains close links with Harrow.[7] The majority of the school's boarding houses were constructed in Victorian times, when the number of boys increased dramatically.[10]

Old Schools

The 20th century saw the innovation of a central dining hall, the demolition of small houses and further modernisation of the curriculum. Presently there are about 800 boys boarding at Harrow.[5]

In 2005, the School was one of 50 of the country's leading independent schools which were found guilty of running an illegal price-fixing cartel, exposed by The Times, which had allowed them to drive up fees for thousands of parents, although the schools said that they had not realised that the change to the law (which had happened only a few months earlier) about the sharing of information had subsequently made it an offence.[11] Each school was required to pay a nominal penalty of £10,000 and all agreed to make ex-gratia payments totalling £3,000,000 into a trust designed to benefit pupils who attended the schools during the period in respect of which fee information was shared.[12] However, Mrs Jean Scott, the head of the Independent Schools Council, said that independent schools had always been exempt from anti-cartel rules applied to business, were following a long-established procedure in sharing the information with each other, and that they were unaware of the change to the law (on which they had not been consulted). 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."[13]

Recently, the School Governors have expanded overseas, opening additional schools in Beijing, China (Harrow International School Beijing); Bangkok, Thailand (Harrow International School, Bangkok); and New Territories, Hong Kong (Harrow International School Hong Kong).[14]

School traditions


Boys at Harrow have two uniforms.

Everyday dress, worn to most lessons, consists of a white shirt, black silk tie, light grey trousers, black shoes, an optional blue jumper (sweater), a dark blue woollen uniform jacket known as a "bluer", the option of the School blue and white scarf and dark blue woollen overcoat similar to the bluer on cold days and, notably, the Harrow Hat, often erroneously called a boater, made of varnished straw with a dark blue band. Variations include boys who are monitors who are allowed to wear a jumper of their choice, and members of certain societies who may earn the right to replace the standard school tie with one of a variety of scarves, cravats, neck and bow ties.[15]

An alternative uniform, Sunday dress, worn every Sunday and for more formal engagements, consists of something similar to morning dress; a black tailcoat, which is cut similarly to an evening coat, but with a distinctly higher-cut skirt and no facing on the lapels, dark grey pinstriped trousers, a black waistcoat, a black tie, braces and a white shirt. Variations include a grey waistcoat for those who contribute greatly to School sport, maroon waistcoats for members of "The Guild", which is the school's arts society, a black top hat and cane for monitors, and a hat with black speckles for boys in the 1st XI Cricket.

The Head of School has the distinction of wearing full white tie during the Contio Latina, a speech delivered annually by the Head Boy entirely in Latin.

Another notable feature of the uniform at Harrow is that there is a separate set of sports uniform of the House colours. These include football shirts, socks, and a rugby shirt. This distinguishes members of different Houses.

The Harrow uniform achieved notoriety in the mid 20th century when a 1937 photograph of two Harrovians in Sunday Dress being watched by three working class boys was taken outside Lord's Cricket Ground. The photograph was placed on the front cover of the News Chronicle (now absorbed into the Daily Mail) the next morning under the tagline "Every picture tells a story". The picture was soon reproduced in other national publications and became, and remains, one of the most popular symbols of the class divide in the United Kingdom.[16]


Every new boy who enters the School is given a two-week period of time called "grace" when he is not fully subject to all School rules and is shown the ropes by an assigned boy in the year above called a "Shepherd". Soon after this period of time ends the boy sits the "new boys' test" which tests general knowledge of the School's traditions. Some time later all new boys also sing a solo in front of their House at a House Songs, officially ending their time as a new boy.

All boys are required to wear their hats when going to or from lessons and to "cap" all teachers (also known as "beaks") who pass them on any public road and chapel terrace, which is done by the boy raising his forefinger to the brim of his hat. Those who do not follow these rules are punished.[citation needed]


Songs have been an part of Harrow life since John Farmer, a former head of music, wrote the first song in 1864. The School considers them to be a unifying force as they are sung by the boys in their Houses every term. Songs are sung by the whole School to audiences of parents, former pupils of the School, and guests of honour that have, in the past, included members of the royal family and representatives from previous governments. The song Forty Years On has become known as the School Song, although in reality it is one of many compositions.[17] It features a verse about Winston Churchill, and was heard in the film Young Winston.


Harrow has been instrumental in the development of a number of sports.

The sport squash (originally called 'Squasher') was invented in Harrow out of the older game rackets around 1830[18][19][20] before the game spread to other schools, eventually becoming an international sport.

In the development of Association Football, Harrow was one of seven schools that met to develop the 1863 Cambridge Rules, which would influence The Football Association's first set of rules, the 1863 Laws of the game.

An annual cricket match has taken place between Harrow and Eton College at Lord's Cricket Ground since 1805. It is considered to be the longest-running cricket fixture in the world[21] and is the oldest fixture at Lord's (see: Eton v Harrow). Eton won the match in 2013, and Harrow in 2014.

Harrow has its own unique style of football called Harrow Football. The object of the game is to score a "base", which is achieved by kicking the ball between a pair of vertical posts, located at each end of the ground, similar to rugby posts but without a cross-bar. This may be done either from open play or from 'yards'[clarification needed] and the kick may be of any height. An important feature is the offside rule whereby a player must be behind the ball before he can play it. Handling is allowed from a kick on the volley: the ball may be caught and a call of "yards" allows the catcher a space of three running yards unmolested and a free kick out of the hands.[22]

The Harrovian

The Harrovian is the School newspaper that is published weekly during term time. Its articles are written anonymously and the School stresses that the opinions expressed in the newspaper do not reflect School policy. The newspaper is published as both an organ of record and a forum for comment, debate and the expression of individual opinions in the School. The Harrovian is also published online by the Harrow Association. The Headmaster, however reserves the right to remove any article from the Harrovian prior to publication if he sees fit.[23]

Harrow jargon

  • Beak – A master or teacher.
  • Capping – Boys and masters "saluting" each other.
  • Double – A punishment for boys. Basically writing lines.
  • Ducker – The School swimming pool.
  • Eccer – Exercise.
  • Footer – Harrow football.
  • Jerks – A House punishment regime normally run at 05:30 each Friday.
  • Remove – The name given to year 10s in the School.
  • Send Up – A 'special mention' for a good piece of work that is acknowledged by the House Master (the opposite of a Skew).
  • Shells—The name for the new boys of the School (year 9s).
  • Skew – A 'black mark' given for a poor piece of work that a boy must redo and give to his House Master to sign.
  • Speech Room – Place where the weekly gathering as well as some events take place.
  • Yarder – The exercise yard (normally an enclosed quadrangle) in each boarding house where adapted versions of sports are played (for example 'Yarder Cricket').
  • Tosher – Shower.
  • House Skew – When you do something bad in the house.

Harrow curricula

During the first year, boys (known as 'Shells' or 'Yearling') take English, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Geography, Latin/Classical Civilisation, Religious Studies, Art, Music, Design Technology, Information Technology, and two from the following list of languages: French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Ancient Greek. Classics are considered very important at Harrow School.[24]

During their second and third years ('Removes' and Fifth Form), boys work towards their GCSE examinations. They continue with English, Mathematics, the three sciences, and at least one modern language. In addition to these core subjects pupils choose four other subjects from Geography, Astronomy, History, Religious Studies, Classical Civilisation, Classical Greek, Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Art, Design Technology, Music, Drama, and Physical Education.[24]

In the Sixth Forms all pupils are expected to take AS-level in at least four main subjects, going on to A-level in at least three. There are many to choose from including English Literature, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, History, Geography, Economics, Business Studies, Ancient History, Classical Civilisation, Government and Politics, Religious Studies, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Design Technology, Physical Education, Music, Music Technology, Art, History of Art, Theatre Studies, Statistics and Photography.[24]

Examinations and universities

22 Harrovians secured Oxbridge offers on 21 January 2014 and four successful applicants were Old Harrovians who applied during their gap year. Previously in 2013, 13 boys gained places at Oxford, 9 at Cambridge.

At GCSE in 2013, 64.0% of grades were at A*, and 89.7% were at A* or A. At A-Level, 25.8% of grades were at A*, and 71.0% at A* or A.[25]

School grounds

Harrow School has 24 tennis courts which include acrylic, hard and synthetic lawn which belong to Harrow Lawn Tennis Club (HLTC)

Harrow School is not built on a campus: it is fully integrated into the surrounding area; there are private houses and shops on Harrow Hill, and the main road through Harrow Hill is a normal public highway and indeed a bus route. Harrow School is made up of some 400 acres (160 ha) of playing fields, tennis courts, golf course, woodland and gardens.

Harrow School also owns its own working farm. Currently on the farm are a herd of Longhorn cattle and a flock of Shetland sheep. Until 2003 it was a working dairy farm.

School houses

House name and Colours[6]
Bradbys – Purple and White (DRW)         
Druries – Red and Black (MJMR)         
Elmfield – Purple and Black (MJT)         
Gayton – (over-spill house) (DJE)
The Grove – Red and Blue (CST)         
The Headmaster's – Pink and White (SAH)         
The Knoll – Gold and Black (SJA)         
Lyon's – Green and Black (NJM)         
Moretons – White and Blue (PJE)         
Newlands – Yellow and White (EWH)         
The Park – Red and White (BJDS)         
Rendalls – Magenta and Silver (SNT)         
West Acre – Red, White and Blue (MGJW)             

Harrow School divides its pupils, who are all boarders, into twelve Houses, each of about seventy boys, with a thirteenth house, Gayton, used as an overflow. Each House has its own facilities, customs and traditions, and each competes in sporting events against the others.

These boarding Houses at Harrow share a legacy of the whole Harrow history: Houses also compete against each other in a variety of activities and fight for trophies to increase the House's reputation. Nowadays, one of the most important aspect of Harrow life would be the House system, since Harrovians are generally passionate and devoted into their House, where they also endeavour their best to win competitions for the House.

Until the 1950s there existed what were known as 'small houses' where only 5–10 boys stayed at one time while they waited for a space in a large house to become available (hence the use of the term large house in this article). A twelfth large house, Lyon's, was built in 2010 and opened at the beginning of the 2010 Autumn term.[6]

House Masters, Deputy House Masters and their families live in the boarding Houses and are assisted by House Tutors appointed from the teaching staff. Every House has a residential House Tutor, who may or may not also be the Deputy House Master. The House Master oversees the welfare of every boy in his care; for parents he is the main point of contact with the School.[6]

Each House has a resident matron, and sick room. The matrons are supported by the School's Medical Centre where trained nursing staff offer round the clock care. The medical centre is under the direct supervision of the school doctor who is available on the Hill every day for consultation.[6]

There are no dormitories: a boy shares his room for the first three to six terms and thereafter has a room to himself. It is very much his own place, his home for the term, where he keeps his belongings, puts up his pictures (within reason and decency), does his work and leads much of his social life. Each House has at least one year-group-specific common room with newspapers, television and video. All have their own gardens and sports facilities.[6]

Fees and charges

As of 2014/15, Harrow School charges £36,150 (about €40,000 or US$54,000) per year for board and tuition.[26] A few select students can obtain either means-tested bursaries for exceptionally able students of parents who may not be able to afford school fees. There are also excellence-based scholarships to reduce this amount. Scholarships (30 per year, awarded before the admission to Harrow) can reduce fees by 5–10%, bursaries can reduce fees in some rare hardship cases by up to 95%.[27] Charging up to £11,530 per term in 2014/15, Harrow is the fifth most expensive HMC boarding school in the UK.[28]

The Peter Beckwith Harrow Scholarship, which includes a means-tested bursary which may pay for up to the entirety of the school's fees in some, but by no means all, cases for the duration of the pupil's time at Harrow School, was featured in a Channel 4 documentary. However, this documentary implied that the scholarship pays for all the fees in all cases.

Media coverage

Harrow was featured in a Sky 1 documentary series entitled "Harrow: A very British School" in 2013.

Old Speech Room Gallery & Museum

The Old Speech Room Gallery & Museum is located in the Old Speech Room, which was built in 1819–1821 as a room to encourage public speaking.[29] The gallery was opened in 1976 to house the School's collections, which include Egyptian and Greek antiquities, English watercolours, Modern British paintings, books and natural history artefacts. There is a set of gilt Easter eggs created by contemporary gold and silversmith Stuart Devlin, which have been designed in the tradition of Fabergé eggs and include surprise interiors. There are also some sculptures, including portrait busts of such Old Harrovians as Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Lord Byron.

The paintings include Sir Winston Churchill's A Distant View of Venice, 1929. Other artists include George Romney, David Jones, Victor Pasmore and Richard Shirley Smith.

The Museum hosts themed exhibits from its collections. Admission is free.

Old Harrovians

The original Old Schools, as they were in 1615
A modern view from the library to the Old Schools, one of the sets of the Harry Potter films

Harrow has many notable alumni, who are known as Old Harrovians, including seven former British Prime Ministers including Winston Churchill and Robert Peel (the creator of the modern Police Force and founder of the Conservative Party), and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. In addition, twenty Old Harrovians have been awarded the Victoria Cross and one the George Cross.[30]

The School has educated three monarchs: Mukarram Jah the last Nizam of Hyderabad, King Hussein of Jordan and his cousin, Faisal II, the last King of Iraq, and had among its pupils a large number from the Thai, Indian, Malaysian and Middle Eastern royal families. A number of members of the British Royal Family have also attended the School.

Other notable alumni include writers (including Lord Byron, Sir Terence Rattigan and Richard Curtis), numerous aristocrats (including the current richest British subject, the Duke of Westminster and the prominent reformist Lord Shaftesbury) and business people (including DeBeers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer, Pret a Manger founder Julian Metcalfe) and the big game hunter and artist General Douglas Hamilton, as well as Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. In sports, the school produced the first two Wimbledon champions (Spencer Gore and Frank Hadow) as well as FA Cup founder C.W. Alcock and current England rugby international Billy Vunipola. Alumni in the arts and media industry include actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Cary Elwes, singer James Blunt and horse racing pundit John McCririck.

In fiction

Fictional Old Harrovians include the character Withnail from the film Withnail and I and his uncle Monty.

Notable staff

Head Masters

See also


  1. Overview of Harrow | From the Head Master |. Harrow School. Retrieved on 13 August 2013.
  2. Wells, John C. (2008), Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.), Longman, p. 368, ISBN 9781405881180<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Harrow school threatens to drop A-levels". The Guardian. London. 31 October 2006. Retrieved 22 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Tyerman, Christopher (2000). A History of Harrow School. Oxford University Press. pp. 8–17. ISBN 0-19-822796-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Inspection Report on Harrow School". Reports. Independent Schools Inspectorate. October 2006. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 "Houses". Harrow School. Retrieved 10 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Harrow school". British History Online. Retrieved 19 December 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Harrow School. Edward Arnold, London. Retrieved 5 December 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Archery—Romance-and-Elite-Culture-in-England-and-Wales—c--1780-1840 Martin Johnes. Archery, Romance and Elite Culture in England and Wales, c. 1780–1840
  10. Tyerman, Christopher (2000). A history of Harrow School. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-822796-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Halpin, Tony (10 November 2005). "Independent schools face huge fines over cartel to fix fees". The Times. London. Retrieved 4 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. OFT.gov.uk
  13. "Private schools send papers to fee-fixing inquiry". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 January 2004. Retrieved 15 March 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Harrow International School, (Beijing)". Harrow Beijing. Retrieved 9 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Harrow Terminology". Tradition. Harrow School. Retrieved 9 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Jack, Ian (23 March 2010). "The photograph that defined the class divide". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "The school Song". Tradition. Harrow School. Retrieved 9 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "History of squash". squashplayer.co.uk. Retrieved 5 June 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "History". worldsquash.org.uk. Retrieved 5 June 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "History of squash". talksquash.co.uk. Retrieved 5 June 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "The oldest fixture of them all". cricinfo.com. Retrieved 5 June 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Harrow Football: The Game". Tradition. Harrow School. Retrieved 9 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "The Harrovian online". Harrow School. Retrieved 9 October 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 "Academic Life: The Curriculum". Harrow School. Retrieved 24 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. [1]
  26. Harrow School | Admissions | Fees & Charges |
  27. Scholarships and bursaries, Harrow School, 2009
  28. http://www.privateschoolfees.co.uk
  29. Old Speech Room Gallery & Museum
  30. "History of the School". Harrow School. Archived from the original on 20 September 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Rimmer, Rambles round Eton and Harrow, (London, 1882)
  • Thornton, Harrow School and its Surroundings, (London, 1885)
  • Harrow School Register, 1801–93, (London, 1894)
  • Minchin, Old Harrow Days, (London, 1898)
  • Williams, Harrow, (London, 1901)
  • Archibald Fox, Harrow, (London, 1911)
  • G. T. Warner, Harrow in Prose and Verse, (London, 1913)
  • Arnold Lunn, The Harrovians, (London, 1913) ISBN 1-4538-0948-1
  • Christopher Tyerman, A History of Harrow School 1324–1991 (Oxford, 2000) ISBN 0-19-822796-5

External links

  • Media related to Harrow School at Wikimedia Commons
  • Harrow School website
  • Wikisource-logo.svg [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FThe_New_Student%27s_Reference_Work%2FHarrow "Harrow" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FThe_New_Students_Reference_Work The New Students Reference Work ] Check |ws link in title= value (help). 1914.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>