Willen Education

Westminster School, discipline, fagging and traditions

Discipline was much harsher than it is today. Dr Busby was famous for his willingness to thrash pupils, even at a time when beating children was encouraged. In the 1900s senior boys, as monitors, were responsible for keeping order among the younger boys. They were allowed to 'tan' offenders, which meant hitting them across the back of the hand with a stiff cane. Curiously, Westminsters were known for being very free with their fists. Fighting was rather approved of, because it was seen as good for developing a robust character.
Fagging was a system whereby younger boys acted as servants to the older boys. Duties ranged from keeping their kit clean and tidy to helping them with their exam revision. In return the senior boy was supposed to protect the youngster . Fagging was supported because it was thought to encourage an ethos of service similar to that found in the Army and Navy. It also helped to save the school from the expense of employing more domestic servants.
Traditions. Westminster had a number of unusual customs, most centred on the Queen's scholars and took place in the big dormitory(left). Each year they put on a play in Latin. The stage was built across one end of the dormitory.
Junior boys had to crawl under the stage while the year above sat on the edge of the stage and tried to hit them with knotted towels.At Easter the cook prepared a tough pancake that was tossed high into the crowd of waiting boys. The head gave a prize of 1 guinea to a boy who managed to get the whole pancake. The scramble for the pancake usually left several boys injured. Tiny fragments of pancake were treasured for years.Junior boys were often tossed in a blanket by the older boys who chanted a latin verse. The aim was to get the boy as near to the ceiling as possible. However, at the end of the year, the juniors were required to write rude poems about the senior boys, and to perform them to all the older boys, so they could get their own back a bit.