Stuart Townend (headmaster)

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Stuart Townend
Medal record
Men's Athletics
Competitor for  England
British Empire Games
Gold 1930 Hamilton 4×440 yd relay

Lt-Col Henry "Stuart" Townend OBE (24 April 1909 – 26 October 2002) was the first headmaster to educate an heir to the British throne. A former gold medallist at the British Empire Games, he founded Hill House School, in Knightsbridge, London in 1951, an institution he continued to actively run until his death in 2002 at aged 93. At that time it was reportedly the world's largest private junior school with over 1100 pupils.[1]

Townend championed a “stripped down to basics” approach to independent education that enabled him to keep his fees among the lowest in the country, despite its location in Knightsbridge, one of the most expensive parts of the capital. Despite limited financial resources, the school excelled academically, consistently helping its boys into top public schools like Eton College, Harrow School, Westminster School and St Paul's School and its girls into Benenden School, Wycombe Abbey and Roedean.

Townend famously declared in 1999 that the school’s principles were “back to front”. He explained: “We put safety first – any teacher who leaves a child unsupervised is sacked on the spot – and then the child’s happiness. If a child’s happy and loves coming to school, he or she can do anything. Discipline and good manners come next and, last of all, preparation for the next school.”

Born on 24 April 1909, Townend was the son of a clergyman, attending St Edmund's School, Canterbury. As a young man Townend excelled at sport and athletics, becoming a schoolboy hockey international[clarification needed]. He went up to Brasenose College, Oxford in 1928, where he became president of the Oxford University Athletic Club and winner of six Oxford University blues.

In 1930 he won a gold medal at the British Empire Games in Hamilton, Ontario, in the 4x440 yard relay.[2] After university, he joined the Royal Artillery in 1931, where he served for 16 years, attaining the appointment of Assistant Adjutant-General, World Wide Air Movements at the War Office.

Townend retired from the army in 1947 to become housing chairman of the London Olympics, organising the accommodation at short notice for the athletes and officials attending the event to be held the following year. There was no time or money to build athletes’ villages, and 3500 of the athletes and sportsmen were put in three camps in Richmond Park, Uxbridge and High Wycombe. The remainder and all the officials were put up in 41 schools and colleges across London. As a reward for his efforts, he was given an OBE in 1949.

He contested the Torquay division of Devon for the Liberal Party at the 1950 General Election.[3]

Hill House opened its doors in 1951. In 1956 the school got a lift to its reputation when Prince Charles attended the school as pupil. It was the first time an heir to the British throne had been sent to school, as opposed to being educated by private tutors.


  1. ^ Stuart Townend's obituary at The Telegraph
  2. ^ Website of the Commonwealth Games
  3. ^ British Parliamentary Elections Results 1950-1973 by FWS Craig

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