Hill House School

Hill House School is a preparatory day independent school based in the Knightsbridge district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London. It was founded in September 1949 by athlete and Liberal Party politician Lt-Col Stuart Townend, initially in Switzerland, but has since also established primary branches across the Royal Borough in South West London. It is the largest preparatory school in London and was originally a boys-exclusive school, turning fully coeducational in 1981.[2][3] The school is known for its distinct uniform, which includes thick mustard cable-knit jumpers (known as 'golden jumpers'), burgundy corduroy knickerbockers, knitted hats, and bags in British racing-green.[4]

Hill House International Junior School
Hill House crest.png


Coordinates51°29′51″N 0°09′37″W / 51.4975°N 0.1602°W / 51.4975; -0.1602Coordinates: 51°29′51″N 0°09′37″W / 51.4975°N 0.1602°W / 51.4975; -0.1602
TypePreparatory school
MottoLatin: Semper vigilans (Always vigilant)
English: "A child's mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."
EstablishedSwitzerland1949 (Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland)
United Kingdom1951 (Knightsbridge, London)
FounderLieutenant-Colonel H. Stuart Townend
Department for Education URN100518 Tables
Head MasterRichard Townend
Staff110 (approx.)
GenderCo-educational, splits up after age 9
Age4 to 13
Enrolment690 As of January 2018[1]
HousesGrammont, Midi, Naye, and Rosa
Colour(s)Old gold, rust & tan
Former pupilsOld Hill Housers


The school was founded in Switzerland in 1949 and in London in 1951 by Lieutenant-Colonel Townend. Townend chose his pupils solely on the basis of his approval of their mothers, and women teachers were preferentially chosen according to the height of their skirt's hemline.[5][6] His son, Richard Townend, is the school's current Headmaster. The school remains a family concern.[7].[8]

Prince Charles went to Hill House, following advice from Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister at the time.[9] It was his first school and was the first time that an heir to the British throne had been to a civilian school, as princes were educated either by tutors or at a military or naval academy such as Osborne.

As of 2012, there were 989 pupils at the school from the ages of 4 to 13.[10][11]

In 2015 The Guardian reported that "School inspectors have handed down a damning verdict on the inadequacies of the private prep school Hill House in London, once attended by Prince Charles, which could result in it being closed over serious and significant safety concerns."[12]

By 2018 the number of pupils had reduced to 690.[13]

Hill House pupils are often seen on the move around Knightsbridge, Sloane Square, and Chelsea, and are known in the area for their distinct uniforms, which entail burgundy knickerbockers, tan shirts, and grey v-neck jumpers, more often than not accompanied by mustard-coloured "gold" round-neck jumpers. The uniform was designed by the founder's wife and is notable for its bright colours. It was designed to be used for sport as well as lessons, lacking a tie, therefore. However, there is a cravat to be worn in and between lessons and around town. The Colonel's wife once said, "a grey uniform produces grey minds, grey boys".[citation needed]

House and Year Group systemsEdit

From entry into the school each boy and girl joins a 'house,' with each house being named after one of the mountains in view or reach of the school's Switzerland boarding house. Houses regularly compete in inter-house sporting competitions such as the inter-house swimming gala or the field-day 'gun run'. The houses are:

The school is also known for the names of year groups, using a system based on the Greek alphabet.[citation needed] The school is spread out over the Royal Borough in four buildings, separating the different year groups:

  • Small School – children aged 4–5 – Flood Street
  • Lower School – children aged 5–6 – Cadogan Gardens
  • Middle School – children aged 6–7 – Cadogan Gardens
  • Upper School – children aged 7–10 – Cadogan Gardens
  • Main School – children aged 10–13 – Hans Place – consisting of:
    • Girls Transitus & Senior School – girls and boys aged 10–11 years
    • Lower Sixth – boys aged 12
    • Upper Sixth – boys aged 13
  • Founder's Hall – used for concerts, indoor sports, and the arts – Radnor Walk[citation needed]

Media coverageEdit

The school was outlined on page 74, chapter 3.1 (Learning to be Sloane: Sloane Education), of Peter York's and Ann Barr's 1982 guide book The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook[14][circular reference] as an appropriate calibre of school on the 'third rung of the ladder' of a 'Sloane boy's' education: describing it, amongst other things, as "Prince Charles's old school. Outdoorsy, musical, for energetic extroverts."

The school was featured in the 1989 documentary episode "Knickerbockers in Knightsbridge," part of the ninth season of the BBC series 40 Minutes, in which school life under Head Master Stuart 'The Colonel' Townend is narrated.[15]

The Good Schools Guide has described the school as "A school with a notable and inescapable past which booms at a visitor from every wood-panelled wall, display board and cabinet," also stating that "Its aim from the first was to be 'international' and to nurture each individual child's talents."[16]

Notable alumniEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ofsted Report 2018". Ofsted. Retrieved 10 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Hill House International Junior School profile, reviews and inspection reports | London's Top Schools". Londonpreprep.com. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  3. ^ "About the School | Hill House". Hillhouseschool.co.uk. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  4. ^ "Don't Know Yet". Theydontknowyet.com. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  5. ^ Obituary: Lieutenant-Colonel Townend, Daily Telegraph, 2002.
  6. ^ Obituary: Lieutenant-Colonel Townend, The Independent, 2002.
  7. ^ BBC Television Program "Knickerbockers in Knightsbridge", 1989.
  8. ^ Obituary: Lieutenant-Colonel Townend, Daily Telegraph, 2002.
  9. ^ "Prince Charles's prep school fights back after damning inspection". Telegraph. 5 December 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  10. ^ "School census data". Edubase. Departement for Education. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  11. ^ Hill House School Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Schools Guide, The Tatler, 2006.
  12. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/mar/11/hill-house-prep-school-prince-charles-damning-ofsted-report
  13. ^ https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/2756497
  14. ^ Sloane Ranger#The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook
  15. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1423011/
  16. ^ Hills House School Archived 11 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Good Schools Guide.

External linksEdit