The Northern end of the Limestone Plains, upon which Canberra was built, is now the site of the suburbs of O'Connor and Lyneham. In years gone by this was prime grazing land and the names of Crace and Davis and Shumack well known.
Not so well known were Humphrey and Lucy Wainwright, a childless couple, who lived in the Stone Hut and cropped and grazed a little. Humphrey and Lucy were Agincourt travellers, but Humphrey then used the name John, apparently to distinguish himself from the many Humphrey Wainwrights that graced his family in Nottingham. There is no evidence that he and Lucy had children either in Nottingham or Calais, but Lucy supposedly had a brother John Percival in Australia.
The Percival families in the district were ardent Wesleyans. Lucy was Wesleyan, and the first service for that faith was held at the home of Lucy and John.
By the 1870s education for the children had gained acceptance and some importance, and in 1873 a Primary school was opened at the Stone Hut, with Mr & Mrs Wainwright as teachers. The Queanbeyan Age of 29 May 1873 reports them to be "just the persons for such a school".
The education was Provisional, under the control of the Council of Education. Mrs Wainwright taught needlework and sewing (sic), while Humphrey John attended the basics. The school continued successfully under their care until 1879 when the Department of Education decided Humphrey had to retire. Mr Crace, who owned the Stone Hut School building, appealed against this retirement, but the Department replied:
The Minister has approved of payment to you of the sum of £65/18/9, being the amount of the retiring allowance in your case.
"It is to be distinctly understood that your connection with this Department will be regarded as having ceased at the end of the current month, up to which time you may charge salary. As your successor has been appointed it is requested that you will be so good as to give up possession of the school premises with the least possible delay."
Wainwright and his wife moved into the village of Queanbeyan where he continued to be involved with the community until his death in 1886. The Department was a little premature in its announcement of Humphrey's replacement Such difficulty was found in actually finding someone to take over the Stone Hut School that Wainwright was asked to return. He declined!
Humphrey's obituary says he left a wife without children. However a note in the Queanbeyan cemetery records suggested they fostered children at some time.
Lucy Wainwright briefly ran a Dame school in the village. In 1891 a flood inundated her home near the river, and she moved, renting a sitting room and bedroom in the Union Club Hotel, a Temperance affair.
She frequently visited Henry and Elizabeth Phillips, (nee Dove), who were the Postal officers at Uriarra Crossing on the Murrumbidgee. The Phillips were Nottingham people, but had been hoteliers in Calais.
Lucy died of Parkinsons disease in 1894. She is buried in the Queanbeyan Riverside cemetery, with her husband, leaving no descendants to tell her tale, and no trace of the elusive brother John.
Queanbeyan Age,1874, 1891.
Schumack, Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers, ANU Press, 1967
Archives of NSW, School File, Stone Hut School.
[This article found at: www.angelfire.com/al/aslc/Tulle90.html - Australian Society of the Lacemakers of Calais Inc. (ASLC) web site. Dated March 1992]
- Stone Hut School
11/1873 - 10/1883