Eton Montem

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Eton Montem (or ad Montem - literally to the Mountain) was a custom observed by Eton College from at least 1561 until it was finally suppressed in 1847, at the Montem Mound (or Salt Hill) in Chalvey, Slough, Buckinghamshire (later Berkshire)The mound is situated some 2 miles from the college near the London to Bath coach road, now the A4.

Montem is first reported in William Malim's consuetudinarium (book of customs) of 1561, when it seems to have been an initiation ceremony for new boys, who were scattered with salt (which can mean 'wit' as well as 'salt') at the mound.

By the eighteenth century, the nature of the ceremony had changed to a glorified flag day. Salt was no longer scattered on scholars; instead, pinches of salt and little blue tickets were sold to passers-by (the blue ticket - inscribed on alternate celebrations with 'Mos Pro Lege' or 'Pro More et Monte' - acted as protection from being asked for a further contribution) for 'salt' - money that went towards the Senior Colleger's anticipated expenses at King's College, Cambridge. Collecting was restricted to two 'salt-bearers' (also senior boys at the college) and ten or twelve 'servitors' or 'runners' who between them covered all the roads around Eton and Windsor.

Until 1758, Montem was held annually in January. The timing was then moved to the more clement weather of Whitsun Tuesday and the festival became biennial. In 1778, the frequency was reduced further so that Montem was only celebrated one year in 3.

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