“For more than five centuries Winchester has molded tough-minded English gentlemen,” LIFE magazine wrote about one of the oldest public schools in the UK in 1951. While Winchester College in Hampshire, UK has never attained the the fame of Eton or Harrow, it is safe in the knowledge that having been founded in 1382 it is “older than almost all other public schools and the model for most of them.” For more than 500 years Winchester had been “helping to perpetuate a breed of Englishmen whose authoritative bearing and strait-laced espousal of ‘fair play’ have always set them aside as a public school product”. Winchester men call themselves Wykehamists, after their founder, William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester.
Until 1984 Wykehamists were also well known for their straw boaters, or “strats” which featured students’ house colors on the band, still sported by Old Wykehamists on Winchester Day. The term “public school”, confusing to Americans as it equates to private and boarding schools here, came about because schools like Winchester were originally established to educate poor scholars who could not afford private tutoring, with a smattering of noblemen’s sons for good measure. While some now take a public school education as a signifier of snobbery, as LIFE wrote, “To Winchester men the motto ‘Manners Makyth Man’ on the school coat of arms sums it up: rugged discipline and a sound education, not noble birth, determine a man’s stature.”
Like most English public schools – of which Winchester is one of only four left in England to retain all students as boarders – Winchester has its own game, Winchester College Football, also known as Winkies or “Our Game,” a sort of cross between football and rugby, as well as its own lexicon of slang. Each New Man gets an official book of this slang, known as notions. Some of the more colorful terms include “toytime” for evening prep or homework; “tunding”, a beating with a birch rod given by prefects, whose privileges include rolling their umbrellas and wearing flowers in their lapels; and “pussies”, scarves awarded for exceptional contribution to a house or society. As an old saying goes “You can always tell a Wykehamist, but you can never tell him much.”