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.

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 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. 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”. 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.

South Africa u16A
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