Tue 1 Jun 2004 | 12:00


Tue 1 Jun 2004 | 12:00

School profile

We profile Hilton College of the Natal Midlands.

Hilton is a pleasant village up the hills north of Pietermaritzburg, a great place to start the Midlands Meander. It started as a farm called Ongegund, which would not have been come a name for a famous school! Joseph Henderson, an Englishman, bought the farm in 1857. Those gutturals were beyond him and he named it Hilton instead, from park where his wife used to stroll.

Hilton College, founded in a farm building, up into the hills beyond Pietermaritzburg has, probably, the most beautiful campus in the world. The school sits comfortably and beautifully on 1640 hectares of lush, green, leafy land.

The man who bought the land in 1860, Gould Arthur Lucas, was a survivor of the wreck of the Birkenhead near Arniston on the southern Cape coast. He bought the farm from Joseph Henderson who had renamed the Voortrekker's farm Hilton Park, after his wife's birthplace in Staffordshire. The Rev. William Orde Newnham, an Anglican, who had founded a school in Pietermaritzburg, met Lucas and the two decided to found the school on the farm which had once belonged to a Voortrekker. Hilton opened on 29th January 1872, run by Newnham on English public school lines. At the end of 1877 Newnham returned to England and the lease of the school was taken over by Henry Vaughan Ellis, an Old Rugbeian but no relation to William Webb Ellis. HV Ellis bought the property from Lucas in 1882 and remained headmaster till 1904. These were tough times. The finding of gold on the Witwatersrand was offset by continuing wars between the British and the Zulus and then between the British and the Boers.

In 1903 Hilton College Limited was formed and bought the school from Ellis. The period from then on, under the headmastership of William Falcon (1906-33), the school flourished. Ownership changed again in 1930 when the Hiltonian Society took over the running of the school, a function which it still fulfils.

It is one of South Africa's most famous private schools, a non-denominational Christian school.


HV Ellis brought rugby to his school, as one would have expected. Hilton became the first to play rugby football in Natal. He gave Hilton its colours and the fleur-de-lys badge. When Hilton acquired its own crest later a griffin's head was added to show the link with Rugby School. As Rugby School gave England the white jersey, so Hilton gave Natal its black and white colours, though in Hilton's case they are described as sable and argent.

Rugby is still an enthusiastic game at Hilton with its 18 teams.

Famous old boy players

The following Old Hiltonians have played for South Africa – Ebbo Bastard, Clive Ulyate, Brian Pfaff, Paul Johnstone, Gary Teichmann (captain), Wayne Fyvie, Hentie Martens and Bob Skinstad (captain)..

Traditional Rivals

The Hilton-Michaelhouse match is one of the great events on the Natal social calendars as spectators spread out on rolling lawns to enjoy picnics. It is also an intensely contested match.

Other traditional rivals would include Maritzburg College, Kearsney, St Charles and DHS.

School information

Name of school: Hilton College 
Motto of school: Orando et laborando (by praying and working, an adaptation of the Benedictine motto, which HV Ellis brought from Rugby School)
Date of foundation: 1872
School address: Private Bag 6001, Hilton. 3245
Number of boys: 550 (all boarders)
Number of rugby teams: 20

PV: 19

Hilton College | Rugby365