Winchester College is an independent school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire, England. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England (see List of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom). It is the oldest of the original nine English public schools defined by the Public Schools Act 1868 and is one of four remaining full boarding independent schools, meaning all pupils are boarders, in the United Kingdom (the others are Eton College, Harrow School and Radley College).
According to its statutes, the school is called in Latin Collegium Sanctae Mariae prope Wintoniam, or Collegium Beatae Mariae Wintoniensis prope Winton, which translates into English as St Mary's College, near Winchester, or The College of the Blessed Mary of Winchester, near Winchester. It is sometimes referred to by pupils, former pupils and others as "Win: Coll:", and is more widely known as just "Winchester".
According to the commercially published Good Schools Guide, the school "has arguably the finest tradition of scholarship of any school in the country", is "uniquely civilised", and provides an "academically, comradely and architecturally privileged boyhood most Wykehamists treasure throughout their lives." The upper-class lifestyle magazine Tatler named the school as its "Public School of the Year" in 2010.
Winchester College was founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor to both Edward III and Richard II, and the first 70 poor scholars entered the school in 1394. It was founded in conjunction with New College, Oxford, for which it was designed to act as a feeder: the buildings of both colleges were designed by master mason William Wynford. This double foundation was the model for Eton College and King's College, Cambridge, some 50 years later, and for Westminster School, Christ Church, Oxford, and Trinity College, Cambridge, in Tudor times.
In addition to the 70 scholars and 16 "Quiristers" (choristers), the statutes provided for ten "noble Commoners". These Commoners ("Commoners in Collegio") were paying guests of the Headmaster or Second Master in his official apartments in College. Other paying pupils ("Commoners extra Collegium"), either guests of one of the Masters in his private house or living in lodgings in town, grew in numbers till the late 18th century, when they were all required to live in "Old Commoners" and town boarding was banned. In the 19th century this was replaced by "New Commoners", and the numbers fluctuated between 70 and 130: the new building was compared unfavourably to a workhouse, and as it was built over an underground stream, epidemics of typhus and malaria were common.