Henry George Bonavia Hunt

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The Rev'd Henry George Bonavia Hunt (1847–1917) was the founder of the Trinity College of Music in London, one of the London conservatoires of music and an International Examining Institutions.

He was a British subject born in Malta. His father, William, was engaged there as private secretary/lay vicar to the Bishop of Jerusalem. His grandfather, also William, born 1790 from Sutton in Suffolk, was a brush maker.

His surname was originally Hunt; Bonavia was a family name that was inserted as a forename as it had been his mother's maiden name. Henry Hunt's mother, originally Marietta, but later Mary, was Maltese and the daughter of a doctor of Italian extraction. Hunt became known in later times as Bonavia-Hunt and by the time his son, The Rev'd. Noel Aubrey Bonavia-Hunt (b. 1883), was writing vast quantities on the subject of the organ and organ building between 1910 and 1960, the family name was firmly established as 'Bonavia-Hunt'. Another member of the family, D.A.Bonavia-Hunt (a daughter) was an author and her work is still in print.

Hunt was ordained into the Diaconate of the Church of England in 1878. At first he was a curate in Surrey and later became Warden of Trinity. He was a member of the Oxford University (Christ Church) Alumni list. He appears there as 'arm', i.e., having a recognised family coat of arms.

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Trinity College of Music[edit]

In 1872 Hunt founded an organisation that was at first known as the Church Choral Society and it had as its object the promotion of higher standards of church music, within the background of the Oxford Movement and it should be remembered that the standard of Church Music had been quite terrible in England for much of the 19th Century. Hunt had been studying Law up until the foundation of the Church Music Society, but abandoned this to take on his important work. He engaged the help of a number of organists and choirmasters, including E. J. Hopkins, Goss and Richard Willing (later of All Saints' Margaret Street). By the following year, 1873, the Society had become known as the College of Church Music and a system of examinations (the forerunners of the present LTCL and FTCL) was in place. In 1876 the college was incorporated as Trinity College of Music. In 1878 a further development was the foundation of the Masonic Lodge Trinity College Lodge No. 1765 of the United Grand Lodge of England. This was the beginning TCM's long association with freemasonry and although the College is still has a strong connexion with Freemasonry, there are no Trinity men in the Trinity College Lodge, though Trinity College Lodge remains strong. William Ewart Gladstone was involved in the College in its early years.

Hunt was known in his time for his extraordinary powers of focus and for his organisational ability. He was the editor of Cassell's Magazine from 1874 to 1896.[1] His writings were published and are still available through archives and he was a regular correspondent to the Musical Times over the years and indeed, these may be easily viewed through the JSTOR system. Hunt studied at Oxford and at also took a degree from Trinity College Dublin. He was a composer and a lecturer for London University (of which Trinity became a College thanks to his early efforts towards establishing a chair in music).

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The Trinity College of Music has moved to buildings of unparalleled beauty and historical importance (the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich). There is an integral partnership with the distinguished dance school, Laban. Further, the College now owns the Blackheath Concert Halls nearby. The Rev'd Henry Hunt would be astonished to see how his Trinity College of Music, which began as a simple Church Music Society, has grown and flourished, thanks to a long succession of able and energetic principals.

Bonavia Hunt's memory[edit]

The old buildings of the Trinity College of Music, 11 - 13 Mandeville Place, W1, is a place where a traditional yarn endures, involving the ghost of The Rev'd H G B Hunt being sighted on the 1st floor corridor, such was his involvement in the place for so long. Sadly, he is long past living memory, or even memory of living memory, for even the most senior of the grand old men and women who stand in the ranks of Trinity's distinguished retired professors, cannot remember anyone who remembered him. A portrait of The Rev'd H.G.Bonavia Hunt, used to hang in a strange garrett at the top of old Trinity College of Music, London, fittingly it was home to one of the college organs.

Those who have gained either their fine musical education or those who are employed at Trinity, and indeed those who have benefitted from the work of the college in any way, may thank The Rev'd Henry G. B. Hunt for the Trinity College of Music, London and for Trinity College London, the international exams board.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hunt, Rev. H. G. Bonavia". Who's Who, 59: p. 896. 1907.