This school was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 26 May 1978. Pretoria Boys High School, also known as Boys High, is a public, tuition charging, English medium boys high school located in Brooklyn, Pretoria, South Africa, founded in 1901 by The Rt Hon. Lord Milner. Its academic performance places it among the best secondary schools in rankings nationally, as well as in all of Africa. Notable alumni includes two Nobel Prize laureates, 18 Rhodes scholars, several government ministers and members of parliament, 8 judges of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa, as well as numerous prominent intellectuals and high-ranking sportsmen. The school enrols around 1500 pupils, including 300 boarders, from South Africa and beyond, managed by about a 100 full-time staff. Its neoclassical red-brick style main school buildings date from 1909, maintaining provincial heritage site status. The school grounds also includes a second campus, Pollock Campus, as well as sporting and recreational facilities. Three boarding houses are located on the school grounds: Rissik House and Solomon House are part of the original school complex completed in 1909, while School House was built later. The antecedent of the current school is the historic Staats Model School, built 1896-1897 by the government of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (later Transvaal) in central Pretoria. This school was not in operation for very long owing to the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899. At the time, the building served as a prison, where notably Winston Churchill was briefly imprisoned.
Its sister school is Pretoria High School for Girls, founded in 1902.
Pretoria Boys High School badge
During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the city of Pretoria was captured in 1900 by British forces under Lord Roberts and the Transvaal became a British colony. One of the responsibilities of the colonial administration was to re-establish schools as these had all been closed during the hostilities. Although the war continued to be fought by the Boers as a guerrilla conflict, moves were made to start a school in central Pretoria and Charles Hope was brought up from the Eastern Cape to undertake this task. Hope had to establish a school virtually from scratch as he tried to source everything from desks to teachers.
They did at least have a building in the form of the Staats Model School, built in the 1890s in President Paul Kruger’s erstwhile ZAR (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek). Closed at the onset of hostilities in 1899, it served for a while as a prisoner of war camp for captured British officers (mainly from the campaign in Natal) and included among its internees none other than Winston Churchill who was captured as a war correspondent. His successful escape from the building added a colourful chapter to the history of the building. The Staats Model School is preserved as a national monument today and still has relics of its former inmates in the form of murals and an incomplete escape tunnel. Charles Hope set up a small school that started classes in mid 1901. PBHS regards him as its founding headmaster and bases its annual “Founders Day” on the date he taught his first lesson. For a year, the school existed as school for both boys and girls. In 1902 the girls were provided with their own building and this is how the sister school of PBHS came into being, namely Pretoria High School for Girls. Charles Hope left for Johannesburg (where he established a further school) and the first of two headmasters brought from England, replaced him. Harold Atkinson had studied at Cambridge and taught at Rossall School in Lancashire. The school he inherited in central Pretoria had 84 pupils. The original colours of the school (blue, brown and red) were adopted for hat bands although there was not yet a uniform. Atkinson’s successor was John Acheson who played an important part in pressing for new grounds and buildings for the school that had by this stage, become known as the Pretoria College. The head of education in the Transvaal Colony, Sir John Adamson, motivated for the granting of money to build a new boys’ school and in 1908 a sum of £36 000 was approved by the colonial secretary, Jan Smuts. Land was set aside on the town lands to the east of Pretoria, then very much on the outskirts of the town, for three educational institutions, these being a boys high school, a new site for Pretoria High School for Girls and the newly-established Transvaal University College (“Tukkies”), today the University of Pretoria. The land allocated to the then Pretoria College comprised about one hundred acres running partly up the side of a ridge. It had previously been used for a British army hospital camp. Plans for the new school buildings were drawn up by the chief architect of the Public Works Department, Piercy Eagle. The original buildings comprised a main central building (with classrooms, offices, a library and a school hall) and the two boarding houses, one to the west and the other to the east of the main building. Construction of the buildings began in 1908 with locally quarried mud-stone and locally made bricks (from Kirkness brickworks) combined with Free State sandstone to create the pleasing buildings that are still the attractive centrepiece of the school today. The foundation stone was laid by the Governor General, the Earl of Selbourne, in July 1908 and construction of the buildings was completed early in 1909. The new school buildings were opened in April 1909 by Jan Smuts with Mr GL Thomas as the acting headmaster. The school badge and the school magazine (The Pretorian), both date from 1909. The boarding houses were named after ministers in the Transvaal government: Rissik House after Johan Rissik (Minister of Lands) and Solomon House after Sir Edward Solomon (Minister of Public Works). All boarders were housed in Rissik House for the first months before the “Solomonites” moved to their own house. In 1910 the school changed its name to Pretoria Boys High School when the Pretoria College amalgamated with the Eendracht School. This move paralleled the establishment of the Union of South Africa in the same year and was motivated in part by a political imperative: to promote the reconciliation of English and Dutch-speaking South Africans in the aftermath of the bitter war recently fought in the region. The school would remain dual medium for over a decade. The first headmaster of the school (under its new name) was William Hofmeyr who would serve from 1910 until 1934, the longest term yet of a PBHS headmaster. He instilled much of the discipline for which the school would become famous.