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Lt-Col. Henry Stuart Townend OBE (24 April 1909 – 26 October 2002), was a British athlete, headmaster, and Liberal Party politician. He was the first headmaster to educate an heir to the British throne.

Stuart Townend
Medal record
Men's Athletics
Representing  England
British Empire Games
Gold medal – first place 1930 Hamilton 4×440 yd relay


He was the son of a clergyman. He was educated at St Edmund's School, Canterbury, Brasenose College, Oxford and St. Gallen University, Switzerland.[1]

Sporting careerEdit

As a young man Townend excelled at sport and athletics, becoming a schoolboy hockey international[clarification needed]. He went up to 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]

Professional careerEdit

After university, Townend joined the Royal Artillery in 1931. He was commissioned in 1933 and held the appointment of Assistant Quartermaster general during the war.[3] He served in north-west Europe and India.[4] He attained the appointment of Assistant Adjutant-General, World Wide Air Movements at the War Office. He 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 was director-general of the Hotels and Restaurants Association.[5] He was a director of an international publishing company and of an international school in Switzerland and a director and founder of the Anglo-Swiss Society of Great Britain.[6] He founded Hill House School, in Knightsbridge, London 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. 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. He continued to actively run the school 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.[7] 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.”

Political careerEdit

He was for 10 years a member of Paddington Borough Council.[8] He was Liberal candidate for the Torquay division of Devon for the Liberal Party at the 1950 General Election;

General Election 1950: Torquay
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Charles Williams 29,153 53.6 +4.7
Labour Robert Briscoe 14,287 26.2 +0.1
Liberal Henry Stuart Townend 10,987 20.2 -4.8
Majority 14,866 27.3 +4.6
Turnout 82.8 +11.4
Conservative hold Swing +2.3

He was Liberal candidate for the Falmouth and Camborne division of Cornwall for the Liberal Party at the 1950 General Election;

General Election 1951: Falmouth & Camborne
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Labour Frank Harold Hayman 20,850 46.3 +3.1
Conservative Nigel Nicolson 19,847 44.1 +5.4
Liberal Henry Stuart Townend 4,343 9.6 -8.5
Majority 1,003 2.2 -2.3
Turnout 83.6 +1.0
Labour hold Swing -1.1

He did not stand for parliament again.[9] He left the Liberal Party and joined the Conservatives. In 1958 he was elected to the London County Council as a member for Chelsea. He served two terms before standing down in 1965.


  1. ^ The Times House of Commons 1951
  2. ^ Website of the Commonwealth Games Archived 2008-07-23 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ The Times House of Commons 1950
  4. ^ The Times House of Commons 1951
  5. ^ The Times House of Commons 1951
  6. ^ The Times House of Commons 1950
  7. ^ Stuart Townend's obituary at The Telegraph
  8. ^ The Times House of Commons 1950
  9. ^ British parliamentary election results 1950-1973, Craig, F.W.S.

Further readingEdit

  • Sullivan, Neil. (2011) The King of Hans Place: The Story of a Remarkable Man and a Remarkable School. Tenterden: Gresham Books.

External linksEdit