In the Dining Hall


In the early days at CH, the diet was very plain and simple and it remained so from the 1550s to the 19th century.  Breakfast and supper consisted of simple foods such as bread, butter and cheese and the mid-day meal sometimes included varieties of roasted or boiled meat, potatoes, vegetables and bread.  Food was a subject covered by many Old Blues who wrote about their time at CH. 

Like many schools, CH developed its own slang words, which were captured in ‘A book of Housey Slang’ published in 1948.  These included many words relating to food or the Dining Hall, such as Crug (bread),  Cruggy (hungry), Chalks (milk at Hertford), Crocodile Spew (onion sauce served with mutton, used at Hertford), Dripe (dripping), Flab (butter) Gag (meat, especially beef, defined by Charles Lamb as ‘the fat of fresh beef boiled’),  Gut (a feast), Kiff (tea), Taffs (potatoes) and Trades (every boy at CH was at some time given duties to do in Dining Hall).

Tableware comprised simple wooden platters, plates and bowls until the middle of the 19th century, when some attractive blue and white chinaware was purchased from Copeland, each mug (both pint and half pint), plate, butter dish and kiff bowl carrying the CH crest and the number of the Ward which used them.  These are now collectors’ items.  Into the 20th century, the supplier was changed, first to Furnival and then to Grindley Hotel Ware, and there are many variations in the blue and white floral patterns which appeared.  CH crested china later appeared edged in dark red and in green, all bearing the CH crest.

Public Suppers were a feature of CH London life from the 17th century, when members of the public would enter the Great Hall to watch the children eat on Sundays.  After the Governors complained in 1674 of the rabble of people who caused disturbance and interruption,  the Public Suppers were by invitation only and became grand occasions full of ceremony, with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attending a Public Supper in 1845.

The Dining Hall remains today as an important centre of School Life, the whole school marching House by House into lunch, accompanied by the school band, and grace being read from the pulpit.  Its walls are adorned by the portraits of past Presidents, Treasurers, Head Masters, Head Mistresses and Benefactors, as well as the painting known simply as ‘The Verrio’ which has dominated CH’s three Dining Halls since it was painted in 1690.