Eton College Fourth of June “Procession of Boats” Straw Boater Hat

Eton College Fourth of June “Procession of Boats” Straw Boater Hat

Code: 11038


Di: 33cm (13")


Eton College Fourth of June “Procession of Boats” Straw Boater Hat 
by Ayres & Smith for W.V. Brown, Eton
English, Circa1930s

Approx hat size 714

H.E.W. 'Hughie' Arnott (named in ink within), Aylesmore Court, St. Briavels, Gloucestershire.

An antique straw boater from the Eton College Fourth of June 'Procession of Boats', hatband of scarlet ribbon with gold painted "St George" lettering and a gilt "George & The Dragon" badge. Wired silk roses within the ribbon.

Each year Eton College celebrates the birthday of it's greatest patron, King George III (1738-1820). This event, known as 'The Fourth of June' (though rarely held on 4th June), is the school’s equivalent of the 'speech day' or 'parents’ open day' held at other establishments. Various events take place including cricket matches, concerts, art exhibitions and recitals. One of the highlights is the "Procession of Boats" which takes the form of a ‘rowpast’ by crews from Eton's boat club along the school's stretch of the Thames. The procession starts with the most senior crews ('Upper Boats') and ends with those of the younger boys ('Lower Boats'). Various elements of the procession are peculiar to Eton: the crews wear outfits worn by 19th Century sailors with blue, brass-buttoned jackets, white "duck" trousers and striped shirts (in their crew's colours) and straw boaters, similar to the wide-brimmed 'sennit hats' worn by all ranks of the Royal Navy throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. These boaters have been decked-out (by the matrons (known at Eton as 'Dames') of the boy's houses) with large flower arrangements around the brims; the coxs wear midshipmen's uniforms with frock-coats and bicorne hats. At the climax of the rowpast each crew must stand up in their boat, with oars raised in salute and then remove their headgear. These are shaken over the water on the orders of the cox with the words: "hats off to Eton, hats off to Windsor, hats off to the King". The flowers, previously loaded onto the hats, fall into the water, creating the picturesque sight of boats floating past, accompanied by blooms sprinkled over the surface of the water. Standing up in a narrow wooden racing boat is a remarkable feat and, occasionally, an oarsmen (or, indeed, an entire crew), suffers the indignity of falling into the Thames before a large cheering crowd.

St George is one of the "Lower Boats" and is now the tenth and final boat in the procession (although at the time that this hat was worn it came earlier in the rowpast order).

V.W.Brown were a hosier and hatters, founded in the 19th Century at 15 High Street, Eton. Two of their employees, a Mr New and Miss Lingwood, left their employment in 1865 to set up their own rival shop 'New & Lingwood' which went on to flourish. By the mid-20th Century V.W.Brown had been absorbed into New & Lingwood. 

H.E.W. 'Hughie' Arnott was at Eton in the 1930's (though this boater may be older as his father also attended the same school). Hughie was the last of the Arnott male line and when his spinster sister, Ursula Arnott, died in 2003, aged 86, she was the last surviving member of the family. She left the Arnott family home, Aylesmore Court, and a £2m fortune to the Old Etonian Trust to help fund bursaries to the school.