Maritzburg College is a private school for boys situated in the city of Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was founded in 1863:18 and is the oldest boys’ high school in KwaZulu-Natal – and one of the oldest schools in South Africa. It is attended by close to 1,300 students, of which approximately one third are boarders.
Maritzburg College was ranked 4th out of the top 100 best high schools in Africa by Africa Almanac in 2003, based upon quality of education, student engagement, strength and activities of alumni, school profile, internet and news visibility.
RD Clark (eighth from the right) poses with boys and colleagues shortly after taking occupation of the newly built “Main Building”, 1888.
Maritzburg College was founded as the Pietermaritzburg High School in 1863, by William Calder, in a carpenters shop in Langalibalele Street, to accommodate the influx of children arriving at the new city of Pietermaritzburg and its surrounding farmlands in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. As the school swelled, “the best-trained [architect] in the Colony”, PM Dudgeon, was commissioned to design – on the then outskirts of the city – a larger classroom and boarding block, which was completed in 1888 and later became known as ‘Clark House’, honouring the school’s third headmaster, RD Clark (MA (Oxon)), who is often referred to as ‘the Father of College’. Clark House carries the KwaZulu-Natal provincial heritage authorities seal certifying it as a heritage landmark. A similar honour was bestowed on the school’s Victoria Hall, the building of which commenced in 1897 (Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee year) and which served as a British Army hospital from November 1899 until July 1900 during the Second Boer War
The first inter-schools cricket and rugby matches were both played against the Deutsche Schule Hermannsburg, on 6 October 1870, with the old Pietermaritzburg High School (now Maritzburg College) winning both fixtures. The cricket match was played in the morning on the Camp Grounds and the rugby match was played in the afternoon on the Pietermaritzburg market square.
Maritzburg College offers a wide variety of sports, including rugby, cricket, canoeing, hockey, athletics, swimming, water polo, tennis, shooting, soccer, basketball, cross-country, squash and golf.
The school has fixtures against its rival schools such as Durban High School (founded in 1866), Glenwood High School and Westville Boys’ High School in and around Durban, and the local private schools, Michaelhouse, Hilton College and Kearsney College. Records show College to be the strongest sporting school in the province in sports such as rugby, cricket, canoeing, polo, polocrosse and hockey.
The Victoria Hall. The building was completed in 1899 and was used as a military hospital by the British authorities during the Boer War
The school’s search for greater sporting competition has taken it beyond the province’s borders, and each year in winter it has derby days against Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (known as ‘Affies’), Pretoria Boys High School in Pretoria, King Edward VII School (Johannesburg) (known as ‘KES’) and from 2014 Grey College, in which about 700 College boys take part.
From 1944 until 1982, the school enjoyed the services of the noted geography master and schoolboy rugby coach, the late Mr Skonk Nicholson, whose name is iconic with Maritzburg College and schoolboy rugby, and who is well respected in the South African rugby community as having nurtured many Collegians to national and international sporting fame. In his 35 seasons in charge of the First XV (rugby), his teams established a playing record of Played 504, Won 403, Drew 49 and Lost 52.
Amongst its many notable Old Boys (known as Old Collegians), it can count (as at October 2013) 240 sporting internationals, including 27 Old Collegians who have captained South African national sides and one, Kevin Pietersen, who has captained the England cricket team. Four Old Collegians attended the 2004 Olympic Games, with Darian Townsend winning a gold medal as part of the world record-setting SA 4 x 100 freestyle team, and Donovan Cech winning a bronze medal in the rowing; six attended the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and four attended the 2012 Olympics in London.
Saturdays during the summer months can often yield 30 cricket teams (an under 14P XI has occasionally been produced), and up to 28 rugby teams and 18 hockey teams during winter.