The Hawtrey family have been closely associated with Eton College for much of its later history, with members holding a variety of roles from Fellows to Dames to Masters. Some members of the family even attended the College as boys themselves! A new display case in the Museum of Eton Life, ‘Adding Maths to the Equation’, looks at the role Stephen Hawtrey played in introducing Maths to the school’s curriculum. However this is just one aspect of the role him and his family have played at Eton.
Stephen Hawtrey served as Assistant Master at Eton from 1836 to 1872. Despite the subject not being officially part of the curriculum, he taught Mathematics with a team of six other Mathematical Masters who he employed himself. This included a ‘Mr Hexter’, who he payed a pension of £200 a year to and who mostly taught writing and arithmetic. Using his own money, he also funded the building of the ‘Rotunda’ on the site of the Christopher’s garden, which would house a number of classrooms for Maths teaching. Eventually, as the display discusses, he worked with his distant cousin, then Head Master Edward Craven Hawtrey, in order to introduce Maths into the school timetable and in 1851 it became an official subject in the curriculum.
However, even after becoming the first Mathematical Assistant Master, his teaching methods were not always appreciated. One of the Bursar’s in-letters sent by Stephen Hawtrey (COLL B1 02 29) contains a response by Hawtrey to criticisms of his use of Euclid in his teachings. The letter details that this criticism came as a result of a Mathematical master at Rugby named ‘Wilson’ disparaging Euclid, who claimed it limited a boy’s education in the subject. However, he defends himself by attaching an essay on the subject and also with accounts from former students, such as one from a ‘C.S. Parker’ who drew a comparison between ‘the soundness of his knowledge of the subjects which I taught him at Eton and the hurried & scrambling knowledge of that which he afterwards learned at Oxford’. Eventually, he decided to leave his role at Eton in 1872 and instead focused on his role as warden at St Mark’s School in Windsor (now Imperial Service College) which he had founded the year before.
Another key member of the Hawtrey family mentioned before was Edward Craven Hawtrey. He had previously attended the College as a boy from 1799, first of all starting out as an Oppidan and then later becoming a King’s Scholar in 1803. In 1814, he returned to the school as Assistant Master and twenty years later became the Head Master. During this time he oversaw a number of changes at Eton on top of the introduction of Mathematics. For example, He oversaw the installation of a Sanatorium for infectious fevers and was able to do so through increasing the School fees with the support of parents. He also saw the erection of the school library and closed the Old Christopher Inn, previously a popular drinking spot for the boys.
Edward Hawtrey was also keen to solve the problem of boys wasting their parent’s money on goods sold by Tradesmen travelling through Eton. He expressed in a circular from 1835 that it was ‘nearly impossible to control the Tradesmen’ and that instead the payment of the boys’ Bills were to fall to the students themselves instead of their parents in an attempt to make them more wary of how they spent their money (COLL P 13 01). Later in 1844, Hawtrey also decided to finally supress the tradition of Montem for similar reasons due to boys begging people for money during the event, as well as the rowdy behaviour boys often showed on this occasion. In 1853 he eventually became Provost and the next year he became vicar of Mapledurham, both positions he held until his death in 1862.
Stephen Hawtrey’s brother, John William Hawtrey, also had an impact on school life at Eton. From 1842 to 1869 he served as Assistant Master at Eton College and had largely taught in the Lower School, teaching boys as young as 7 years old. In order to better accommodate these boys, he built what is now known as Hawtrey’s house. Later in 1861 he also built Warre house, which served a similar purpose as well as having its own fives courts and playing fields for the Lower Boys. This caused somewhat of a separation between the boys Hawtrey taught and the other boys in the College, and so he decided to move the school he had established there to Slough and converted it into St Michael’s preparatory school. Hawtrey’s fifth son, Charles Hawtrey, was educated at this school from 1869 to 1872, before he himself returned to Eton College. One of the admission books kept by Hawtrey (SCH M JWH 01) contains applications from boys in his house to this school from 1869, showing the success of this new school. This move led to the abolition of the First and Second Form at Eton College, and the minimum age at the school was raised slightly as a result. Like his brother, John William Hawtrey eventually moved on from Eton to become the Headmaster of St Michael’s School in Westgate on Sea.
Even after the reign of these three Masters, members of the Hawtrey would continue to attend Eton as students and have some involvement of the culture of Eton College. These three Hawtreys exhibit only a fraction of the impact the family has had on the College, however their contributions have shaped the school massively even after they left their posts.
By Beck Price, Archives Assistant
This blog post accompanies the temporary exhibition in the Museum of Eton Life ‘Stephen Hawtrey and the Mathematical Schools’. The display explores the introduction of Maths into the school curriculum led by Hawtrey and how this change was implemented, and was curated by Beck Price. Visit the museum pages for opening times and more information on visiting the Museum.