Town mouse visits the new McCrum Yard

In Eton’s Yard.

Pause to be gobsmacked,’ said Lord Waldegrave, Provost of Eton, as he took me into the new McCrum Yard, and I was. Designed by John Simpson, it’s one of the most elegant and ingenious buildings of the decade. There are classrooms, a Jafar Hall and a Jafar Gallery, on the outside of which plays a fountain.

The fountain is part of a heat-exchange system that both heats and, in summer, cools the buildings: Eton opens few windows because of the noisy planes overhead. I suspect that The Prince of Wales, opening it the next day, may have quite liked it—and just as well, because it’s visible from Windsor Castle.

Mr Simpson hasn’t short-changed on erudition, either. One of the Orders is Doric, out of the capital of which sprouts a rogue volute: from Sparta, it hasn’t been used since the Ancient World. This will be a talking point among Classicists and beaks, but the public—that select part of it that finds itself inside the college will probably be more aware of the beauty of the proportions, the impeccable stonework, the mahogany museum cases of the museum that display Egyptian artifacts and some of the Hamilton vases, and the hall.

It’s a debating chamber for future Prime Ministers. As I left, I couldn’t help wondering if Etonians don’t find university a disappointment. They’ve had all that it could offer here.


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