- Oppidans comes from from the Latin word, oppidum, meaning town. It is the name given to the fee-paying boarders of Eton School, which was founded in 1440 by Henry VI to offer 70 poor boys, known as King’s Scholars, an education. Alongside them, other boys could also benefit from the free education, but they would have to pay for their accommodation, the so-called Oppidans. To help pay for this he gave it a large amount of land, rights and other benefits, including the right to swans on the Thames. In 1449 the king further endowed the school with an estate that now forms modern day Chalk Farm and Primrose Hill – initially including the very hill itself. According to Eton’s website: “Originally, the boys were taught Latin and Latin alone, although Greek was added to the curriculum in the early 17th Century. They were taught in Lower School and were as young as five years old. The school day began at 5am with prayers, before lessons began at 6am. Lessons finally finished at 8pm, and there was a single hour of play allowed each day. There were two holidays in the year, at Christmas and in the summer, although the boys did not go home at Christmas. This divided the year into two halves and is the origin of the Eton name for a school term, despite there now being three. The first proper boarding House, Jourdelay’s, was built in 1722 to accommodate the growing number of Oppidans. 40 years later, there were 13 Houses, largely run by teachers, known at Eton as Masters. Today there are 24 boarding Houses, plus College where the King’s Scholars live.” It is one of a cluster of nearby roads on the Eton estate that has a name connected with the school.
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