Old Schools, Church Hill, Harrow-on-the-Hill, HA1 3HP
Best preserved 17C schoolroom in the country. Wainscot panelling, benches, tables and chairs. Original fireplace replaced in 1730, oriel window inserted in 1820. Walls carved with names of every Harrow pupil until 1847.
Regular tours every 30 mins (2pm-4.15pm) max 35 per tour
In 1572 John Lyon, a local farmer living at Preston, obtained a charter from Queen Elizabeth I to establish a school in Harrow. Lyon and his wife administered the School out of their own income until their deaths respectively in 1592 and 1608, whereupon its management passed to a Board of Governors.
The first duty of the Governors was to replace the building hitherto used as a schoolhouse by a building conforming with current notions of what a schoolhouse should provide. Designed by one Mr. Sly, the new building of brick finished with ashlar provided storage for fuel in the basement, a schoolroom on the ground floor with accommodation for the Head Master and Usher (i.e. Assistant Master) on the first and upper floors. Its construction took seven years, work being interrupted by allegations of misappropriation of funds by the Governors. The new building opened in 1615.
The original appearance of the schoolroom, now called the Fourth Form Room, is not known beyond the position of the doorway into it, the fireplace and the windows. In the early 1660s the schoolroom was panelled with wainscot, and fitted out with chairs and tables for the Masters and Monitors (i.e. senior boys sufficiently advanced to instruct younger boys), benches for the pupils, and cupboards for storing books and equipment, more or less as it now appears, with the single exception of the birching grip which has been moved several feet from its original position.
The carving of their names by boys on the eve of departure from the School started almost as soon as the panelling was installed, and continued until 1847: every available surface, whether wood, stone or plaster was covered with boys’ names. In the 1730s, the original Jacobean fireplace cracked, and was replaced by the present Georgian one. Insertion of the oriel window in 1820 and the addition of name-boards above the wainscot panelling in 1847 transformed the appearance of the schoolroom, making it significantly darker. Even so, it remains the best preserved 17th century schoolroom in the country.