Hilton College (South Africa)

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Hilton College
Hilton Badge
Orando et Laborando - by Prayer and Work
Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Type Private, boarding
Established 1872
Locale Rural
Headmaster Peter Ducasse
Head Boy Thomas Webber
Grades Forms 1 to 5 (Grades 8 - 12)
Number of students 555 boys
Color(s) Black and white          
Exam board IEB
Fees R 209 000 p.a. (2014)
The William Campbell building

Hilton College, more commonly referred to as Hilton, is a South African private boarding school for boys located near the town of Hilton in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and is situated on a 1,762 ha (4,350 acre) estate that includes a 550 ha (1,400 acre) wildlife reserve.

Hilton College was founded in 1872 by Gould Arthur Lucas and Reverend William Orde Newnham as a non-denominational Christian boys school. It follows English public school tradition and is a full boarding school, which means all pupils live at the school, and is one of only two such remaining single-sex boys' schools (the other being Michaelhouse) to continue this practice in South Africa.



The grounds on which Hilton College is located were established as farm by pioneering Voortrekkers. Ongegund, as it was then known, was sold to a young Englishman, Joseph Henderson, by Johanna Grobbelaar, widow of the original owner, in 1849. Later in 1857 Henderson and his wife renamed the farm Hilton, after Hilton Hall in Staffordshire, England [1]

The first of the founders, Gould Arthur Lucas, left for South Africa in 1851 as a lieutenant of the 73rd Foot Regiment of The British army. He had been one of three surviving officers during the sinking of the HMS Birkenhead, in 1852. Following this he was reposted as a district adjutant in Pietermaritzburg. It was here in 1855 that he met the Rev. William Orde Newnham, who had arrived in Natal at the request of Bishop John Colenso to become master of the new Pietermaritzburg Grammar School.[2] It was during this time that the two became close friends. In 1867, after a period in England, Newnham returned to Natal and left to establish a school in Ladysmith, with the encouragement and support of his friend Lucas.

However the school did not prosper and Newnham found "the summer climate there too oppressive".[3] In 1871, upon hearing of Newnham’s troubles, Lucas offered to help establish a new school near Pietermaritzburg. He arranged to purchase part of the farm Hilton from the Hendersons on which a school could be founded. Newnham arrived at Hilton on 27 January 1872 and two days later, on 29 January 1872, Hilton College was officially opened. The first 50 pupils were housed in dormitories built near the stables and the original farm house was enlarged to serve as the main school building. Newnham continued to run the school until he returned to England at the end of 1877.


In 1878 the lease of the school was taken over by Henry Vaughan Ellis. Ellis, a Rugby old boy, sought to reform Hilton College around the English public school system. Ellis brought many of the Rugby traditions to Hilton; thus beginning an unofficial link between the two schools, perpetuated today in the Hilton crest and motto. In 1903, Ellis announced his intent to retire, but wished to ensure the survival of his school. It was suggested to him by Ernest Acutt, a founding pupil and Mayor of Durban, that the farm and school should be sold to a company formed by Old Hiltonians[4] which became the Hilton College Ltd. The capital raised by the old boys was intended to be used to buy the school from Ellis and for the construction of new buildings.

Shortly after Ellis' retirement the position of headmaster was taken over by George Weeks. However he too resigned that year and another new headmaster was needed. The position was awarded to William Falcon in 1906. Under his headmastership Hilton College grew from 50 pupils to over 200. Many buildings were completed such as the William Campbell building and the school chapel. The original school buildings, which were red brick, were changed to the present Cape Dutch style. The present school uniform was introduced along with the house system (the first three houses being Newnham, Ellis and Weeks (later renamed Pearce)[5]). Falcon also lead reforms in the school's academic curriculum and, foreseeing the inevitable union of the South African colonies, replaced French with Dutch as the official second language in 1907.

On 31 March 1928 the original shareholders of Hilton College Ltd. signed a Solemn Covenant of Dedication which, in 1930, established the Hiltonian Society, a non-profit sharing association of the Old Hiltonians which take over the original shares and thus would own and control the school.[6]

Relationship with Michaelhouse[edit]

Hilton College and Michaelhouse have enjoyed a history of friendly rivalry. The two schools have much in common and are the only two full boarding schools remaining in South Africa. The schools are located near one another in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

The bond between Hilton's "old friend and rival, Michaelhouse"[7] has developed since 1904 when the two schools played their first rugby match at Hilton College, which Hilton won 11-0. Both schools consider each other their main fixture in all sporting disciplines. The high point of this rivalry is the biannual Hilton-Michaelhouse Day. This event, held alternately between the two schools, sees them play one another in rugby and hockey. The culmination of the day is the main rugby match between the two schools' 1st XVs, which is the oldest continuous rugby fixture in Kwa-Zulu Natal.[8]

Former President Nelson Mandela at the Hilton College Speech Day, 2001

Hilton College Guard[edit]

The Hilton College Guard was a mounted unit established on 4 June 1872 by Rev. William Newnham and lasted until its disbanding in the mid-1980s. As the oldest cadet corps in South Africa, the Hilton College Guard enjoyed the position of Cadet Detachment No. 1.[9] Since its establishment, members of the Hilton College Guard and Old Hiltonians have fought in the Anglo-Zulu War, the South African War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the South African Border War.


  • W.O. Newnham (1872–1877)
  • H.V. Ellis (1878–1904)
  • G.E. Weeks (1905–1906)
  • W. Falcon (1906–1933)
  • T.W. Mansergh (1934–1947)
  • J.A. Pateman (1947–1953)
  • J.W. Hudson (1953–1957)
  • E.L. Harrison (1958–1967)
  • R.G. Slater (1967–1980)
  • R.H. Todd (1981–1983)
  • D.V. Ducasse (1984–1986)
  • P.W. Marsh (1987–1993)
  • M.J. Nicholson (1994–2007)
  • D.C.P. Lovatt (2008–2009)
  • G.M. Thomson (2009–2012)
  • P.B. Ducasse (2013- )


The years of study at Hilton are referred to as Forms 1 to 5. "First Form" is the equivalent of Grade 8 and has boys aged 14. "Fifth Form" is the equivalent of Grade 12, also known as matric, and has boys aged 17–19. All Hilton College leavers write the Independent Examinations Board exams. Hilton has produced 20 Rhodes scholars for study at the University of Oxford and two Elsie Ballot scholars for study at the University of Cambridge.[10]


Hilton College's sporting tradition that stretches back to its establishment in 1872. There are three sports seasons at Hilton College: summer sports are played in term 1 and 4, winter sports are played in terms 1 and 2 and third term sports are played in term 3. Sport is compulsory at Hilton College and every form 1 is required to play a team sport in term 1.

Basketball Season: Summer

Basketball, according to FIBA rules, has been played at Hilton for more than a decade. Several prestigious tournaments have been held in the Sports Centre at the school.[11]

Canoeing Season: Summer/Third term

Hilton College paddler shooting Mission Rapid during the Dusi Canoe Marathon

The Hilton College Kayak Club was founded in 1983 and is one of the oldest schools canoeing clubs in the province. Hilton Canoeists regularly partake in both schools and union events, and attend major races such as The Fish River Canoe Marathon, The Dusi Canoe Marathon, The 50 Miler and the Drakensberg Challenge. The club also competes in the annual Hilton-Michaelhouse Canoe Race held between the two schools on the Umzinkulu River in Underberg.[12]

Cricket Season: summer

Hilton College has had a tradition of cricket from the earliest days of its history, and has produced international and provincial cricketers over the years. Hilton College's first cricket match was played on 26 April 1872, against Maritzburg College with Hilton winning by 10 wickets.[13] The school has eight cricket ovals as well as eight turf nets, eight astroturf nets and five indoor cricket nets. The 1st XI play all home games on the Jack Hart-Davis Oval.[14]

Highest individual score: N.S Crookes (1954–58) 222 vs Michaelhouse

Golf Season: summer/third term

There are more than 100 active golfers and more than 20 boys have single figure handicaps. Hilton College has a 350m driving range with distance markers, a short game practice facility for pitching, chipping and bunker play as well as an all-weather synthetic practice putting green.[15] The Douglas Cup, played against Michaelhouse is the largest fixture in the golfing calendar. Hilton College Golf attends the World Schools Golf Challenge every year where they placed 2nd in 2013.[16]

Hockey Season: winter

Hockey is one of only two sports played during the winter sports season (the other one is rugby). There are ten hockey teams at Hilton who play on either the Beckingham Astroturf or the grass field Weightman-Smith.[17]

Rugby Season: winter

Hilton College has been described as "the cradle of rugby football in Natal"[18] and can trace its origins back to 1872 when it was introduced by Rev. William Newnham. Hilton College was the first Natal school to play Rugby Football.[19]

It was only in 1878 upon the arrival of Henry Ellis that rugby was firmly established in its modern form. It is Hilton folklore that Henry Ellis is a relative of William Webb Ellis, the inventor of rugby, possibly his nephew.[8] For most of his headmastership Hilton College was the only school in the province playing rugby. However Ellis was adamant that Hilton would remain a rugby school.

Between 1880 and 1904 Hilton was forced to play against regimental and local club teams, all of whom were composed of fully grown men. Despite this, Hilton was successful and in 1890 won the inaugural Murray Cup, becoming one of two schools achieve this, the other being Maritzburg College.[18] The first ever Hilton-Michaelhouse rugby fixture was played on 18 June 1904 which was won by Hilton 11-0. Hilton College rugby teams have, since 1878, worn black and white striped rugby jerseys with the exception of the 1st XV who "are entitled to wear the distinguishing badge of the fifteen, the fleur-de-lys crest in black on a white jersey"[7] which has earned them the affectionate term "The White".

Such is the influence of Hilton College on Natal rugby that the Natal Rugby Union adopted the colours of Hilton College as its own. This would later become the provincial colours of Natal.[7] Hilton College has six rugby fields and can field 22 teams. The main field, Gilfilian, is the only school field in the province being used solely for rugby.

Shooting Season: summer/third term

Shooting was introduced at Hilton College alongside the foundation of the Hilton College Guard. Hilton College has won shooting awards including Governor General's Cup.[20] Today Hilton College competes using air rifle in the springer and sporter class.

Soccer Season: third term

Soccer is one of the oldest sports at Hilton College. Played in the third term it is an alternative to athletics and can field 18 teams.[21]

Swimming Season: summer

Hilton College 100 swimmers across all age groups. The swimmers compete in galas and major swimming events such as the Midmar Mile.[22]

Water Polo Season: Summer

In terms of popularity water polo rivals cricket as Hilton College's main summer sport. Hilton has nine water polo teams and all matches are played in the Ducasse Pool.[23]

Other sports

Cultural activities[edit]

Art Hilton artists and photographers have work selected for The Matric Schools Art Exhibition, The Royal Show Photographic Exhibition, The Fujifilm National Schools' Photographic Competition, The Rotary Club of Durban School Art Exhibition and National Creative Arts Youth Festival Arts Exhibition.[24] In addition Hilton hosts its own exhibitions of pupils works in the Art Block and The Normand Dunn Gallery.

Choir The Hilton College School Choir as well a smaller vocal ensemble known as Bravado have both achieved national and international recognition e for the performances. Hilton College has attended the World Choir Games and embarked on national and international tours. In 2013 Hilton was selected as the host of the International Vocal Ensemble Festival.

Debating Society The Hilton College Debating Society was a founding member of the Natal Literary and Debating Society, which held its first meeting on 1 August 1875.[25] Rev. William Newmham, who played a role in establishing debating and public speaking in the province, was the first president of the society. The first formal inter-school debate was held on 5 May 1876 against Bishops College.[26] Today Hilton is a member of the Pietermaritzburg Schools' Debating League and fields six teams. Hilton has also had provincial and national debating representatives.

Drama Society Each year, Hilton College stages at least one major production. Besides members of the Drama Society, drama is also offered as a school subject, so these pupils are also involved in dramatic art. Hilton College also hosts external productions in its theatre. Each year the school hosts the Witness Hilton Arts Festival, a major event on the KZN arts scene.

Other clubs and societies [27]

  • Book Club
  • Catholic Society
  • Chess Club
  • Christian Fellowship
  • Computer Club
  • Enterprise Club
  • Film Society
  • First Aid
  • Fly Fishing Club
  • Health and Fitness Club
  • History Society
  • Hollerith Society
  • Jazz Band
  • Marimba Band
  • Senior Foreign Affairs Society
  • Wildlife Society


The house system at Hilton was created under the headmastership of William Falcon. Today there are seven houses which each occupy their own independent building. These houses serve as both a boys boarding and sporting house. Every new boy entering Hilton College is assigned a house which they stay in until Form 5. There is a rivalry between the seven houses who compete in inter-house tournaments such as swimming, athletics, rugby, general knowledge, debating and pancake eating (held on Shrove Tuesday). The matrics take responsibility for the running of the houses under the supervision a housemaster and deputy housemaster who live in adjoined apartments.

Lucas House
House Established Colour Mascot Housemaster Head of House
Churchill 1911 Red and white           Bulldog Brad Anderson David Tew
Ellis 1906 Blue      Elephant Trevor van Niekerk Kathu Nematswerani
Falcon 1939 Brown      Falcon Mike Werth James Bezuidenhout
Lucas 1998 Grey      Hippo Tony Shuttleworth Chris Trenchard
McKenzie 1919 Maroon and Gold           Lion Paul Venter Jono Smithers (Deputy Head of School)
Newnham 1906 Green      Dragon Mike Mill Lungi Ngidi
Pearce 1906 Sky Blue      Griffin Sean Carlisle Michael Greig


Hilton is a non-denominational Christian college, and Christian worship, values and principles are the foundation of Hilton College life. Pupils attend chapel service twice a week, including Sundays. About 40% of the school pupils come from Anglican backgrounds; 15% from Roman Catholic; 13% from Methodist; the other denominations are less than 10% each. The school chaplain is Rev. Richard Wyngaard.

School songs[edit]

Hilton College has two school songs. The formal 'School Hymn' is Lift Up Your Hearts!, an English hymn written in 1881 by H. Montagu Butler. It is sung during chapel services such as Remembrance Day and Opening and Closing Services. The informal 'School Song' is Oh Boys of Hilton, which was written by Bobby Skinstad in 1993, and is sung to the tune of Flower of Scotland. It is sung at sporting fixtures, most notably at half time during all 1st XV games. The school song is sung in the dining hall the night before all rugby fixtures against Michaelhouse and Maritzburg College.

School Hymn: Lift Up Your Hearts![edit]

"Lift up your hearts!" We lift them, Lord, to Thee;
Here at Thy feet none other may we see;
"Lift up your hearts!" E’en so, with one accord,
We lift them up, we lift them to the Lord.

Above the level of the former years,
The mire of sin, the slough of guilty fears,
The mist of doubt, the blight of love’s decay,
O Lord of Light, lift all our hearts today!

Above the swamps of subterfuge and shame,
The deeds, the thoughts, that honour may not name,
The halting tongue that dares not tell the whole,
O Lord of Truth, lift every Christian soul!

Lift every gift that Thou Thyself hast given;
Low lies the best till lifted up to heaven;
Low lies the bounding heart, the teeming brain,
Till, sent from God, they mount to God again.

Then, as the trumpet call, in after years,
"Lift up your hearts!" rings pealing in our ears,
Still shall those hearts respond, with full accord
"We lift them up, we lift them to the Lord!"

School Song: Oh Boys of Hilton[edit]

Oh Boys of Hilton, When will we see your like again That played and won for your glorious Black and White?

And stood against them, Our foes in Rugby; And sent them homeward Tae think again.

Those days are past now, And in the past they will remain, And we can still play now And be the school again

That stands against them. Our foes in rugby; And sends them homeward Tae think again.


Hilton College's has three uniforms: formal dress known as number ones, a daily school uniform known as khakis and a formal version of the school uniform known as number twos.

Number ones are made up of a white shirt, tie, grey flannel longs and grasshoppers (black shoes at Hilton College are called grasshoppers after the brand used at Hilton since the early 1970s). Number ones are worn to dinner and the school blazer is required when wearing number ones to all formal occasions such as start-, mid- and end-of-term, Sunday chapel, assembly, match days and other events.

Number twos are worn on outings, during the Arts Fest or any occasion where wearing number ones would be impracticable. Number twos consist of a special black and khaki number two shirt, chinos and grasshoppers.

Khakis are worn to class everyday,and consists of a khaki shirt with either with shorts and sandals or chinos and grasshoppers. While most other schools have an official changeover from summer uniform to winter uniform, Hilton boys are allowed to wear either variation of Khakis at their leisure.


  • Black jersey: A black wool jersey with a white Fleur-de-lys. Worn with number ones or twos.
  • White jersey: A white wool jersey with a black Fleur-de-lys. Worn with number ones. Awarded to boys who play a 1st team sport.
  • Grey jersey: Worn with khakis.

Tie patterns


A giraffe on the Hilton College Estate

Hilton College is situated on a 1,762 ha (4,350 acres) estate that includes a 550 ha (1,400 acres) wildlife reserve that borders the Umgeni River.[28] The school campus, which has been described as one of the most beautiful in the world,[29] is home to all school buildings including the Crookes Block (main teaching block), the Hilton College Theater, the William Campbell Building and the Hilton College Chapel. Immediately beyond the campus is the school farm which includes wattle plantations and natural grazing areas and is used by boys for running and cycling.

The lower portion of the estate is the Hilton College Nature Reserve. Hilton boys have access to the reserve and make use of the grounds on Sundays for swimming, tubing, mountain biking, fishing, bird watching and exploring. In addition, academic departments make use of the reserve as part of the curriculum (e.g. Art, Biology, Geography)

Exchange program[edit]

Hilton College has a student exchange programme with Eton College, Harrow School, Wrekin College and Framlingham College in England, Gordonstoun and Strathallan School in Scotland, Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, The Scots College and Knox Grammar School in Australia, and Charlotte Latin School and Woodberry Forest School in The United States of America.

Hiltonian Society[edit]

The Hiltonian Society is a non-profit organisation that owns and runs Hilton College. It was formed in 1930 by the share holders of Hilton College Ltd., which owned the school at the time.[30] Any Hilton Old boy or past teacher is eligible to become a member of the Hiltonian Society. Members of the society, who are called Old Hiltonians, meet regularly at venues throughout South Africa, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Notable Old Hiltonians[edit]

Hilton College has produced a number of notable old boys. There have been eight Springbok Rugby players including two captains (Gary Teichmann and Bobby Skinstad)[31] and two constitutional court judges (John Didcott and Arthur Chaskalson).

Feeder Schools[edit]

The following schools are all considered Hilton feeder schools and pupils are eligible to receive closed scholarships to Hilton College.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Falcon (2002), p. 10.
  2. ^ Nuttall (1971), p. 1.
  3. ^ Peacock (1972), p. 81.
  4. ^ Peacock (1972), p. 90.
  5. ^ Peacock (1972), p. 91.
  6. ^ "Hilton College". HiltonVillage.co.za. HiltonVillage.co.za. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Peacock (1972), p. 86.
  8. ^ a b Difford (1933), p. 173.
  9. ^ Bircher (2012), p. 100.
  10. ^ "Genealogy World". 
  11. ^ "Hilton College Basketball". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  12. ^ "Hilton College Canoeing". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  13. ^ Hoole (1997), p. 3.
  14. ^ "Hilton College Cricket". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "Hilton College Golf". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  16. ^ "World Schools Golf Challenge - Hua Hin, Thailand". World Schools Golf Challenge. World Schools Golf Challenge. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  17. ^ "Hilton College Hockey". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Nuttall (1971), p. 23.
  19. ^ "Hilton College". HiltonVillage.co.za. HiltonVillage.co.za. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  20. ^ Nuttall (1971), p. 76.
  21. ^ "Hilton College Soccer". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  22. ^ "Hilton College Swimming". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  23. ^ "Hilton College Water Polo". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  24. ^ "Hilton College Art". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  25. ^ Hoole (1997), p. 27.
  26. ^ Hoole (1997), p. 35.
  27. ^ "Hilton College Clubs and Societies". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  28. ^ "Forestry Award For Hilton College Estate". HiltonVillage.co.za. HiltonVillage.co.za. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  29. ^ "Hilton College, Pietermaritzburg". DestinyConnect.com. Destiny Good Schools Report. Retrieved 19 May 2013. "Hilton College School Profile". Rugby365.com. Rugby 365. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  30. ^ "Hilton College". HiltonVillage.co.za. HiltonVillage.co.za. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  31. ^ "Most Springboks rugby players produced by School". rugby15.co.za. Rugby15. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 


  • Peacock, M (1972), Some Famous South African Schools, Cape Town: Longman Southern Africa, ISBN 0582-64126-8 
  • Nuttall, Neville (1971), Lift Up Your Hearts : the Story of Hiton College; 1872 - 1972, Pietermaritzburg: The Hiltonian Society 
  • Falcon, Lionel (2002), Hilton Heritage, Johannesburg: Stirling Publications, ISBN 0-620-29381-0 
  • Bircher, Rob (2012), Boys of Hilton: An Anthology of Hilton College Stories, Pietermaritzburg: The Hiltonian Society 
  • Hoole, Ross (1997), Hilton College 1872-1901: Events Recorded Through the Years In The Natal Witness, Pietermaritzburg: The Natal Witness Printing and Publishing Company, ISBN 0-620-21195-4 
  • "Hilton College History". HiltonCollege.com. Hilton College. 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  • Difford, Ivor (1933), The History of South African Rugby Football, Cape Town: Specialty Press of S.A. Limited 
  • James, Stuart (1906). A history of the Zulu Rebellion. London: Macmillan. p. 65. 
  • "ISASA School Directory: Hilton College". ISASA.org. ISASA. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  • "Hilton College". HiltonVillage.co.za. HiltonVillage.co.za. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  • "Hilton College, Pietermaritzburg". DestinyConnect.com. Destiny Good Schools Guide. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°29′S 30°18′E / 29.483°S 30.300°E / -29.483; 30.300