Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, is one of the oldest boarding schools in Asia, and was the first ‘Public School’ in India. It was founded on 28th July 1859, by Bishop George Edward Lynch Cotton. George Cotton was a scholar at Westminster School and a graduate of Cambridge University. In 1836, Cotton was appointed Assistant Master at Rugby School by Doctor Thomas Arnold, one of the founders of the British ‘Public School’ system. It was the young Mr. Cotton who is spoken of as the ‘the model young master’ in Thomas Hughes’ famous book ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ which gives such a vivid insight to school life at Rugby.
Having taught for 15 years at Rugby, Cotton was appointed Master at Marlborough in 1852, where he introduced organized games and the House Prefect system. He believed that… ‘the Prefects are and shall be, as long as I am the Head, the Governors of the school. As soon as I see this impracticable, I will resign…’ He was consecrated Bishop at Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Queen Victoria personally selected Bishop Cotton as Bishop of Calcutta and the Metropolitan Bishop of India, Burma and the Island of Ceylon, at a critical and turbulent time in Indian history in 1857.
As Bishop of Calcutta, on the 28th July 1859, Cotton conducted a service for the foundation of a public school at a hill station. Collections were made in most of the churches of the Diocese for this purpose. These funds were used to found the Bishop’s School at Jutogh, Shimla. The land and the buildings on it were a gift from the Viceroy. Three private houses were purchased by Bishop Cotton, out of the India Public School Fund, and the school opened for students on the 15th March 1863. Though mentioned in correspondence as the Shimla Public School, it never actually bore this name.