skip to content

< Early Canberra Government Schools

Church Rock Valley School [1898 - 1904]

Prior to the opening of the Church Rock Valley school on this site there was a House to House school in operation at Gibraltar, firstly with Naas (from June 1886 to March 1889) then with Barnes Creek from May 1889 till the Gibraltar school closed in May l89l.

Concerned about education for their growing children, George Green, John Noone and John Staunton wrote to E.W O'Sullivan, MP on 18 May 1897: "asking for a half time school at Rock Valley to work with the school at Barnes Creek as the residents of Tharwa have sufficient children for a half time at Tharwa to work with the Naas School. We are nine miles from the nearest school. There is 10 children that is within half a mile from the school asked for at Rock Valley". An Application for the Establishment of a Half-time School was sent to George Green to complete and return. Green and John Noone supplied the information requested.

The nearest school was at Barnes Creek, 8 or 9 miles distant on the Tidbinbilla to Tharwa Road under Castle Hill. They named the l2 children who would attend the school as.

John William Green 10 yrs
Mary Elizabeth Green 8
Betsey Green 6
Alice Maud Green 4
Anastasia Staunton 12
Martin John Staunton 10
Hubert Murray Noone 14
Annie Amelia Noone 12
Mary Noone 10
Edward Noone 8
John Noone 6
James Noone 4

None of these children had attended school and it was not possible for them to go to an existing school. Although only a dozen prospective students were identified, since the 1880 Public Instruction Act schooling was compulsory, and this remote community was considered a special case. It was recommended that on condition that a suitable building be erected on the site selected and that the site of 2 acres be leased to the Department at a peppercorn rental, the necessary furniture would be supplied from a closed school and a Teacher appointed. The District Inspector was sent by the Department to check on the information provided by the parents and to assess whether there were sufficient children to warrant the establishment of a school.

In his report dated 18 September 1897, Mr Inspector Cooper said: "it is proposed to erect a room 14 feet by 12 feet of slabs, roofed with iron, at Rock Valley. A lease will be obtained if a school be granted. Furniture not now in use can be sent from Bungendore. The Teacher can reside with one of the settlers who will keep his horse also". He also stated that there is a comfortable slab building at Barnes Creek school. The proposal was approved and action for securing a lease of the site was requested and Mr Noone was to be furnished with a description of the kind of building required.

George Green and George Hatcliff most likely built the single room school which was of pise and timber and on the site of John Sheedy's former home.(Portion 65, Parish of Booroomba. R Rain, Surveyor, on his plan of holding No 167 dated 7/4/l9l9 described the school site as "Old School (Pisi). GI Roof Gabled. Walls 8' high." (GI - galvanised iron). Bert Sheedy told me that when he visited the site with Bill Staunton in 1972, remains of pise walls could be seen, but by the 1980's the mound had degenerated to its present vague appearance. John Sheedy's home had been demolished and moved to Castle Hill (Tharwa).

After nearly a year of negotiations the new school was ready to be occupied. It was built below the granite rocky formation which resembled a church spire and was officially called Church Rock Valley School - a half time school with Barnes Creek.

A letter dated 6 April from teacher E Maguire to the Chief lnspector reported that he took charge of the half time schools at Barnes Creek and Church Rock Valley on Monday 4 April 1898. In her diary Mary Ann Green wrote that the children commenced school on 7 April.

District Inspector Cooper, in a memorandum dated 4 January 1900, to the Chief Inspector in the Department, stated that "the half time school at Church Rock Valley is on a portion of land belonging to Messrs A and J Cunningham, from whom it is leased at a peppercorn rental. Negotiations are now, I understand, proceeding between the Lands Department and Messrs Cunningham for the exchange of the block on which the school stands for other land in the neighbourhood. In view of the probability of such an exchange taking place shortly, I recommend that the Lands Department be requested to set apart 4 acres embracing the site of the school, for Public School purposes, in the event of the land in question - Block No 5 of 640 acres owned originally by Mr John Sheedy, County of Cowley, Parish of Booroomba This information will be sufficient for the Surveyor to identify the 4 acres needed"'. A notice gazetted on 12 September 1903 reserved from sale the portion to be set apart for public school purposes.

By the end of 1901, most of the children of the three families, Green, Noone and Staunton had grown beyond school age. As there were only 5 or 6 children to attend the school and no other children in the immediate locality, the Senior Inspector, Mr Flashman, recommended that the school be closed. This recommendation was approved on 26 January 1905. Naas school was to become full time and the teacher Mr Kingsell transferred to Tharwa school.

The first teacher, Edmund Maguire, taught at the Church Rock Valley school until the end of 1899. He boarded with Mrs Keefe (O'Keeffe?) at ‘Freshford’, which was near the Barnes Creek school. However, every second week he had to ride his horse to Rock Valley each day until August 1899 when the Barnes Creek school closed. Mr Maguire then worked half time with Tharwa from August to November 1899. The Church Rock Valley school then became half time with Naas. From then till the end of the year, Mr Maguire had to ride to Naas. The Church Rock Valley school then continued to be half time with Naas till it was closed in January 1905. There were four other teachers appointed during that time - Alex Trotter, Duncan McDonald, Alex Jennings and Frank Kingsell.

A Provisional School was opened at Gibraltar in February 1907 to cater for the growing families of other settlers, namely Flint, Harris, Hatcliff, Maloney and Woods (2) in the Tidbinbilla and Gibraltar areas, and included some of the younger members of the Green (Tom, Ethel and Elsie), Noone (Julia and Arnold) and Staunton (William) families.

On 11 April 1998, a plaque was placed at the site by the Tidbinbilla Pioneers Association Inc and the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Management.

[This brief history was authored by Harry Quince. Information came from the NSW Department of Education records in Sydney, researched by Harrie Quince, Vince Fisher and Lyall Gillespie. Other sources include ‘Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve Cultural Resource Survey and Conservation Plan’, Bulbeck and Boot, l99l; Monica Flint's book 'To Green the Memory’ (1983) and ‘Gibraltar - An Old Bush School’ by Vincent Fisher (1986). Other information was obtained from Eddie Green].

School site today.

The site of Church Rock Valley School is featured now on the 'Church Rock Heritage Loop' walk (1.8km) in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, where it is marked with a stone cairn. (see photos).

Location Map

Teachers

NSW Government schools from 1848

< Early Canberra Government Schools

If you are able to assist our work of identifying, documenting, and celebrating the early bush schools of the Canberra region, please contact us or .