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< Early Canberra Government Schools

Wantagong [1915 - 1941]

A subsidised school operated at Wantagong from January 1915 to January 1917 in a building erected by the residents on land made available by Edgar Nathaniel Lucas – within Portion 114, Parish of Bedulluck. Catherine Alice Cameron was teacher. After Edgar’s first wife (Sarah Ann Coleman) died in 1913, Edgar married Catherine. Catherine was a daughter of Ewan Cameron, the first teacher at Weetangera school.

In December 1916 the residents wrote seeking conversion of the Subsidised school to a Provisional School. They were informed by the Under Secretary on 23 January 1917 that the Minister had agreed to establish a Provisional School provided that the residents were willing for the existing school building to be used. This was accepted and Wantagong became a Provisional School in February 1917 with Miss Cameron as teacher.

In April 1918 a letter was received by the Minister for public Instruction signed by Edgar Lucas, Thomas Butt, John Southwell, Henry Southwell, C H Lucas, and Denis Murphy drawing attention to the dilapidated state of the building. They stated that the teacher at times had the children in corn sacks to keep them warm enough to do their work. The parents were advised that, providing they met the costs of removal, the school building at Brooklands could be moved to Wantagong.

“The attendance at Wantagong is evidently sufficient to warrant the provision of a school building, and an offer of £50 as a grant towards the removal of the Brooklands school might be made provided a suitable site, of at least 2 acres is secured at Wantagong and leased to the Department at a peppercorn rental for a period of 10 years”.

This offer was initially rejected, but later agreed to. Advice was conveyed to Charles E Butt, who had written on behalf of residents, in a letter of 25th January 1919, that the Minister had approved the grant and in February, lease of the site – close to, but on higher ground than the old site - was confirmed.

The removal process was detailed in a memo from the Acting Supervisory Architect in March 1919:

“I made an inspection of the Brooklands school as requested (6 miles from Hall). The building is a structure having stud and weatherboard walls, wood floor, lined ceiling and corrugated iron roof with brick fireplace, and has, together with Girls and Boys closets and weathershed, been built 25 years.

The school and closets are in fair order and should stand removal and re-erection at Wantagong, 12 miles distant. A 400 gallon tank is in fair order. The paint has disappeared from the exterior. The weathershed is of slab construction with sapling rafters and hipped iron roof and is in a critical condition and useless as regards removal. The school will need taking to pieces in removal owing to number of gates and narrow roadways en route to Wantagong.

Following this I inspected the Wantagong site……..The new site adjoins the present school building of slab construction with bark roof and little light, and is situated on the low lying grounds between two creeks, see plan accompanying, and is the worst position on the estate…..Mr Lucas, the owner of the property, informs me he is unaware who selected this site and says it is immaterial to him where the building goes. He is prepared to have the required 2 acres almost anywhere on the property. Seeing this I inspected a site on the hill, 3 or 4 minutes from the old school, an excellent site, which Mr Lucas is prepared to lease…..

….I submit a plan of the Brooklands school etc. together with estimates for removal and re-erection and specification (draft) and rough locality plan. Estimate ₤62:7:6. The estimate does not include painting externally…The cost of such would be ₤9:12:6. This matter should receive early attention before this winter sets in while roads are good”. [Howard Grove, Acting Supervisory Architect, 20 March 1919]<i/>

In June 1919 Edgar Lucas wrote to Mr Henry, Inspector of schools as follows:

<i>“Now that the old Brooklands school has been removed to Wantagong and re-erection of same is just about complete…..and owing to some of the desks & seats & other material in the old school not being fit for further use, I have been asked by the parents to apply to you on their behalf for some of the furniture from Tallagandra school.
If you can grant this request it may be necessary for you to give us an order to get the key of the Tallagandra school and the teacher can go over and see what she would require & I will cart it over to Wantagong during the holiday”.

This request was approved. After all these exertions however, the school continued only until May 1922, when it was closed due to falling attendance. A memo of January 1924 advises that the tender of Mr E N Lucas of ₤10/3/3 for purchase and removal of the school building was accepted:

“When the building has been satisfactorily removed, the cesspits filled in, and the ground occupied by the building left clean, tidy and free from obstruction, you should report the fact hereon. Please report whether any action is required in respect to old furniture and equipment in the building”. [H D McLelland, Chief Inspector of Primary Schools]

A file note adds that “Mr Lucas has been allowed to leave the old building on the site, as it is near his residence and the site was leased from him”.

The school re-opened briefly, from February 1939 to May 1941 with Mr Lancelot Lovelock as teacher.

Wantagong school is a story of departmental resourcefulness in providing schooling in such areas of scattered small farms. Initially a subsidised school, it operated for three years in a building and on land provided by parents. When a better building became essential the closed Brooklands school building was carted twelve miles and re-erected at Wantagong. A shortage of furnishings for the new building was addressed by raiding the nearby Tallagandra school.

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NSW Government schools from 1848

< Early Canberra Government Schools

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