Searching for an Old Westminster?

As of August 2020, biographical details of more than 17,000 alumni – also known as ‘Old Westminsters’ – have been added to the fully searchable ‘People and Organisations’ section of our online catalogue. The abbreviations ‘OW’ for Old Westminster and ‘OWW’ for Old Westminsters (plural) are commonly used. This information was primarily drawn from the printed series of volumes known as The Record of Old Westminsters.

Many entries from the first two volumes have been substantially improved thanks to the work of Hugh Pagan (OW). Hugh Pagan continues to research Old Westminsters and researchers may wish to check his own online database for the latest updates.

Are all Old Westminsters included?

The biographies added are those of Old Westminsters born over 100 years ago, or those born over 70 years ago and known to be dead. New biographies will be added on a rolling basis each summer.

From January 1806 records of admissions to the school are continuous. Prior to that point there are periods where records have not survived. For a more detailed information please see Hugh Pagan’s article on the topic. If you think we have missed someone please let us know.

Whilst some living Old Westminsters are featured on the database, generally where they are the creator, donor, or subject of records in our catalogue, the focus is on deceased alumni.

If you are interested in finding out more about an Old Westminster who does not feature in this catalogue, get in touch by emailing archives@westminster.org.uk. Please include the individual’s full name and dates, where known. The personal data of living individuals is protected by the Data Protection Act (2018) so there may be restrictions on what information we can share.

What information will I find in the biographies?

Biographies from The Record of Old Westminsters are constructed in a particular format. Information, where known, is presented in the following order:

Names: The Old Westminsters are listed alphabetically by surname. This is nearly always the surname they were known by when at the school. Forenames and any titles follow.

Ancestry: Parents’ names, maternal grandfather’s name, occupations and place of origin are provided where known. Occasionally other relations are named if significant, particularly if there is a connection to the school. In order to prevent information being repeated, younger siblings’ entries give the name of the eldest child to attend Westminster. A named individual who is themselves an Old Westminster is followed by the abbreviation ‘qv.’ This indicates that they have their own biographical entry.

Date of birth: An italicized ‘b.’ precedes the data of birth, where known. Sometimes a baptism date is provided when the date of birth is not known.

Date of admission: An italicized ‘adm.’ precedes the date of admission to Westminster School, where known. When a pupil’s admission date is not recorded, the date that they feature ‘in school list’ is given instead. If a pupil became a King or Queen’s Scholar (K.S. or Q.S.) or Bishop’s Boy (BB) this is recorded along with the date of their election. If a pupil unsuccessfully attempted to become a scholar this fact is also recorded as ‘Min. Can.’ (Minor Candidate) with a date.

House: A letter indicating a pupil’s house is provided in brackets where known. The abbreviations are as follows: A or AHH – Ashburnham, B – Busby’s, C – College, D – Dale's or, post 1976 Dryden’s, G – Grant’s, H – Homeboarders’, Ha - Hakluyt’s, L – Liddell’s, M - Milne’s, P - Purcell’s, R – Rigaud’s, W – Wren’s.

Date left: Italicized ‘left’ followed by the date of departure from the school.

University and Academic Qualifications: A ‘matric.’ (matriculation) date is given when known.

Career and Achievements

Marriage(s): Dates of marriage(s) ‘m.’, civil partnership(s) ‘c.p.’, and divorce(s) ‘div.’ are given where known. The name, occupation, place of origin and parentage of the spouse(s) are given where known.

Date of death: Italicized ‘d.’ followed by the date of death where known.

Please note that entries from The Record do not include details of offspring.

As The Record was originally a printed volume, biographies include many abbreviations to save space. Some of the common contractions are detailed above. Click here for a more comprehensive list.

What sources do you use?

Published Lists

From the 18th century lists of former pupils, in some cases with additional biographical details, were compiled and printed. Joseph Welch’s List of Scholars of St. Peter’s College, Westminster was first published in 1788 and a much enlarged edition followed in 1852. Welch’s list only included those pupils who were Scholars at the school. The Westminster School Register from 1764 to 1883 was published in 1892 and listed both Scholars and Town Boys (non-scholars).

In the 1920s, G.F. Russell Barker (OW) undertook to compile a single list of all the pupils who have ever been educated at the school, and to gather information about their lives. The list was nearing completion in 1927, when Barker died. In tribute to his memory, Alan H. Stenning (OW) picked up where Barker had left off and ensured that the project was finished. The Record of Old Westminsters, which was finally published as two volumes in 1928, includes former pupils “from the earliest times” to 1927.

Since then, three subsequent volumes of The Record have been produced. Volume III, which was compiled by J.B. Whitmore, G.R.Y. Radcliffe and D.C. Simpson (all OWW), brought the list as far as 1960. It added entries for all the Old Westminsters who had left since the publication of the first two volumes, and updated other entries as necessary. Volume IV was produced by F.E. Pagan and his son, Hugh Pagan (both OWW) and brought The Record forward to 1989. Volume V, covering pupils admitted from 1937 until 2015 was compiled by an editorial committee and published in 2017.

Independently, Hugh Pagan has worked to provide improved and expanded information on all pupils at the school between 1540 and 1883. Readers should note that the information recorded here that is not to be found in the first two volumes of The Record of Old Westminsters, edited by G.F. Russell Barker and A.H. Stenning, and its first Supplement, edited by J.B. Whitmore and G.R.Y. Radcliffe, has been assembled from various published and manuscript sources by Hugh Edmund Pagan MA FSA, and all new resulting text is his copyright, © 2014.

Manuscript Records

The editors of The Record drew upon a wide range of sources. Our earliest manuscript lists of pupils at the school date back to the 16th century.

Westminster Abbey’s Muniments
There are scattered lists of Westminster pupils to be found in Westminster Abbey’s muniments.

The Buttery Book
This document, of uncertain date, lists Scholars who were elected from the school to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge from 1561-1822 and all Scholars at the school from 1663-1822. It occasionally lists Minor Candidates who were not selected to be Scholars.

Parentelae or Indentures of Election of Scholars
These indentures list the Scholars elected to the School from 1708 and also include their country of origin and their father’s name.

Admission books
Admissions books maintained by the Head Master begin in January 1715, although there are gaps in the series until January 1806.

School Lists
School lists recorded by Dr Busby for the year 1656 survive. Numerous other school lists survive from 1715 onwards.

Names painted on or carved into the walls of School and College
Many pupil names have been painted on or carved into the walls of school buildings and recorded. A project to list the names carved on the school gateway has its own website.

Other Sources

A wide variety outside of School and Abbey were consulted when compiling The Record. When a pupils’ association with the school is drawn from an external source, this is generally noted in their entry.

What other information do you hold on Old Westminsters?

For Old Westminsters who attended the school prior to the 19th century, the school rarely has additional information beyond that which is already included in the biography. From the mid 19th century our records become richer. The following sources are good places to start your search:

The Elizabethan
The school’s official magazine, The Elizabethan, was started in 1874. This is fully digitized and available to browse or search online either via the catalogue or through its own stand-alone website. Remember to search for surnames alone, as pupils were not known by their first names until the late 20th century.

Photographs
The school has an extensive, but incomplete photographic record from the late 19th century onwards. You can browse some of the photographs online. Not all images have captions, so in some cases it is not possible to identify individuals in a group picture.

House Records
School houses often maintained their own records. House ledgers, kept by the pupil who was ‘Head of House’ can provide an insight into school life. The Town Boy Ledger, which began in 1815, is being serialised online and can be searched. Some houses produced their own magazines and we have just digitized one of these, The Grantite Review.

Printed school rolls School rolls exist with some gaps from 1851. These list pupils in their forms and can give an idea of their progression through the school and which subjects they studied.

Admission registers
Our admissions books from 1896 until the 1940s sometimes contain additional information, such as a pupil’s prep school, or their home address.

Please note that we rarely have examples of school reports as these were sent home to parents and copies were not retained by the school until the late 20th century.

How accurate are your records?

With any project of this scale and ambition errors will inevitably be made. If you spot a mistake, please let us know so that we can correct it. When disputing a fact please give your source.

Comments within square brackets relate to facts that need checking, or to identifications which are currently conjectural.

Can I reuse the information?

This information is provided for personal research use only. It may not be edited, repurposed or used commercially.

Readers should note that the information recorded in biographies of pupils educated at the school between 1540 and 1883 that is not to be found in the first two volumes of The Record of Old Westminsters, edited by G.F. Russell Barker and A.H. Stenning, and its first Supplement, edited by J.B. Whitmore and G.R.Y. Radcliffe, has been assembled from various published and manuscript sources by Hugh Edmund Pagan MA FSA, and all new resulting text is his copyright, © 2014.