Our history

Winchester College is a boys’ boarding school of approximately 700 pupils. Founded in 1382, it has the longest continuous history of any English school.


A philanthropic founding father

Winchester College was founded by William of Wykeham (1324-1404), who rose from unexceptional social origins to become Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England. Wykeham owed his education to one or more wealthy Hampshire patrons; his abilities as an architect and builder attracted him to increasingly powerful employers, including, finally, the King. Wykeham’s political and ecclesiastical careers were equally spectacular. As Lord Chancellor he occupied the highest political office in the land. “Everything was done by him,” remarked a contemporary historian, “and nothing was done without him”. As Bishop of Winchester, he occupied the richest see in the land.


Wykeham’s aims 

Wykeham’s career enabled the acquisition of huge personal wealth. He applied this to twin educational purposes: a university college, known as New College Oxford, and a school in Winchester, to be called Winchester College. These would be linked, and both would provide an education for 70 scholars. The new generation of men educated here were to go out into the world, ready and equipped to serve society, and replacing clergy and administrators lost during the Black Death. Construction of the school began in 1387, and the buildings opened in 1394.

Relevance today

Those who work and live at both of Wykeham’s educational foundations are uniquely fortunate in their ability to inhabit beautiful and historic surroundings in which the highest standards of education have endured for over six hundred years. They are the proud inheritors of a formidable legacy, both educational and philanthropic.

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