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Choir School



Administrative / Biographical history

The Foundation Charter of 1440 provided for six choristers to sing in the daily services. By 1452 this had been increased to sixteen, all boarders. One of the clerks was responsible for teaching them and they had a special claim for consideration at elections for scholarships to the College. After Henry VI's death their numbers were cut to ten and during the Commonwealth they disappeared altogether. The choir started again at the Restoration but increasingly its members also sang at St George's Chapel, Windsor, and the boys were educated there. In 1868, the link with St George's was broken and a professional choir appointed at Eton. In 1872, it was decided that the professional choir should consist of ten choristers and six lay clerks, but when new statutes were drawn up the choir was not formally included as part of the College. The records are very incomplete, but we know that a master was appointed to teach the boys, and that by 1892 they were using the old Brewhouse as a schoolroom. They were day boys, and from 1910 choristers were no longer paid but money was put aside for further training or apprenticeships after they left the choir. Their education and meals were free. The school was small, sixteen choristers and twelve probationers, and it became increasingly difficult to provide adequate teaching and facilities. Changes in education policy made it harder for boys leaving the school at 13 or 14 to transfer to state schools, and it was becoming more difficult to attract suitable applicants. By the 1960s the College considered that amalgamation with St George's School or conversion into a standard preparatory school, mixing choristers and fee-paying boys, was the only way the school would be viable. A temporary building on Fellows' Eyot improved the accommodation and numbers grew slightly but not enough to keep the school going. When it was announced that it would close in summer 1969, so many boys left that closure was brought forward to 1968. Assistance with fees at other schools was given to the boys left in the school, and the Fellows set up Music Scholarships to raise the standard of music throughout the College. The Old Choristers' Association still maintains links with the College and has its reunions in College Hall.


1922 - 1968

Finding aids

Typed list

Publication note

Williams, Roderick: The Choir and Choir School of Eton College 1440-1968 Bairstow, V.M.: Memories of Eton College Choir School (Ian Allan Printing, 1993)
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