The founding of Haileybury

The Haileybury we know today almost did not exist. Following the closure of the East India College in 1858, the future of the old buildings was far from certain. However, a group of local philanthropists was determined to maintain the tradition of education on the site. A phoenix from the ashes, the new Haileybury College opened in 1862 under its dynamic young Master, Arthur Gray Butler.

The founding of Haileybury

A phoenix from the ashes

In 1858, following the Government of India Act, the East India College closed its gates for good. High up on its heath above Hertford, the College lay empty, its lawns grew long and its trees and bushes overgrown. It appeared to have come to the end of the road.

But all was not lost. Following a public auction in London on August 30th 1861, and subsequent negotiations with the British Land Company, the buildings and grounds were formally acquired in March 1862 for £18,000.

Excellent support

Having bought the site, available funds were limited and time was short; the committee needed to move rapidly if their ambition of founding a new College at Haileybury was to be achieved.

In their favour, the committee was joined by the Very Reverend George Bowers, Dean of Manchester, a man who had played a key role in the founding of Marlborough College and Rossall. In addition, their endeavours were supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of London and Rochester.

The Reverend Arthur Gray Butler

Key to the success of the new project was the appointment of the right leader to galvanise the institution into action. On 17th April 1862, from a field of 15 candidates, the Reverend Arthur Gray Butler was appointed as Haileybury's first Master.

The choice was an obvious one. Educated at Rugby and then Oriel College Oxford, Butler came from a family of educationalists and was an exceptional man. At Oxford, he gained a first in Classics, was President of the Union and had been made a fellow of his College.

Arriving at Haileybury from his position as Assistant Master at Rugby, Butler had the knowledge, the dynamism and the skill needed to launch Haileybury onto the world stage. He was just 29.


So it was that within nine months of acquiring the estate, Haileybury began its new life as a public school.

To take an empty building and transform it to a functioning boarding school within such a short time was an amazing feat by the governors and their new headmaster. It was also a significant financial challenge which stretched the patience of all involved.

Notwithstanding, in August 1864, Haileybury was granted its Royal Charter of Incorporation, removing the immense financial burden from the individual members of the original governing committee and giving them greater powers to regulate the school.

Growth and establishment

From an initial intake of 57 boys, Haileybury grew rapidly. By the 1870s, pupil numbers had reached nearly 500 and the College was now well-established.

An astonishing achievement, reflecting well the energies of those who saw the potential of the old College buildings and those who drove forward the transition from East India College to Haileybury College in just a few short years.

Learn more about Haileybury's history

Since 1809, the buildings at Haileybury have been associated with a number of educational establishments, fundamentally entwined with the history of the College as it stands today, Read more about these here:

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