A BRIEF HISTORY
The Hilton College of today has been built up over a period of over a hundred years. The electric light, macadamized roads and hot showers which we take for granted were unknown to early Hiltonians. While today a Hilton boy swims in a modern tiled pool, complete with filtration plant, his counterpart of sixty years ago and more swam in the farm dam. While a motor car brings the Durban boy to Hilton in just over an hour, ninety years ago the trip took two days. Prep was done by oil lamp; hot baths were the privilege of seniors, water being carried by paraffin tins. The present dining hall was once the chapel, assembly hall and concert hall as well.
The estate is all that an Hiltonian of the 1870's would recognise in the Hilton of the 1990's, for he, like the present day pupil, wandered over the country side and knew Rolling Stones, Pinnacles, Gwen's and the rest.
In 1860, Gould Arthur Lucas, who was one of the survivors of the 'Birkenhead' disaster, purchased part of a farm which he named "Upper Hilton". In 1855 an Anglican priest, William Orde Newnham, arrived in Natal. He opened a school in Pietermaritzburg, where he first met Lucas. Later Newnham decided to join Lucas at Upper Hilton and to open a school on the property. Thus we can regard Newnham and Lucas as the founders of Hilton College.
On 29th January, 1872, Hilton College, opened under the headmastership of William Orde Newnham, with one assistant master and a matron. They came on horseback or in wagons, for the only railway line in Natal at that time was between Durban and the Point. In fact, the railway did not reach Pietermaritzburg until 1880. So, Hilton opened in a South Africa where diamonds had only recently been discovered, where there was as yet no knowledge of the gold of the Witwatersrand, and where the founding of Johannesburg was not to take place for another fourteen years.
Newnham introduced the English public school system and appointed the first prefects in January, 1873. In Newnham's day the rising bell rang at 6 a.m. and classes ended for the day at 4 p.m. At the end of 1877 Newnham returned to England and the lease of the school was taken over by Henry Vaughan Ellis, who was destined to be headmaster until 1904. During this time the Hilton College of the twentieth century began to be moulded.
Many were the achievements during the long reign of Ellis. He imprinted indelibly upon the life of the school the main characteristics of the public school system as known in England, but modified it to suit South African conditions. As a former pupil of Rugby School, Ellis brought much of the Rugby tradition to Hilton; thus began an unofficial link between the two schools, perpetuated today in the Hilton crest.
Hilton was the first Natal school to play rugby football, and to Ellis goes most of the credit for Hilton's early prowess in the game.
During the headmastership of Ellis, South Africa was disturbed by three wars - The Zulu War of 1879 and the two South African Wars. In the second South African War of 1899-1902 Hiltonians were to be found on both sides, for while Natal boys joined the British forces, boys who were burghers of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State went on commando. After the unhappy war, the bonds that united all Hiltonians were resumed and the bitterness of the war was forgotten.
Ellis became the owner of Hilton when he bought the property from Lucas in 1882, but as time drew near for his retirement it was obvious that a school which was the headmaster's property could not necessarily be assured of continued existence.
It was at this stage that a group of Old Hiltonians, former pupils of Newnham and Ellis, formed a company known as Hilton College Limited. The company bought school from Ellis, and thus the ownership of the school by its Old Boys began. This was in 1903.
In 1906 William Falcon became headmaster. Falcon was to guide the destinies of the school until the end of 1933. He must rank as one of the great headmasters, not only of Hilton but of Natal. During his headmastership the William Campbell building was completed, the chapel was built and the buildings ceased to be red brick and came to be built in the Cape Dutch style.
On the 31 March 1928 the original shareholders of Hilton College Limited signed a Solemn Covenant of Dedication which, in 1930, established the Hiltonian Society, a non-profit sharing association of the Old Hiltonians which has owned and controlled the school ever since. The shareholders of the old company made a gift of their shares to the Society.
At the beginning of 1934 T.W. Mansergh arrived from England to become headmaster, a post which he filled with distinction until 1947. Although his period of office included the difficult days of the Second World War, it is perhaps true to say that he created the Hilton of the present.
After Mansergh's retirement, he was succeeded by J.A.Pateman (1947-1953). J.W.Hudson was headmaster from 1953 until the end of 1957, when he was succeeded by E.L.Harrison. After Harrison's sudden death in August 1967, R.G.Slater, Second master at the time, was appointed to the headmastership by the Board of Governors. He retired in 1980 and was succeeded by R.H.Todd. In 1984 D.V. Ducasse, who was serving as Second Master at the time, took over from Todd. In 1987 he was succeeded by P. Marsh who served as headmaster until the end of 1993 when M.J. Nicholson took over as the 13th headmaster of Hilton College. In 2008 D.C.P Lovatt who was Second Master from 2005 was appointed the 14th headmaster of the school. In October 2009 G.Thomson was appointed acting headmaster and was appointed as the 15th headmaster in April 2010. in 2013 P.B Ducasse was appointed Headmaster following the resignation of Gavin Thomson at the end of 2012. Peter Ducasse was the 16th headmaster of the school and only the second Old Hiltonian to be appointed headmaster.
The centenary of the foundation of Hilton College was celebrated in 1972. To mark this event, the Centenary Centre was built. Not only does this building house a fine library, but it has lecture theatres, an art gallery, several classrooms, counselling, guidance and a computer room.
Hilton College can look back on many achievements, both academic and sporting. In the academic sphere many Hilton boys have gone on from school to the universities to achieve high honours. Hilton has also produced a good number of Springboks.
The benefactions of Old Boys have made the continued existence of Hilton possible and have enabled the school to possess modern amenities and up-to-date equipment. Two features of Hilton which make it unique among schools in this country, are its setting on a magnificent estate of 1700 hectares and the fact that it is the only senior private boys' school in the country which is not controlled by a particular religious denomination. Hilton College in an inter-denominational Christian school.
Founded in the days when Natal was a British Colony, Hilton College is today a South African school dedicated to producing young men of balanced education who will play a full part in the life of this land.