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Beer Money for School Students!

Aldenham School was founded by Richard Platt and the School dining room still houses a portrait showing him in the year 1600, at the age of 76, wearing a Tudor-style cap and ruff.  Richard Platt was a London brewer, but he had been born in what was then the small and very rural village of Aldenham. He was a member of the Brewers’ Company and was Master of our Company twice, in 1576 and 1581.

Despite living in London throughout his adult life, Richard Platt never forgot Aldenham, the village where he had grown up. In old age he decided to found a school there and in 1597 he received permission to do this from Queen Elizabeth.  Richard Platt thought highly of the Brewers’ Company and knew that his school would have a better chance of surviving after he died if he appointed the Brewers’ Company as the Governors of the school.

Richard Platt described in his will the main purpose of his school at Aldenham, which he entrusted to the care of the Brewers’ Company. The school’s principal aim was “the good nurture and training up of youth, in learning, virtue and good manners”. The pupils also had to be “clean and neat in their bodies and garments”. He would be delighted to know that well over 400 years later, the school he founded is still going strong, that the Brewers’ Company still plays a major part in helping it prosper and thrive, and that learning, virtue and good manners are still much in evidence at Aldenham School.

The historic Beer Money ceremony, attended by over 80 of Aldenham School’s Year 9 students at Brewers’ Hall this week, reminds us of the longstanding link between the Brewers’ Company and Aldenham school. In the past, beer or ale was the normal everyday drink for most people, including schoolchildren, since water was often dirty and dangerous to drink. Most beer was not as strong as it is today but even so, it was once common for even quite young children to drink it regularly.

The beer money ceremony is believed to have evolved out of a beer allowance given to pupils in the early days of the school. Later on, as the supply of drinking water became cleaner, money was substituted instead of beer itself. The ceremony in its present form, with the Master handing out commemorative crowns to pupils from Aldenham School who come up to London to visit the Hall once a year, is now in its thirty second year, having started in 1985.