Eton High Street from Windsor Bridge
|Council:||Windsor and Maidenhead|
Eton is a tiny town on the River Thames in the very south of Buckinghamshire, standing on the opposite bank of the river from Windsor (across in Berkshire) and connected to it by Windsor Bridge, which is now just a footbridge. The parish also includes the large village of Eton Wick, two miles west of the town. The two together had a population of 4,980 in 2001.
Eton is best known as the location of Eton College, possibly the most famous public school in Britain. The college was founded in the Middle Ages and thrives to this day. It more than anything else has given a shape to Eton, along with the influence of Royal Windsor across the flood.
The name 'Eton' derives from Old English Ea tun, meaning River-Town, which is appropriate for its position on the Thames.
Eton College, usually referred to as Eton, is an independent boarding school founded at Eton By King Henry VI. Its corporate entity bears the full title in the mediæval manner "The Provost of the College Royal of the Blessed Mary of Eton near unto Windsor, in the County of Bucks commonly called The King's College of Our Blessed Lady of Eton nigh or by Windsor in the said County of Bucks", showing its pre-Reformation foundation. It boards boys aged between 13 to 18 years.
Following the public school tradition, Eton is a full boarding school, which means all pupils live at the school, and is one of four remaining single-sex boys' public schools (the others being Winchester College, Harrow School and Radley College) to continue this practice. It has a long list of distinguished former pupils: David Cameron is the nineteenth British Prime Minister to have attended Eton and the College has also educated generations of British aristocracy. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and his brother Prince Henry both attended Eton.
Eton has traditionally been referred to as "the chief nurse of England's statesmen", and has been described as the most famous public school in the world. Early in the 20th century, a historian of Eton wrote, "No other school can claim to have sent forth such a cohort of distinguished figures to make their mark on the world."
The Good Schools Guide called the school "the number one boys' public school," adding, "The teaching and facilities are second to none."
The pious King Henry VI founded the College as a charity school to provide free education to seventy poor boys who would then go on to King's College, Cambridge, which he founded in 1441. Henry took Winchester College as his model, visiting on many occasions, borrowing its Statutes and removing its Headmaster and some of the Scholars to start his new school. The King granted to his new foundation a large number of endowments, including much valuable land, a plan for formidable buildings (he intended the nave of the College Chapel to be the longest in Europe). He gave it several religious relics too, supposedly including a part of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns. He persuaded the then Pope, Eugene IV, to grant him a privilege unparalleled anywhere in England: the right to grant indulgences to penitents on the Feast of the Assumption. The school also came into possession of one of England's Apocalypse manuscripts.
When Henry was deposed by Edward IV in 1461, the new king annulled all grants to the school and removed most of its assets and treasures to St George's Chapel, Windsor, on the other side of the River Thames. Legend has it that Edward's mistress, Jane Shore, intervened on the school's behalf. She was able to save a good part of the school, although the royal bequest and the number of staff were much reduced. The chapel never reached its intended length either.
Eton is served by two stations in Windsor; Windsor & Eton Riverside (to London Waterloo) and Windsor & Eton Central (to Slough and London Paddington.
- Nevill, p.3 ff.
- Moss, Paul (12 May 2010). "Why has Eton produced so many prime ministers?". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8622933.stm. Retrieved 10 June 2010.
- MacDonald, Alistair (14 May 2010). "After Labour, Posh is Back in Britain". The Wall Street Journal (New York). http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703950804575242431958967118.html.
- "Eton—the establishment's choice". BBC News. 2 September 1998. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/162402.stm. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
- Doward, Jamie (26 June 2005). "Eton waits for verdict in Harry 'cheating' case". The Observer (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jun/26/monarchy.publicschools.
- Nevill, p.1.
- "Eton College | Windsor | LEA:Windsor & Maidenhead | Berkshire". The Good Schools Guide. http://www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/school/eton-college.html. Retrieved 3 September 2011.