Although many great people were involved in the founding of Haileybury after the closure of the East India College, it is Arthur Gray Butler who is rightly celebrated as the founding father of this great College. A passionate educationalist blending Christian and liberal values with a modern approach to schooling, Butler shaped the very ethos of Haileybury and helped make it what it is today.

Arthur Gray Butler

An inspirational academic

Arthur Gray Butler was born in Gayton in Northamptonshire on 19th August 1831. He was to become a major figure in the history of Haileybury and, as its first Master, was a hugely dynamic figure in the earliest years of the College. His influence remains to this day.

Early years and education

Butler was schooled at Rugby, joining in 1844 before moving up to Oxford in 1850, where he also became President of the Union. Graduating with first class honours, he was elected a fellow of Oriel in 1856 and awarded an MA in 1857. He returned to Rugby the following year, serving as Assistant Master before being ordained a deacon in 1861 and priest in 1862.

A driving force behind Haileybury

When the old East India College was reconstituted as Haileybury College in 1862, an immediate requirement was for a new Headmaster. Butler had written to apply for the post in April that year; out of a field of 15 candidates he was the stand-out applicant.

As he himself said "an old school has pride and dignity, a young school must have energy". Energy was certainly required in establishing a school from scratch and, within his first few years he infused the College with the same vitality as at Rugby; recruiting an entire staff, developing the dormitory system and building the swimming pool and courts for rackets and fives. There were 54 pupils in 1862, rising to 355 by 1865; Haileybury was a huge success.

Later life

Butler's great achievement was to make Haileybury what it still remains: a liberal, Christian-based school with a modern outlook. Unfortunately, the huge strain he placed upon himself in these few short years had a detrimental affect on his health, and he suffered a major breakdown in 1867. Still only in his mid-thirties, he was compelled to tender his resignation.

Yet his career wasn't over. Following a period of recovery, he served as chaplain of the Royal Indian Civil Engineering College until 1875 when he returned to Oriel, becoming Dean, Tutor and Chaplain. He received an honorary fellowship from Oriel in 1875.

Haileybury at heart

When Butler left Haileybury, his departure was met with universal regret among staff and pupils alike. The College showed its immense gratitude to him by commissioning a fabulous portrait which still takes pride of place in the Dining Hall to this day.

Though he may have left the College, it never left him and was always in his heart until the end of his days. In 1905, while in his twilight years and on his final visit to Haileybury, he presented the College with the beautiful sundial which still stands on the Terrace today, passing the hours in silent obeisance to the whims of weather and cloud.

School of our hearts

For many Haileyburians past and present, his passion for the College he helped to found is best summed up in the "Vivat Haileyburia", the school song he penned in 1892.

Echoing his vision and great love of Haileybury, his words still resonate in the hearts and minds of all who come and study at this special place - and long after they have left. In the final words of the Vivat, still sung at Old Haileyburian events:

And all through life, where'ere we be,
School of our hearts we'll think of thee,
And drink the toast to three times three,
Vivat Haileyburia!


Arthur Gray Butler died at Torquay, Devonshire, in 1909 and was buried at Holywell Cemetery in Oxford. Now, more than 100 years since his death, Butler's reputation as a great educationalist remains as true as ever. His legacy and vision, still a fundamental part of Haileybury today, ensure that his contribution to the life and ethos of this great College shall never be forgotten.

Learn more about the founding of Haileybury and about Arthur Gray Butler

To find out more about Arthur Gray Butler and about the origins and founding of Haileybury, please click on the links below:

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