London – Ashburnham House

Coming out of Dean’s Court and passing through the gateway in the east side of Dean’s Yard, you find another enticing and little-known corner in Westminster School in Little Dean’s Yard.

Every monastery had to have its school, so the monks of St. Peter’s started theirs-the forerunner of the Westminster School or St. Peter’s College founded by Queen Elizabeth in 1560. Ben Jonson went to school here, and so did George Herbert and Dryden and Cowper and Southey, Hakluyt of Voyages fame, and Wren and Locke and Warren Hastings and many other famous men I do not know, including Prior.

The school sergeant at the lodge will show the Edward III. College Hall, with its minstrel gallery and oaken tables made from the beams of the Spanish Armada. Forty years ago the school annexed Ashburnham House, another interesting unnoticed corner that can be seen any Saturday afternoon, on application to the hall porter. This charming house was built in the seventeenth century by W ebb, a famous disciple of Inigo Jones. Alas, his celebrated staircase is given over to dust and spiders, and only restored to a semblance of its former beauty on state occasions, such as Founders’ Day in November or at Christmas, when the boys perform their well-known Latin plays.

There are many interesting things about the school and the buildings that I leave untold, so go and see for yourself this quiet backwater of London.