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College, the home of the Queen’s Scholars and the oldest house at Westminster, was effectively founded in 1560 when the school’s charter stipulated that there should be 40 Queen’s Scholars. Special weight in their selection was to be given to ability, good character and poverty. To become Scholars, boys had to pass an oral examination known as ‘The Challenge’, which shifted to paper in 1856.
Scholars had special privileges not accorded to other boys, such as the right to enter the Palace of Westminster.
The Scholars include John Dryden, the first Poet Laureate (1631-1700); John Locke (1632-1704), the empiricist philosopher; A. A. Milne (1882-1956), creator of Winnie-the-Pooh; and Kim Philby (1912-1988), of the Cambridge spy ring. The first female scholars were admitted to College in 2017.
The boys were at first housed in the monastery’s former granary, but when this began to become delapidated they moved to the present site of College in 1730. The building, on the East side of Little Dean's Yard, is an example of neo-classicism by Lord Burlington and overlooks College Garden.
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Prepared by Felicity Crowe, Archives and Records Management Assistant, February 2020.
Westminster School Archive; Tanner, Lawrence, 'Westminster School: Its Buildings and their Associations' (Philip Allan & Co.).