Henry George Bonavia Hunt

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Rev Henry George Bonavia Hunt FRSE FRAS FLS (1847–1917) was the founder of the Trinity College of Music in London, one of the London conservatoires of music and an "International Examining Institution".


He was a British subject born on 30 July 1847 in Valletta, Malta, the son of William Hunt, who was engaged there as both private secretary and lay vicar to the Bishop of Jerusalem.[1] His mother was Marietta Bonavia, a local woman. His paternal grandfather, also William Hunt, born 1790 in Sutton, Suffolk, was a brush maker.

He was educated privately then studied Music firstly at Christ Church, Oxford University, (graduating BA), and then at the University of Dublin, where he gained a doctorate (MusD).

Hunt was ordained in the Church of England in 1878. At first he was a curate in Surrey and later became warden of Trinity College.[2] He was then Curate of St James Piccadilly in London. He then began lecturing in the History of Music at London University. His final role was as Rector of Burgess Hill School, a girls school in Sussex.[3]

In 1886, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh for his contributions to musical education. His proposers were William Garden Blaikie, John Stuart Blackie, Hugh Macmillan and William Durham.[4]

He died on 27 September 1917.

He is buried with his wife, Madeline (1853-1937), in the churchyard of St John the Evangelist in Burgess Hill.[5]

His ghost was said to haunt the original college at Mandeville Place until its relocation to Greenwich.



  • A Concise History of Music (1878)

Family Name[edit]

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 Revd 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.

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. The standard of church music had been poor in England for much of the 19th century. Hunt had been studying law until the foundation of the Church Music Society, but abandoned this to take on this 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. Although the college still has a strong connection 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 considerable powers of focus and for his organisational ability. He was the editor of Cassell's Magazine from 1874 to 1896.[6] 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).


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.


  1. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/101202389
  2. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/101202389
  3. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  4. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  5. ^ http://www.gravestonephotos.com/public/gravedetails.php?grave=193701&scrwidth=1600
  6. ^ "Hunt, Rev. H. G. Bonavia". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 896.