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Charles Waterton's Life and Family
Life at Stonyhurst College (In Waterton's Day)
Stonyhurst Page 1
• 2 Stonyhurst Maps
See also •   Descendants of Edmund Waterton •   Charles Waterton - Handiworks Taxidermy

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Stonyhurst Crest Stonyhurst - Introduction

Stonyhurst was founded in 1593 at St Omer in what is now northern France, it was established to provide a Catholic education for English families unable to educate their children in their Faith at home following the Reformation. In 1762 the College moved to Bruges (Brugge in Dutch) and in 1773 to Liege. In the aftermath of the French Revolution the Jesuits moved in 1794 to the Stonyhurst estate given to them by a former St Omer pupil - Thomas Weld of Lulworth Castle.

■ See also Stonyhurst Museum and Historic Libraries.

Charles Waterton at Stonyhurst

Charles Waterton was one of the first pupils of the Jesuits at their new home in England. Unlike the rod wielding regime at Tudhoe, the Jesuits adopted an entirely different approach towards the adventurous Master Waterton.

"The Jesuits have always been celebrated for the astuteness with which they discover and cultivate the bent of young minds. Waterton profited in no small degree by the wisdom of the Order. His instructors encouraged as far as possible his love for Natural History. At the same time, they gave him a taste for literature. Thus his time passed gaily at Stonyhurst, and during the six years he stayed there, he laid up a store of knowledge, and went through a training which did much to make his whole life pleasant."

At Stonyhurst, his master was Father Clifford, a first cousin of Lord Clifford (a name featuring prominently in the Battle of Wakefield). Father Clifford was sure that Waterton would become an adventurer, travelling to many distant lands where he would encounter danger. His words of advice to the young Charles were: " Promise me that, from this day forward, you will never put your lips to wine, or to spiritous liquors. The sacrifice is nothing, but, in the end, it will prove of incalculable advantage to you." Waterton agreed and "never swallowed one glass of any kind of wine "(1)

At Stonyhurst his sense of adventure often led him to break the rules. Once whilst eluding a pursuing prefect he hid in a pig sty. The sty was tended by an old friend from Tudhoe days, Joe Bowren - Waterton had given him a "very fine terrier" as a gift. Meanwhile, back in the pig sty, Jim Bowren had hidden Waterton under some litter, without saying a word. When the prefect arrived on the scene he gasped out to Bowren: "Have you seen Charles Waterton?" To which Joe replied, "Sir, I have not spoken a word to Charles Waterton these three days, to the best of my knowledge." The prefect, no longer hot on the trail, went on his way. Charles emerged from beneath the pile of pig's litter "strongly perfumed".

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The Ratcatcher
The Jesuits realised that they needed to manage and harness Waterton's great love of natural history and his propensity to go adventuring, in a way that meant he could do those things, receive an education and yet abide by the rules. The solution was to make him "ratcatcher to the establishment, and also fox-taker, foumart-killer, and crossbow-charger at the time when the young rooks were fledged. Moreover, I fulfilled the duties of organ-blower and football-maker with entire satisfaction to the public." (2)

Charles Waterton had a great dislike for "prog" (2), the Hanoverian rat , which he always associated with the House of Hanover. He was of the opinion that the brown, also called the Norwegian or grey rat, came across after the arrival of the Hanoverian dynasty. "According to local tradition", the rats came across in the very same ship that

Waterton was sad to leave Stonyhurst at the end of his studies to return home to Walton. "The day I left the Jesuits' college was one of heartfelt sorrow to me. Under Almighty God and my parents, I owe everything to the Fathers of the Order of St Ignatius. Their attention to my welfare was unceasing, whilst their solicitutude for my advancement in virtue and in literature seemed to know no bounds. The permission which they granted me to work in my favourite vocation, when it did not interfere with the important duties of education, enabled me to commence a career which, in after times, afforded me a wealth of pleasure in the far distant regions of Brazil and Guiana. To the latest hour of my life I shall acknowledge, with feelings of sincerest gratitude, the many acts of paternal kindness which I so often received at the hands of the learned and generous Fathers of Stonyhurst College.

After leaving this 'safe retreat of health and peace', I journeyed homewards to join my father; and I spent a year with him."

Thomas Waterton had been a noted huntsman in his day. He introduced Charles to Lord Darlington, a man greatly admired for "his elegant seat on horseback and cool intrepidity in charging fences". (3)

Charles loved fox-hunting and became one of the most celebrated horsemen in Yorkshire. Keeping to his promise made at Stonyhurst, he declined invitations to take a glass of wine or spirit, and rode home directly after the hunt was over. In time, travelling took the place of fox-hunting. However, his father thought that it was time for the young man of 20 years to see a bit of the world. The first journey would be to Spain to see two of his maternal uncles (Bedingfield) who had settled there.

In subsequent centuries following its establishment at Stonyhurst, the Jesuits added to the College on a grand scale so that today it is one of the largest buildings under one roof in Europe and is Grade1* listed by English Heritage for its architecture and setting.

Since its foundation, there have been many fine achievements and distinguished former pupils. Visit Stonyhurst at http://www.stonyhurst.ac.uk

Click to enlarge.
1. A fine engraving of Stonyhurst
published in the
Illustrated London News, 1871

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2. Stonyhurst circa 1913.
[old postcard]

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3. Stonyhurst in the 1930s.
[postcard posted in the 1930s]

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4. Stonyhurst, 2005

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5. Stonyhurst College, April 2019.


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6. The Ornamental Lake at Stonyhurst College, April 2019.

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7. Stonyhurst College 2005


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8. Towards Hurst Green from Stonyhurst College.

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9. The peaceful setting of Stonyhurst College, 2005.

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10. Chips of the Old Block. Waterton's great grandsons at Stonyhurst College, 1910.

Read more.

Books about Walton, Charles Waterton, Guyana, and more!
See a selection of
books about Walton,
Charles Waterton,
Guyana and more.
• click here •
(Offered for sale by

Click to enlarge & for more maps
Click to visit the map page.

Click image to enlarge.
Tortoise is set for pastures new. (2002)

More about the fox.
Click here for more about the fox

Fox-hunting was Waterton's delight
.... 'he was the best rider in the hunt
next to Lord Darlington'. (3)

The foumart or polecat.

 1. Pages 18 and 19, "Essays on Natural History", Charles Waterton,
 edited, with a Life of the Author by Norman Moore, London,
 Frederick Warne & Co., 1871.

 2. Page 20. Ibid.

 3. Page 21. Ibid.

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