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Strafford Shakespeare Medal



Administrative / Biographical history

The founder of this prize was George Steven Byng (1806-1886), Earl of Strafford. He had not been to Eton himself, but his sons were Etonians and the endowment deed states that he was founding the prize "out of regard toward the said College...and desiring to promote the study in the said College of the works of Shakespeare". On 26 July 1880 it was reported to the New Governing Body that a letter had been received from Lord Strafford expressing a wish to found at Eton a Shakespeare Prize similar to the one founded by Lord C. Russell at Harrow. It was "unanimously resolved that the Governing Body gratefully accept the liberal proposal of Lord Strafford to found a Shakespeare Prize for Eton and will take immediate steps to ascertain from the Head Master of Harrow the terms and conditions of the similar foundation at that school". The income produced by the endowment eventually proved inadequate to the cost of casting a gold medal every year. In the 1930s the quality was reduced but by 1965 the prize was running at a loss when the examiner's fee was also taken into account. In that year Ernest Bowman left the College £200 "in gratitude to the school which gave so much to my father, to myself and to my son" for the provision of an annual Bowman Prize or Prizes for the study of Shakespeare. Rather than have two inadequately endowed prizes for a similar subject, the two were combined.


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