Earlier this year, in the process of cataloguing Winchester’s sculpture collection for the ArtUK website, we discovered that an early 19th-century wax profile of William of Wykeham, the College’s founder, had been given by the poet William Wordsworth as a gift to his nephews John and Christopher, who were pupils at Winchester. The central part of the inscription on the reverse of the frame is in the poet’s hand and reads ‘To the Wintonians / J + Christopher Wordsworth / from / their very affectionate Uncle / Wm Wordsworth / Rydal Mount / September 1822’.
John and Christopher were the sons of William Wordsworth’s youngest brother, also Christopher, the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In the College Archives is a letter from Christopher to his sons at Winchester, which mentions a visit to his brother at Rydal Mount in September 1822. It must have been on this occasion that William gave Christopher the wax profile of Wykeham to take to his nephews.
Both boys had joined the school as Commoners (fee-paying pupils) in 1820, and both went on to study at their father’s college in Cambridge. John became a distinguished classical scholar before his early death in 1839. Christopher was Second Master at Winchester from 1836 until 1844, when he became Headmaster of Harrow. He then entered the church and was appointed Bishop of Lincoln in 1869, a post he held until his death in 1884. Christopher’s son and grandson were both Wykehamists.
The wax profile belonged to Christopher until 1874 when he gave it to another young Wykehamist, Martin White Benson (1860-1878), the son of Edward White Benson (1829-1896), Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral and later Archbishop of Canterbury. Tragically, Benson died of tubercular meningitis at the age of seventeen. The wax must have been left among his possessions in College. Although it has been on display in Winchester’s historic library for many years, the remarkable history of this object has remained unknown until now, proof that there are still exciting discoveries to be made in the school’s collections.
A film about the Fellows' Library and some of the rare books and objects within this collection is available to view on the school's YouTube channel. The clip below highlights the Wordworth gift.
The online exhibition Wordsworth 250 celebrates the poet’s works, and his connections to the school. Currently on display at the school, in Moberly Library until December, it is also being hosted online to make it available to a wider audience.
19th July 2021
A new publication explores the College's collection of medieval glass. Created across a period of significant artistic change, they demonstrate the development of stained glass production techniques and the Gothic style from the mid-thirteenth to sixteenth centuries.
5th July 2021
In anticipation of a new Everest exhibition in Treasury this September, Mr Bill Norton, son of explorer and mountaineer Edward Norton spoke to pupils and staff about the challenges and team dynamics of the 1921 expedition.
22nd June 2021
Winchester College has entered a new partnership with Andover College to enable them to run a CCF programme for its students.
14th June 2021
On Sunday 13 June, we hosted the premiere of our Sixty Second Cinema film competition, showcasing the creativity and ingenuity of our first year film makers.
13th June 2021
A number of our Community Service projects seek to make an important environmental impact. The teacher leading our rewilding project in Berkshire, Adam Rattray, explains the context and the progress that has already been made.
28th May 2021
The school's Treasury museum will re-open to the public next month, on Monday 21 June, in line with Government advice.