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Elizabethfields School [1875 - 1937]

Elizabeth Fields Provisional school opened in August 1875. Elizabethfields was in the stronghold of struggling but hardy Methodists….but the first teacher, George Lenehan, appointed in 1875, was a catholic. While Lenehan succeeded in winning confidence and support from the parents of the ‘wild bush children on the river', an adverse report on his teachings by the school inspector, J.H.Murray, led to his resignation in July 1877. Lenehan went to work as a private tutor. The next teacher, Elizabeth Nosworthy, lasted only one month in the post, and by the time of appointment of Richard Hobart in November 1877, Elizabeth Fields school was experiencing critical problems, for in the four months following Lenehan’s resignation the children had received schooling for only one month. Fortunately Alexander Wheatley arrived in December1886 and stayed for 26 years. With the restoration of equilibrium the school prospered and remained an active centre of instruction on the river for nearly seventy years.

In May 1889 the school was reduced to a Half-time with Toual, The Briars and Edgerton Schools. It again became a Provisional School from May 1932 to June 1937. After being staffed by 18 different teachers, many only staying a few months, it finally closed June 1937.

In 1874, according to descendant Dorothy Petty, “a slab school house was built on a portion of William and Elizabeth Petty’s block by his son William Henry. Their property, on the Yass River, was named ‘Elizabeth Fields’ after a suggestion by the surveyor of the day. Portions 82 and 81 on the south side of the River had been reserved for a school, but they may never have been used. In 1880 local residents argued successfully for a new site, again north of the river on William Petty’s land (Portion 258). Here ‘the school and school house were built of bricks made of clay obtained about 100 yards from the school grounds’.

'Old Tricks'

School kids are always inventing ways to get out of school. Some more inventive and clever than others. A school boy from Elizabeth Fields bush school figured out that if a horse , particularly a horse belonging to the teacher and the teacher’s only transport to the school, needed re-shoeing it would take two weeks for a farrier to come and attend to the horse. So the schoolboy relieved the horse of a few of the horse shoe nails, while the teacher was pre-occupied, the loose nails would not become obvious until the teacher was well on his way and, what a shame, 2 weeks to wait for the farrier, 2 weeks less school.

'Pleasant Memories

Bertha Edwards (nee Johnson), teacher for over fifty years, taught at Elizabethfields School between May 1932 and December 1934, during her long service leave. She wrote of her happy memories:

“…Elizabethfields, with its small enrolment of children of all ages, remains a little gem in my memory. There was a deep friendship amongst these children and I never remember settling an quarrel. I think it was the P&C who supplied me with firewood, and I remember one boy who gave himself the task of lighting my fire every winter’s morning. They were cold mornings in that area. I remember, too, a little girl who went for a drink. She dashed back into the room in a very frightened state and I rushed to her assistance. There was a huge goanna at the tank tap. I could ride my bicycle home to my parent’s farm near Gunning from Elizabethfields….”

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NSW Government schools from 1848

< Early Canberra Government Schools

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