Wellington in History
To piece together the history that founded Wellington College in England, our alma mater, Wellington College China would like to present you with our new column for the summer – Wellington in History. This column aims to guide our readers through the history and stories that led to the establishment of Wellington College China. We hope that through this column, readers will develop a deeper understanding of the values and ideas that ground our educational philosophies.
In our final edition, we would like to highlight the five characteristics of the Wellington Identity – Inspired, Intellectual, Independent, Individual and Inclusive. Over the course of its 160-year history, Wellington College in England has educated thousands of bright young individuals. From actors to authors, musicians to politicians, entrepreneurs to sports stars, a number of the College’s pupils have gone on to become well-known on account of their own achievements across a range of different fields. Here, we will shine a light on three of the College’s most prolific – and creative – alumni, who embodied the Wellington Identity traits throughout their lives: Sir Christopher Lee, George Orwell and Sir Hugh Beaver.
We want Wellingtonians to have been genuinely excited by everything they have done during their time at the College. They will have developed a zest for life so that they, in turn, go into the world ready and able to inspire others. This is the core pillar of the Wellington Identity.
Christopher Lee (1922-2015)
Actor, Author, Musician
Sir Christopher Lee was born to an Italian contessa and a British army officer on 27 May 1922 in Belgravia, London. He attended Wellington College in Berkshire from 1936 to 1939. At one time known as “the centre of the Hollywood universe,” Sir Christopher Lee was an acclaimed actor and musician whose career spanned nearly seven decades.
Lee was involved with many school plays throughout his primary years, but veered away from the dramatic arts during his time at high school. At Wellington College he won scholarships in classical studies, studying Ancient Greek and Latin, and tried his hand at several different sports as a way to broaden his education and gain as many life skills as he could.
After his time at Wellington, Lee worked as an office clerk in London until 1941 when he enlisted in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Following his release from military service in 1946, Lee began training as an actor. He scored numerous small roles in film and television throughout the 1950s. His potential as a leading male actor was finally recognised after he landed the role of the monster in the Hammer film The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). The success of this film lead to him being signed on for future roles in Hammer Film Productions, most notably Draculain 1958 and The Mummy in 1959.
Lee continued his role as "Dracula" in a number of Hammer sequels throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, but by that time he had grown tired of his horror image and began to diversify his portfolio – just as he had during his time at Wellington College when he played a number of sports he was otherwise disinterested in. To help widen his appeal on the silver screen, he starred in several mainstream films, such as The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), The Three Musketeers (1973) and the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). Lee remained a relatively busy actor throughout the 80s and 90s, and his career truly began to take off again post-2000 when he starred in two particularly big-budget franchises: Star Wars (the prequels) and The Lord of the Rings.
Lee was showered with many notable accolades throughout his lifetime: he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2001, a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2009, a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 2011, and he earned the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Fellowship in 2011. He was even entered into The Guinness Book of World Records in 2007 for having the most screen credits held by a living actor, having appeared in 244 film and TV movies, and he went on to make 15 more movies before he died in 2015, with his last titled Angels in Notting Hill.
Sir Christopher Lee was committed to experiencing everything life had to offer him; he was never one to shy away from a challenge and was never too afraid to try something new. In 2010 Lee released his own full heavy metal album at the age of 88 – Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross. His album won the “Spirit of Metal” award from the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony. His vigour and aspiration to get the most out of every day was inspiring, and something we should all try to remember as we move through our lives.
“We don’t always get the kind of work we want, but we always have a choice of whether to do it with good grace or not.”
Wellingtonians must move into the world with the ability to think critically and to engage in deep learning. They will be able to study beyond the bounds of any curriculum, to be inquisitive and ask questions of everything around them and be imbued with a life-long love of learning.
Wellingtonians will leave the College with the moral values and social conscience to serve others and do good in life. This inclusivity includes a strong pride in coeducation, and a commitment to understanding and appreciating our place as global citizens.
George Orwell (1903-1950)
Author, Essayist, Journalist
Eric Arthur Blair, more commonly known by his pen name George Orwell, was born in Motihari, India, on 25 June 1903. He attended Wellington College in Berkshire in 1917. Often referred to as “the conscience of a generation,” George Orwell was an individual of strong opinions whose work addressed some of the major cultural and social movements of his time.
Known for his frankness and – sometimes exaggerated – candour, Orwell’s autobiographical essay “Such, Such Were the Joys” describes his earlier school days as incredibly unexceptional. It was during his time at preparatory school in Sussex that Orwell was first exposed to England’s class system, which he took a strong aversion to. He recognised the differences between how the “rich” and “poor” children were treated by tutors and school masters, which formed the foundation of his personal and social philosophies later in life. Although his high school years were decidedly more enjoyable for him, as he was able to explore and develop his love for literature and linguistics, his academic performance indicated that his passions certainly lay outside of the classroom.
In 1922, after leaving school, Orwell joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma (then a British colony). While he was initially a model imperial servant, Orwell soon came to dislike his role as a colonial police officer, and, longing for more professional and personal independence, resigned in 1927 to follow his passion and become a writer.
In 1928, he moved to Paris where lack of success as a writer forced him into a series of odd jobs in restaurant kitchens. He described his experiences in his first full-length book, Down and Out in Paris and London, published in 1933. He took the name George Orwell shortly before its publication. This was followed by his first novel in 1934, Burmese Days, wherein he recounted his experiences and reactions to imperial rule in Burma.
Orwell travelled to Spain in 1936 to report on the Spanish Civil War. His experience during the Spanish Civil War turned him into a lifelong anti-totalitarian and anti-fascist, which he first expressed in his book Homage to Catalonia (1938). After returning from Spain, Orwell took up several writing assignments in order to support himself, including numerous essays and reviews that helped him develop a reputation for producing well-crafted literary criticism.
During World War II, Orwell worked as a producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), where he developed news commentary and shows for audiences in the eastern part of the British Empire. After leaving the BBC in 1943, Orwell became the literary editor for the Tribune. He was, by this time, a well-known and prolific journalist, having written many newspaper articles, reviews and literary/social criticisms. After many years of hard work and setbacks, Orwell had finally come into his own as a literary professional.
In 1944, Orwell finished his novel Animal Farm, a political fable based on the story of the Russian Revolution. Orwell initially struggled to find a publisher for the book, but when it hit the shelves in 1945 it was a great success, making him famous and, for the first time, prosperous. His last book, Nineteen Eighty-four (1949), was written after years of pondering and brooding about some of the world’s darker political regimes. Orwell’s warning about the potential dangers of totalitarianism in this book had a profound and long-lasting impact on his peers and readers.
Orwell's work remains influential in popular and political culture today. In 2008, he was ranked second in 'The Times' list of ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945,’ and on 7 November 2017 a statue of George Orwell, sculpted by Martin Jennings, was unveiled outside ‘Broadcasting House’ – the headquarters of the BBC. In the English language, the adjective “Orwellian” is used to describe totalitarian and authoritarian social practices, and many of his other neologisms (particularly from Nineteen Eighty-Four), such as "Big Brother," "Newspeak" and "thoughtcrime" are commonplace.
George Orwell constantly sought to combine his passions for social advocacy and writing. He knew that writing and publishing even the smallest essay or review was a valuable stepping stone to achieving his dream of becoming an independent and established author. Orwell’s academic record at high school may not have been perfect, but he used those formative years to explore and develop his passion for literature and social commentary. Although they certainly help, it isn’t solely the “book smarts” that will help us on the road to achieving our dreams. If you love what you do, and you’re good at it, then go for it. It never hurts to try.
"If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them."
The aim of a Wellington education is to allow pupils to develop themselves fully in every sense, as we know that interested children become interesting adults. The pastoral care and focus on pupil wellbeing at the College values each and every pupil as a unique individual, helping them discover and develop their talents, passions and interests.
Wellingtonians will develop the personal, cognitive, social and study skills to enable them to cope with the challenges of university and their lives beyond it. They will adapt, cope and thrive within an ever-changing world.
Hugh Beaver (1890-1967)
Founder of The Guinness Book of Records
Sir Hugh Beaver was born on 4 May 1890 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He attended Wellington College in Berkshire from 1904 to 1910. A fact-seeking intellectual, it was Sir Hugh Beaver's desire to "settle arguments in pubs" eventually led him to found The Guinness Book of Records.
Although he later received honorary degrees from the University of Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Ireland, Wellington College was the only school Beaver ever attended in person. An ever-curious individual, Beaver’s penchant for mathematics inspired him to pursue an engineering career and, eventually, found a record-keeping reference book that would fly off the shelves every year, in almost every country.
During his final year at the College, Beaver scored first place in a selection exam for the Indian police. He served in India from 1910 to 1922, carrying out a range of administrative and intelligence posts before he was inspired to take a new direction by Sir Alexander Gibb, a civil engineer he met while in England on long service leave in 1922. One of Beaver’s greatest personal achievements as a civil engineer occurred in 1931, when Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners was asked to conduct a survey of Canada's national ports. Beaver was assigned to lead the project and was also asked to supervise the rebuilding of a port in New Brunswick that had been destroyed by a fire. The final report of Beaver's survey helped shape the development plans of Canadian ports across the country.
Between 1932 and 1936 Beaver was employed by Guinness Brewery to supervise the design and construction of a new brewery in London. This role earned him an invitation to join the executive board of Guinness, an offer he turned down at the time. From 1940 to 1945 Beaver served as director-general for the Ministry of Works, a government department set up during World War II to organise the requisitioning of property for wartime use. Beaver was responsible for planning and oversight of the building and construction industry throughout the wartime period, a role for which he was knighted in 1943.
At the end of the war, Beaver re-joined Guinness Brewery as an assistant managing director. He quickly moved up the ladder and became managing director less than a year later, in 1946. He utilised his years of engineering and industrial experience to modernise the brewery’s manufacturing facilities, expand research and widen the company's interests. He remained in this role until his retirement in 1960.
In 1951, Beaver joined a hunting party at a friend’s property in County Wexford, Ireland. He and his friends were impressed by the elusiveness and speed of the birds they were trying to hunt, and later found themselves engaged in a fierce debate: Which is Europe’s fastest game bird, the golden plover or the grouse? After failing to find a definitive answer to this question in any reference book, it occurred to Beaver that there must be numerous other questions debated nightly in pubs throughout Britain and Ireland, but there was no reference book or record-holding authority to help settle these arguments.
This idea stayed with him, and in 1954 he was finally able to turn his ponderings about pub arguments into a reality by pitching a promotional campaign for Guinness that centred around answering general knowledge trivia. Another Guinness employee, Christopher Chataway, recommended they procure the services of the journalists and “fact-finding specialists” Ross and Norris McWhirter, who could compile a list of interesting facts and figures for the book. The first 198-page edition of The Guinness Book of Records was published in 1955 and flew to the top of the British and American best seller lists only a few months later.
Hugh Beaver was made a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1956.
Within a year of its initial release there were second editions of The Guinness Book of Records published in the United Kingdom and the United States, with annual editions continuing ever since. The Guinness World Records organisation has become a household name and the global leader in world record holding, all thanks to an individual who wanted to win an argument about birds (and just in case you were wondering – the golden plover is the fastest game bird in Europe).
Anyone can apply to set a new record or break an old one via the Guinness World Records website, where many of the most inspired achievements are recorded in a ‘Hall of Fame’. The book has gone on to become a record breaker in its own right, with sales of more than 100 million copies in 100 different countries and 37 languages, Guinness World Records is the world’s best ever selling copyrighted book.
Fun fact: The largest collection of Guinness World Records memorabilia consists of 2,164 unique items and is owned by Martyn Tovey of Radstock, United Kingdom. Martyn also holds the record for the Largest collection of Guinness World Records annuals (353).
*Note: All former pupils of Wellington College who have completed at least one semester of study at the school are considered members the College Alumni.
Wellington College has produced some incredible artists, entrepreneurs and community leaders over the past 160 years. Throughout the College's history, the value of a Wellington education has been proven by the quality of its alumni. The College is committed to preparing young people for higher education, but a Wellington education does so much more. It prepares pupils for life after school and instils them with a number of personal values and characteristics that will serve them well in the future.
Inspired, Intellectual, Independent, Individual and Inclusive – these are the five characteristics that describe the Wellington identity. Sir Christopher Lee, George Orwell and Sir Hugh Beaver used these identity traits to further themselves and their careers, break new ground and start important conversations. Even though Wellington College's alumni are spread across the globe, there is a bond that remains long after your Wellington days are over. Wellington's legacy is inspiring. Every graduate and former pupil is part of the Old Wellingtonian community, and the College is proud of its past pupils who have excelled in a wide range of fields, including the arts, politics, sports and science.
Who knows, maybe one day some of our Wellington College China alumni will be leaving their own historical legacy for future Wellingtonians to follow.