The British country house as a school
Pupils in many British boarding schools are fortunate to take a lesson in architecture as they follow their daily timetable. These pupils wake-up to glorious views of grounds and architecture, it as if they are living in a scene from Downton Abbey.
Take Stowe School with its imposing white elegance and classical columns. Once it was the grand country residence of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos. Many schools, such as Stowe, are set in hundreds of acres of grassland and woodland providing space for cricket, football, hockey and rugby. With acres of space and skilled ground staff many schools provide some of the best grass tennis courts
in the UK.
Viewers of The Crown will remember a young Prince Charles battling with a muddy course at Gordonstoun School in Scotland. Being blessed with so much land also enables many schools to provide golf courses too. When it is just an easy walk from dormitory to tee, pupils have ample opportunity to hone their skills.
It is not just the pupils of Eton, singing their famous boating song. Many pupils at boarding schools are able to enjoy angling or simply messing about on rivers and lakes as part of their leisure. Though for others competitive rowing on the river is a key part of their lives as they dream of competing in front of the cheering crowds at Henley Royal Regatta.
Country houses have frequently led a chequered life. Middlethorpe Hall, York, built in 1699, as a status symbol for aspiring Yorkshire gentleman Thomas Barlow, had a spell as school in the 20th century before becoming Brummels nightclub in the disco 1970s. Today it is enjoying a more sedate existence as a serene Historic House Hotel.
New Hall in Sutton Coldfield, a moated castle north of Birmingham, which once hosted Henry Vlll, also had some years as a school before becoming an elegant hotel. Intriguingly, when the moat was drained, dozens of ink-wells were found. Perhaps throwing ink-wells into the moat was an end of term tradition?
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