Eton, a town of Buckinghamshire, England, on the left bank of the Thames, opposite Windsor, 22 m. W. of London by road; pop. about 3,000. Its college, the most celebrated of English public schools, was founded by Henry VI. in 1440, and endowed by a gift from his own demesne lands and those belonging to some priories whose revenues had been appropriated to religious houses abroad. The original foundation consisted of a provost, 10 priests or fellows, 4 clerks, 6 choristers, a master, 25 poor scholars, and as many poor men, or beadsmen. Henry VI. at the same time founded King's college, Cambridge, to which Eton was to be preparatory. The first stone of the building was laid July 3, 1441. In 1443 Henry VI. increased the number of scholars to 70 and reduced the beadsmen to 13. At present the foundation consists of a provost appointed by the crown, a vice provost, 6 fellows, 2 chaplains called conducts, 10 lay clerks, 10 choristers, besides inferior officers and servants, and 70 scholars, who since the reign of George III. have been called " king's scholars." As Eton was a Lancastrian foundation, it suffered under the rule of the house of York, and was curtailed by Edward IV. of many of its possessions.
More fortunate under the Tudors, Eton was specially excepted from the act of parliament passed in the time of Henry VIII. for the dissolution of colleges and chantries. At this period its revenues were estimated at £1,100. In 1506 the total income was £652. Its present income is about £7,000. The college buildings consist of two quadrangles, built partly of freestone, but chiefly of brick. The scholars on the foundation are lodged and boarded in the college, and by way of distinction are called collegers. They are admissible from the age of 8 to 16, and, unless put on the roll for admission to King's college at 17, are superannuated and obliged to leave at 18. If put on the roll, they may continue till 19. The foundation scholars must be born in England, of parents lawfully married. By the statutes they should be instructed gratis and clothed in some coarse uniform, but in neither of these points are the statutes adhered to. The sum of £6 or £7 per annum is charged to the parents of every foundation scholar who are able to pay it. Every year the 12 head boys are put on the roll of King's college, but continue at Eton until there is a vacancy or until superannuated. At King's college the Etonians are maintained free of expense, and after three years they succeed to fellowships.
On an average four scholars go to King's college yearly. There are also two scholarships at Merton college, Oxford, for foundation scholars who are not elected for King's college. These latter are called portionistoe, or by corruption, postmasters. In 1842 Prince Albert instituted an annual prize of £50 for proficiency in the modern languages. The larger number of Etonians are not on the foundation, and are called oppidans; they do not board in the college. The annual expenses of an oppidan amount to about £150 or £200. The sixth form is the highest in the school, and is limited in number to 22; of these the highest 10 are styled monitors, and the head boy is called the captain. The classes are divided between the lower and upper school. There are a head master and a lower master, 23 assistant masters in the upper school and 4 in the lower, 6 mathematical masters, and masters of the French, German and Hebrew, and Italian languages. The course of instruction was formerly almost wholly classical; but mathematics and modern languages are now a part of the curriculum. The annual elections take place in the last days of July every year.
The usual number of scholars is between 700 and 800. The Eton mon-tem was a peculiar ceremony, formerly biennial, but after 1759 held triennially on Whit-Tuesday, and discontinued since 1844. On this occasion the boys marched in procession to an elevation on the Bath road called Salt hill, under the lead of the head boy of the foundation scholars as captain. Here they spent the day, partook of a bountiful breakfast and dinner, with music and various ceremonies, and collected toll from all spectators and passers-by. The scene was visited by great numbers of people, and even sometimes by the royal family, and the contributions, called salt, have been known to exceed £1,000. After deducting expenses, the remainder was paid over to the captain, who in 1847 was indemnified by the queen for his loss by the omission of the ceremony. - See "History of the School of Eton," by J. H. Jesse (London, 1872).