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Friday, August 20, 2021

Day 8

The 1912, ‘13 and ‘15 maps posted on Day 5 show a ‘school’ just north of St. John’s Church - this piqued my curiosity as a schoolhouse sits on the grounds of St. John’s and was built at the same time (1845). Looking into the history of schools pre-Canberra I have learnt that the schoolhouse at St. John’s was initially run as a Church of England denomination school, subsidised by the state and known as Cranberry. Robert Campbell’s son George used to treat it as personal property (being on the Duntroon Estate) and would interfere with school matters much to the dismay of the teachers. When the ‘Public Instruction Act of 1880’ removed state subsidies from denominational schools, the NSW Government asked George if he might lease the schoolhouse; he declined and instead opened a private school. A provisional public school was then built on Springbank Farm at Sullivan’s Creek (Acton), known as Springbank School. The new site was contentious, as students had to cross the river which was impassable for about two months of the year. During the early 1890s pupil numbers fluctuated, and at times the school was run as a half-time school paired with Nerrabundah (near Mount Taylor) and later Narrabundah (formerly Duntroon School; Forrest). These southern schools had solved the river-crossing issue but children on the northside were now at risk of being cut off, with the leaseholder of Acton, Arthur Brasssey, charging sixpence per child a year for right of passage and threatened to deny it if there was misbehaviour. In 1895 Springbank was abandoned in favour of a full-time public school at St. John's, petitioned by the employees of Duntroon after the closure of Campbell’s private school. By the time Canberra was selected for the Federal Capital the schoolhouse was deemed unfit for use, described by the vicar as 'stuffy and draughty at the same time' and expressed the view that when Parliament arrived it 'would be better [used] as a dark cell for several members'. In 1908 a weatherboard replacement was erected on the northside of the church and in 1914 was demounted and used for Gibraltra School (Tindabilla) and later as the kindergarten of Girls' Grammar.