As British Public schools are very often historical schools, they have a host of strange and wonderful traditions. Here are a few

The Eton Wall Game – Eton College

First recorded in 1766, Eton College’s ‘Wall Game’ is played on the Furrow, a five metre wide by 110 metre long strip of land, next to a brick wall, on college grounds. The wall, built in 1717, gave its name to the game.

The teams participating are chosen from Collegers (King’s scholars) and Oppidans (the rest of the students).

The object of the game is to get the ball down to the far end of the wall to score, without either handling the ball or touching the ground with any part of their bodies except their hands and feet.

The traditional and most important match of the year is played on St Andrew’s Day, as the Collegers (King’s Scholars) take on the Oppidans (the rest of the school).

eton-students-reuters-300x225On that day, the Oppidans throw their caps over the wall and climb over the wall in defiance of the Scholars, while the Collegers march down from the far end of College Field, arm-in-arm, towards the near end, where they meet the Oppidans.

The rest of the school’s students watches on, perched on the wall.

The Wall Game is also played on Ascension Day, immediately after the early morning service on the roof of College Chapel.

Illumina – Winchester College

The tradition started in 1862 when the wall separating scholars and commoners was destroyed. On the last day of the Autumn term, old candle stubs kept during the year were used to light the wall enclosing the school playing fields, a tradition known as ‘Illumina’. Nowadays, the festival includes a bonfire, carol singing and food and drinks, giving staff, parents and students the chance to celebrate Christmas and the end of term.

Singing at Harrow

The school has had a long tradition of singing songs, at least for the past 150 years. Songs are sung regularly at school events throughout the year but also at reunions of old Harrovians. The most famous Harrow song, called Forty Years On is only famous by name as it is not actually authorized to perform this song in public, a public other than Harrovian, that is.

 The Greaze – Westminster School

On Shrove Tuesday, the “Greaze”, a tradition started in 1753, is celebrated in Westminster school. The cook tosses a pancake (reinforced with horse hair) over a high bar and students must try to catch the biggest part of the pancake during a one minute fight, overseen by the Dean and the Headmaster. The student who manages to catch the biggest bit of the pancake is awarded a gold sovereign (which is given back for the following year) and the dean gives the school a half-day holiday.

Rugby Football – Rugby College

Rugby college is famous for having invented the game of Rugby in 1823 when a boy named William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it during a game of football. The sport quickly became popular as former Rugby students taught it to their respective classmates at the universities they attended.

Morning Hills – Winchester College

Since 1884, Winchester College has taken part in the twice yearly ceremony of Morning Hills. Everyone in the school gets up early and walks in their uniform to the top of St Catherine’s hill, a hill owned by the college. They say prayers at the top, as a way of reinforcing the school’s historic right to the land. Although the event is said to take place during summer and autumn terms, the weather can cause the event to be cancelled.

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Save a few exceptions, school uniforms are the norm for all British school children. They were first introduced during the reign of Henry VIII in the form of long trench-coat style jackets in dark blue. This was supposed to teach humility amongst children.

The Elementary Education Act of 1870 offered elementary education for all children in England and wales and the school uniforms became very popular.

Uniforms reflected the fashion of the time with girls wearing blouses, tunic dresses and pinafores and boys short trousers and blazers until the age of 14 when they wore long trousers.

The Butler reform in 1950 made school free and compulsory until 15. Schools were encourage to harmonize school uniforms codes with other schools.

Nowadays, school uniforms are required to be fair for both gender, not be too costly and accommodate religious freedom. Nowadays, this consists in a shirt, skirt or trousers and a coloured jumper. Some schools also add a tie and a blazer for a smarter look.


School uniforms have sparked a controversy. On the one hand, it is believed to     create pride in belonging to a school, remove distraction from the classroom as there is no social pressure to dress in any particular way and erase social discrepancies.

But proponents of abolishing school uniforms say that while this is true on paper, uniforms come at a cost and cheaper alternatives can mean the child is punished for not wearing the right uniform, or mocked by his/her peers for wearing a cheaper version.



Some private, or independent schools take pride in their radically different uniforms.

Harrow’s public school for example requires students to wear a white shirt, black silk tie, grey trousers and dark blue jacket.  In addition to this smart outfit, students must wear a Harrow hat, a varnished straw with a dark blue ribbon. The had must be worn between all lessons and when meeting a teacher, a forefinger must be raised to the brim of the hat as a sign of respect.

Photo by Robertvan1 at en.wikipedia [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (

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Now that you know the rules of cricket, here is a video of the top 10 Run outs in cricket history.  Who said cricket was a boring game?!

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Summer time is coming and all over England, men in white start appearing on greens and commons to play cricket.

To an outsider, cricket seems really complicated so here is a beginner’s guide to help you understand the basic rules of the game.


Cricket is played on an oval. A large expanse of green  grass usually surrounded by a white picket fence. In the centre of the oval is the cricket pitch which is a  strip of paler grass with wickets on each end.



Cricket is played in teams of 11 players. The team which scores the most runs and gets the other team out wins. You score points by running between the wickets, two sets of three wooden sticks or by hitting the ball all the way to the boundaries of the oval.

The bowler must hit the wicket causing the bar at the top to fall. He has to “throw” the ball at the batsmen, in a straight line with his arm going over head, in order for it to be counted. If he crosses that line It’s counted as a “NO BALL” and the umpire gives the opposite team another ball plus a run.

If the ball is bowled to far to the left or right, it’s a WIDE, and the opposite team is given a run. A run equals one point.

The batsmen, from the opposite team, work in pairs to defend the wicket by striking the ball away with their bat. When a batsman manages to hit the ball away from the wicket, batsmen run between the wickets.


The team can also score 4 to 6 runs if the batsman hits the ball  to the boundaries. This is a fast and efficient way to score runs.



Each run brings one point. While the batsmen are running, the fielders, who are in the same team as the bowler, try to catch the ball and hit the wicket before a batsman gets to them. There must always be 2 batsmen to play so when the 10th batsman is out, the inning is finished.

The game is played in overs. An over consists of six balls thrown by the bowler. There are hundreds of overs during a match. Each team bats for 50 overs each with a short break in the middle. 50 overs is called an inning.

A cricket match can take a long time to play. In fact, a test cricket match is usually played over a 5 day period with each team having 2 innings.

Photo courtesy of Prescott Pym

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For those of you who are interested in seeing this year’s trooping of the colours live (or almost), here is a small extract, courtesy of the BBC.  Enjoy!

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