Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days, Volume 8, 1977-1982

'Superior' boys schools in a pioneering community: the Swan River settlement

David Adams

Adams, David 1981, '"Superior" boys schools in a pioneering community: the Swan River Settlement, 1829 to 1855', Early Days, vol. 8 part 5: 75-93.


In Victorian Britain the privileges of social rank were taken for granted. 1 The British pioneers who came to Western Australia from 1829 naturally assumed that, among other social advantages, separate schools would in due course be established for the ‘higher’ orders in the new community. The little ‘superior schools’ that were opened by the mid-1850s were sometimes more successful than is generally known — a fact which, with the arrival of the first Anglican Bishop of Perth in 1856, augured well for the success of an important new venture under the aegis of the Church.

1. The ‘Higher’ Classes and Their Demand for Schooling

From the beginning, Westen Australia seemed a promising place to establish a ‘higher-class’ school, for many of the early settlers who weathered the rigours of the foundation years had come from the ‘higher’ ranks of British society. In his first despatch of January 1830, Lieutenant-Governor Stirling, reported that:

‘among the heads of families there were a great majority of highly respectable and independent persons’. 2

A few years later a visiting ship’s captain, Nathaniel Ogle, observed enthusiastically:

‘In point of society, the settlement of Western Australia stands pre-eminent. The higher order consists of families well born and well educated, and many of them men of rank in the army and navy.’ 3


Despite the inexorable grind of farming in a most un-British environment, and the acute shortage of labour, both of which tended to level out the classes, social distinction remained a prominent feature of Swan River society throughout the nineteenth century. From the initial settlement at Augusta, for example, John Bussell, former scholar of Winchester and Oxford, categorised his tiny isolated community so:

‘Captain Molloy of the Rifles and spouse, with ourselves constitute the ‘gentle settlers. Mr Turner, a nice little cockney tradesman, with considerable financial resources, a building surveyor, complete our stationary residents'. 4

Thus there were several families in the colony who sought an education befitting the sons and daughters of the higher ranks of society. In a letter she wrote from Perth in January 1830, fourteen-year-old Anne Leake explained: ‘I do not quite neglect my studies as Papa and I devote an hour or two almost every day to reading French'. 5

Three years later, the Perth Gazette averred:

‘Many families of respectability, we feel convinced, are deterred from emigrating in consequence of their reflecting that their children must of necessity run wild in the trackless woods of a new settlement.' 6

At the meeting of the ‘principal inhabitants' of Guildford in 1836, Marshall MacDermott, an ex-British Army Officer, after reminding his audience of their ‘urgent need’ of minister of the Gospel in the district, continued:

‘But there is another want to be provided for, namely, the means of procuring a Classical education for our children; we have most of us enjoyed that benefit — let us not forget (it)'. 7

In the period under review the noteworthy reasons for requiring such an education seem to have been social, concerned with religion, preparation for leadership, and the presumed benefits of classical learning.

In the first place, the higher classes were conscious that proper schooling would help their children to hold their place in society; and those not too far below them on the social ladder, that it would perhaps help them climb a little higher.

There was a common concern among ‘gentlefolk’ to see in their sons the hallmarks of the higher ranks of society; the education, manners and speech of the Christian gentleman which would set them apart as future leaders of society.

Secondly, The early Victorian era was essentially a religious age’. 8 The colonists of Swan River had come from a society in which the terms ‘education’ and ‘religion’ were often inseparably entwined. For many Englishmen, the school was essentially an adjunct of the church. Thus in Western Australia, ‘the generally devout early settlers 9 pressed for schools as a means, among other things, of instilling the Christian faith — of ‘imparting the Truth’. In 1841 a correspondent of the Inquirer reminded his fellow Anglicans:

Without education founded on religion, man would be of little more value than any other animal... The first thing is not to teach men to read, but to instil truth into them, by the presence and example of teachers’. 10


Finally, classical learning was a sine qua non of educated men. It seemed obvious at that time the future leaders of society ought to be exposed to ‘the finest thoughts of Greece and Rome' which, it was believed, had provided the foundation of so much that was best in western civilisation.

Besides, classical learning formed an integral part of the social discourse of educated men, and was of practical importance for young men destined for clerical, legal, medical and parliamentary careers.

In 1855 Rev. G. P. Pownall believed that he was speaking for most Western Australians when he claimed:

‘Without in the least intending to detract from the importance of educating the children of the poor, it surely may be maintained that the community has a higher interest in securing a suitable education for those who may be expected to occupy hereafter a more important position as... the leaders of the Colony' 12

The unselfconscious elitism of the higher classes did not pass unchallenged. The forceful editor of the Inquirer, Francis Lochee, remonstrated on one of his pet themes when he wrote:

‘We despise class education, and maintain that to hold A should learn Latin, because he is a gentleman's son, which B should not, because he is a mechanic, is a principle begot of ignorant pride, and founded on bigoted and narrow-minded prejudice.'

Nevertheless, it is important to notice that Lochee then admitted that a changed community attitude towards ‘class education', might not, and probably would not, come in his day. 13

Table 1 gives an idea of the schools, the proposed schools, and the tutors who offered their services in ‘the higher departments of learning’ in the years 1829-56. With the exception of Harper's rectory school, it lists only those who advertised their services in the press.

2. The Demographic and Economic Context

The initial attempts to provide an education of a higher order can firstly be considered briefly against the overriding problems which dogged the colony in these years, problems relating above all to the meagre population and the depressed economy.

(a) Vital Statistics

By the end of 1829 there were about 1,000 people in the settlement, but when news of the colony’s distress reached England, public interest in the Swan River abated. By 1832 the population had risen to 1,500, but in the next year more people left the settlement than came to it. Few came to settle during the 1840s; by 1849 the population had grown, mainly by natural increase, to just over four and a half thousand. 14 With the



introduction of convicts from 1850, however, the population began to rise appreciably in respect of both convicts, and free settlers. By 1854 the total 'free population’ was 7,614 — an increase of 3,154 in six years. 15 It is important, however, to compare Western Australia with New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, where, with approximately 265,000 and 70,000 people respectively, private and corporate schools were becoming firmly established by the mid-1850s. 16

(b) The Economy

The First Stage 1829-41: Soon after the arrival of the first settlers, the dreams of an ’Eldorado’ which had attracted most of them to the colony, were quickly dispelled. The land was fertile only in patches, and they had come ill-prepared and ill-equipped. 17 The unaccustomed sand, mosquitoes and flies, the summer drought, heat, and bush fires, and numerous other exigencies made living difficult, often unbearable. As a visitor remarked in these early years:

'During the infancy of a colony... Parents are too frequently so unavoidably engrossed in raising the necessities of life as to have little leisure for cultivating the minds of their children; and from the necessity, the children themselves are employed in such occupations as their strength will permit’. 18

Among the settlers there was little or no surplus money, so that few could afford the fees for 'superior' schooling. In fact, it was said that money was so scarce that most parents were unable 'to bestow even the commonest education upon their children’. 19 At this time most business transactions were conducted by barter, and wages were paid, either wholly or partly, in kind. Crowley found some improvement from the late 1830s when local banks were established, but even then most of the ready cash went to merchants. 20

Nevertheless, with the worst of the initial pioneering over, the colony had become a little more settled by the second half of the 1830s. Marshall MacDermott, in supporting the proposal for a classical school at Guildford in 1836, emphasised:

'We have now accomplished the arduous difficulty of transforming a wilderness into a fruitful and civilised district. [21?]

It is significant that the Governor in these years felt able to support the 'Classical and English School’, which opened in the fine new Court House in 1838. Impressive for the day, the Court House (which still stands in Supreme Court Gardens) must have seemed a symbol of the colony’s progess in the late 1830s.

The Second Stage 1842-49: The second period, 184249, must be seen in the context of deepening economic depression, declining government revenue and stagnation of industry. In January 1842 the Rev. J. R. Wollaston recorded in his diary:

'I found everything at Perth in a depressed state, business at a standstill’. 22

This sudden downturn in the economy was the harbinger of a depression which lasted throughout the remainder of the decade and affected everyone. Samuel Moore, ‘gentleman farmer’ with an eye for business, whose Oakover property near Guildford was one of the show places in the colony — a man conscious of the benefits of a classical education — confided in his farm journal in 1847:


'I have reduced expenditure to meet present income, but I see I must reduce more... a difficulty now arises; my children want education and I want pig feeders and shepherds. Shall I educate them at an expense which will run me into debt so as to force me to sell the property I have endeavoured to save for them’? 24

Also writing in the 1840s, E. W. Landor declared:

'Boys, the sons of men who have themselves been well educated, are early made to supply the place of labourers and servants. Hardy and manly in appearance, they are naturally rough and uncouth in manner, and unhappily possess no mental stores beyond those early principles of gain which have grown with their growth’. 26

Just before transportation began, the editor of the Inquirer reported that in recent years most ‘instructors of youth’ had been ‘compelled to leave a colony which no longer offered a field of their labours’. 25

The Third Stage 1850-55: In the years 1850-55 the depression gradually lifted as a result of the labour of convicts who provided much needed manpower for farms and public works. The Inquirer noted in late 1853:

‘The colony has slowly, but surely, made an onward movement. . . we cannot but be conscious... that the economy has been roused from its torpor'. 27

With this economic improvement, there came a corresponding slight, but significant, rise in the fortunes of certain local schools. As Table 1 indicates, most ‘superior’ schools in the years 1829-55 were ephemeral. Nevertheless, in this third period, besides the Rev. J. B. Wittenoom’s successful little ‘seminary’, two other schools were able to keep their doors open for several years. Not all the 'private schools’ in these pioneering years were short-lived, as has been suggested. 28

Frederick Sherwood’s Perth Classical School, which opened in 1849, 29 was still receiving pupils seven years later; 30 and the Middle Swan Academy had an even longer history. Opening at Herne Hill in 1853, 31 it continued, in a small way, for over thirty years. After the proprietor, Joseph Logue, grew too old for teaching, the academy was carried on by his son, George Washington Logue, untl 1884. 32

3. The ‘Superior’ Schools, 1829 to 1855

What were Western Australia’s little ‘superior’ schools like?

(a) Fees:

The fees at the ‘superior’ schools were not high by Eastern Australian standards. For day boys they ranged from £4 ($8) per annum at the Catholic College (1846), to 10 guineas ($21) per annum at the Collegiate Institute (1853).

Boarding fees also compared favourably with contemporary charges elsewhere in Australia. The least expensive boarding school in Perth in the period was again the Catholic College which charged £25 ($50) per annum; the most expensive at 45 guineas ($94.50) was, the Collegiate Institute.


Nevertheless, the fees were too high for most settlers. As the chairman of the General Board of Education explained in 1855 concerning what he called the ‘better* classes in Western Australia:

‘They are by no means the wealthy portion of the public: and it has often happened that parents of the better class evincing the utmost anxiety to secure for their own children an education equal to their own, have been quite unable to pay the high charges of private establishments*. 33

Unless they were able to coach their children themselves, or could make some other private arrangement, such parents faced the prospect of sending their sons to a government elementary school where, after 1847 (when the General Board of Education was established), an education intended for the sons of 'yeomen, shopkeepers and small tradesmen’, was available. The curriculum, consisting only of the three R's, geography and mechanics, was not, of course, what they would have chosen; but the cost, sixpence (5 cents) per week, made some schooling accessible.

(b) School buildings

Most of the schools operated in private homes and offered limited boarding accommodation. In 1853, for example, the principal of the Collegiate Institute announced that he had ‘engaged the house lately occupied by Mrs G. Leake'. William Coupland, following the demise of his ‘grammar school*, was:

‘Kindly offered by His Excellency the Governor, the use of the Chinese Cottage (near to Government House in Perth) for the opening of a Day School'. 35

The only school known to have been held in a public building was the Classical and English School which in 183839 occupied the impressive new Court House. There was a drawback here, however — at least from the parents' and the teachers' point of view — for when the court was in session, school work had to be suspended.

No school made mention of recreation grounds, apart from the Catholic College, which in a quaint but unspecific reference, claimed:

‘The site of the (Catholic) College is in the suburbs of Perth, retired from the hustle of the town. .. over it a rising and beautiful hill which commands a delightful prospect of Perth, the Swan River... this will serve for recreation ground, and is exceedingly well adapted for invigorating the spirits and preserving health’. 36

If there were no playing-fields as such at the schools, there was certainly plenty of virgin bush around where the children could play; and an unpolluted river nearby where the children could swim.

(c) Masters

Throughout the period under review, there was a surplus of men in Western Australia who were classical scholars or experienced teachers or both.

The Colonial Chaplain, Wittenoom, had attended Winchester, and later Oxford where he graduated in classics in 1810. Briefly he was rector of a church in Southampton, and then a lecturer at Brasenose College Oxford. 37 Next, in 1814,


Wittenoom became headmaster of Newark Grammar School, 38 having been chosen above twenty-five other applicants. Fourteen years at this ancient school, 39 gave Wittenoom valuable teaching and administrative experience which apparently stood him in good stead in Western Australia.

Most of the other ‘superior' schoolmasters were also experienced teachers, or had qualification which appeared to commend them to their task. C. Browne was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and had been ‘connected with a large and exclusive classical establishment’ in that city. 40 Joseph Logue, A.M., was also from Dublin. 41 The Rev. Daniel T. Boyd, another apparently successful teacher, 42 was a graduate of the Royal College, Belfast, and sometime acting-headmaster of St. Andrew’s Parochial School, Madras. 41 John Gibson, B.A. (Cantab.), had taught in England in an ‘eminent Classical School'. 44 Certainly his predilection seemed to be for the classical side, for he was frankly told by the new General Board of Education that:

‘a very general prejudice existed against him, as being fit only to conduct a school of a higher order, and as above taking pains with the poor and ignorant in the rudiments’. 45

Gibson’s name appears in Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses 46 of 1947.

In 1843 Governor Hutt, concerned to protect the public from imposters, ordered that Coupland be examined before being allowed to open a ‘grammar school’ in Perth. Accordingly, Lochee interviewed Coupland, and reported that he spoke French

‘pretty fluently, and with by no means a bad accent for an Englishman’. 47

Similarly, Wittenoom, the Colonial Chaplain, and G. F. Moore, the Advocate-General, reported ‘in compliance with His Excellency’s request’, that Coupland had had,

‘such an education in his early life as to qualify him to teach the rudiments of the classics’. 48

Coupland, however, was not one of the more inspiring or successful masters; he was remembered by an early resident of Perth as

‘a master of quite the old type, wearing a skullcap, and generally having a birch in his hand during school hours’. 49

He apparently also wore an eye-glass. 50 The depiction of a crusty old gentleman was confirmed a few years later when Coupland was dismissed from his post as assistant master at the government elementary school. He was accused of ‘beating boys’ despite having been ‘repeatedly warned’ 51 and furthermore he

‘was affected with such a confirmed drowsiness, as materially to interfere with his duties in the school'. 52

Among the masters engaged to teach at the proposed Wallingford Academy in 1841 were an Anglican clergyman, Rev. W. Mears, B.A. (Oxon.), and H. M. Lefroy, B.A. (Oxon.). 51 A member of the staff of the Collegiate Institute, a few years later, was the Rev. J. Leonard, B.A. (London), who was Perth’s first Congregational minister. 54 In


1846 the Catholic Bishop of Perth, Dr Brady, announced that he had brought twenty-four professors from Europe, whose literary qualifications and experience, it was hoped, would ‘ensure the success of the Catholic College. 55

The only teachers whose credentials were seriously doubted were the Rev. T. W. Charlesworth, and the flamboyant Alfred Grey, who in 1853 jointly attemped to establish a ‘Collegiate Institute' in Perth. Following the collapse of this venture, Grey took charge of a new school at Toodyay early in 1856. The local committee—in view of Grey's purported degrees of M.A., Ph.D. — announced that a ‘good English and Classical education' would be available at the school, and invited parents to select courses for their children from a wide range of subjects. 56 When Archdeacon Wollaston visited Toodyay a few months later, however, he was convinced that Grey was a ‘humbug'. In April 1856, he scathingly recorded in his diary:

‘One Grey — alias Rev. Mr Grey, alias Dr Grey, who has married his servant — is Master — protem, I hope. This is the same person who under the title of Rev'd. Mr Grey, M.A. (another alias) ‘assisted by Dr Charlesworth' (no Dr and never Government School Master at Perth) opened a college at Perth — or rather tried to do so — by flaming advertisements of teaching the rising generation. . . all the ‘ologies' etc, etc, etc, and by sporting College cap and great assurance'. 57

The Toodyay school committee sacked Grey a few weeks later; he appealed to the General Board against his dismissal but it refused to reconsider his case. 59

Wollaston was not only disdainful of Charlesworth's qualifications, but also in particular, his claim to hold a doctorate from Cambridge. After the failure of the Institute, Charlesworth in his subsequent advertisements, dropped the Ph.D., but retained the M.A. after his name. He is not, however, listed in the Alumni Can tabrigien ses.

Despite his apparent pretentiousness, Charlesworth seems to have been at least a satisfactory teacher who was well respected in the community. 60 In 1854 he successfully conducted a small boarding school at Guildford; 61 and a year later, contrary to Wollaston's later assertion, 62 Charlesworth was appointed headmaster of Perth Boys' School. 63

Thus, despite doubts about Coupland's suitability for teaching, and about Grey's and Charlesworth's credentials, there was an ample supply of potential teachers in the remote colony. Indeed, it was the depressed economy of the small community, rather than unsuitability of the available masters, that vitiated most attempts to found schools of a 'higher order' in these years.

(d) Categories of Schools

Five types of 'superior' schools may be discerned in the years 1829-55 — rectory schools, private academies, private schools, church schools, and government-assisted schools.

Rectory Schools: Perth's first classical seminary, as it was called pretentiously, opened in March 1833 under the vigilant eye and guidance of the Colonial Chaplain,


Wittenoom. His considerable standing in the Community 64 helped to make his seminary, for many years, the leading school in the colony.

Wittenoom's school seems to have been typical of the many rectory or parsonage schools that existed throughout England at this time. The number of students probably never exceeded a dozen, 65 but in 1847 only four boys were attending the Perth parsonage for their lessons. 65 In 1838 the school merged with the colonial elementary school to become the Classical and English School; but, following the early demise of this government-assisted venture, the little rectory school resumed in 1840, and probably continued for another twelve or thirteen years.

As other Anglican clergymen came to the colony, they, too, undertook to instruct a few pupils in the Classics. 67 Some seventy miles from Perth in the farming district of Toodyay, the Rev. Charles Harper, 68 conducted a school for his own children and a few others of leading families in the district. 69

Catholic priests also provided regular instruction for the sons of higher-class members of their congregations; 71 and other denominations may have done the same. Charlesworth's boarding school which he conducted when he was Congregational minister at Guildford, is another example of clerical involvement in education at the time.

Private Academies: A second type of school was redolent of the private academies which then flourished in England. In England private academies had burgeoned from the late eighteenth century 71 to meet the needs of the new middle-class — the products of the accelerating Industrial Revolution — who demanded a more useful education than was generally available at the classically-oriented grammar schools.

Whereas the little rectory schools appear to have been essentially classically oriented, the private academies offered as wide a range of subjects as possible in order to attract the maximum enrolment. Logue’s long-surviving Middle Swan Academy, announced for example:

‘The Course of Education embraces the usual routine of Classical, Mercantile, and Mathematical Instruction, Hebrew and French, with the strictest attention to the necessary accomplishments of History and Geography, ancient and modern; Globes, English, German, Reading, Scriptural Instruction and so on'.

In addition, Logue offered the essentials of a University Education... in Logic, Geometry, Algebra, and Astronomy, and an evening class for Young Ladies.74

F. Sherwood, who also enjoyed a reputation for success,75 was less specific, but potentially as wide-ranging in the subjects he was prepared to teach.

According to the advertisements, evening classes were a feature of most of the schools, but the indication is that they were poorly attended.

In the senior class at Browne’s school, the boys could take history, astronomy, and chronology, as well as the classics. 77 And Coupland — complete with skull cap, birch and eye-glass— bravely offered the classics, French, Portuguese and arithmetic ‘in all its branches’ as well as dancing and fencing. 78


The advertisments which heralded the opening of the Collegiate Institute were startlingly grand. The staff were the Rev. A. Grey. Ph.D.. U.G. (London), Rev. T. W. Charlesworth, M.A.. Ph.D. (Cantab.) and the Rev. J. Leonard, B.A. (London); the patron was the Governor, Captain Fitzgerald.

Just why such an apparently promising venture should have collapsed after about six months is not clear. The most likely explanation is that there were insufficient enrolments to justify the Institute's continuation.

Church Schools: The Perth Catholic College — known also as St. John's College — which opened in a building adjacent to St. John's Cathedral in 1846, 85 was intended to be a more formal and imposing institution than the little rectory schools. The College was open to boys of all denominations, who could choose from such subjects as literature, mathematics, chemistry, philosophy, land surveying and the various languages commonly taught in the Colleges of Europe. 86 Unlike any other contemporary school in the colony the curriculum tended to be continental (Italian, Spanish, and French) rather than overwhelmingly British.

With twenty-five boys enrolled during the first two years, the initial response to the college was excellent; not good enough of course, to warrant a staff of over twenty, but evidently having the highest enrolment at any 'superior’ school in these years. The combination of cheaper fees and a broader curriculum probably attracted many. Thereafter, however, the numbers dwindled, and the school disappeared by the early 1850s.

Certainly, it was a period of Protestant-Catholic antagonism, which St. John’s did not altogether escape, 87 and this makes the initial success of the college all the more surprising. The continuing success of the Catholic school for young ladies, 88 also suggests that Protestant hostility was not the main cause of St. John’s failure, which seems to have been primarily the result of the bitter internal controversy within the Catholic hierarchy at this time. By the early 1850s, the 'professors' who had been brought especially to staff the school had drifted away from the colony in disappointment.

Government-assisted Schools: The government-assisted Classical and English School (1838-9), and the Perth Free Grammar School (1844-6), form a final category of 'higher-order' school. These schools foreshadowed the founding of the more successful Perth High School in 1878. Government assistance to ‘higher-order’ schools was, of course, a departure from English precedent.

An important feature of the Classical and English School was the adoption of the monitorial system for the classical, as well as the English component of the school. The master, Henry Spencer, was a trained monitorial teacher, but the initiative for the arrangement almost certainly came from Wittenoom, who according to a contemporary historian, had earlier built up Newark Grammar School by successfully adapting the monitorial system to the teaching of the higher branches of learning. 91

It has been claimed that the school was unique in that it incorporated an English and a Classical school 'in the same building under the control of the same master’. 92 Schools like this, however, were not uncommon in the rural parts of England. At some


of ihe more isolated English grammar schools, the social classes were separated from each other in different rooms, or on different floors, of the same building; and some by partitions running down the one room. 93 In fact, Wittenoom's former school may have combined a classical and an English school, for at the time of the Taunton Commission (1864), the headmaster reported that at Newark Grammar School 'the partition separating the English school room from the other is thrown down’. 94

The Classical and English School functioned successfully during most of 1838 and 1839. Following Governor Stirling's departure at the beginning of 1839, however, the new governor, John Hutt, preferred to follow contemporary English practice, and soon made it known that he intended education to be a private, rather than a government, responsibility. Accordingly, in April 1839, the master's salary was reduced. This provoked a sharp but unavailing protest from Wittenoom. With the complete cessation of the government allowance at the end of 1839, it seems that the school did not reopen in the New Year. 96

Four years later, the government renewed its support for higher-class education when John Gibson, B.A. (Cantab.) was engaged to teach at the Perth Free Grammar School.

'it was... thought advisable to establish this School in order to afford better means of education to the rising sons of the higher classes — the master being a Graduate of Oxford University' (sic). 97

(It was perhaps no coincidence that in this year the Catholic College was founded, and was doing particularly well!)

The school had nineteen pupils in 1846, thirteen in 1847. But an official change of policy under the newly-created General Board of Education, resulted in the withdrawal of government assistance, and the immediate closure of the school.

Besides the different types of schools categorised above, there were also numerous private tutoring arrangements which, collectively, would have been significant. Some families engaged private tutors or governesses for their children, while many other parents attempted to supervise their children's lessons themselves, or had a neighbour coach them in the evenings when the long farming day was through.

4. The Families Who Patronised the ‘Superior’ Schools

The success of Western Australia’s emerging 'superior' schools must be gauged, in part, by their social prestige; and an examination of the families who supported them affords some measure of their social standing in the eyes of the community.

The available evidence is extremely limited, but the only extant school list — the names of the twelve boys in the senior section of the Classical and English School in 1838 — provides an insight into the sort of families who may have sent their sons to 'superior' schools in these years.

Frederick and Charles Wittenoom (aged 17 and 15 years), were the sons of the Colonial Chaplain, who, on a salary of £350 ($700) per annum, was one of the more


affluent members of the community. George, John and Luke Leake — (13. 11 and 10) were the sons of Luke Leake, a leading merchant. George Hodges' parents were the owners of Perth's principal bakery and inn. George Hodges. Sr., who originally came to the colony with the military detachment, ostensibly ran the business, but is was an open secret that his business prosperity was largely due 'to the good management of his wife.' 98 Walter Boyd Andrews, Jr., was aged about fourteen when he attended the Classical and English School in 1838; his father was a successful businessman, and the first chairman of the Perth Town Trust. 99 Horace Stirling was the son of another leading Perth businessman. His father, Edmund Stirling, had been connected with the production of Perth’s first manuscript newspaper in 1832. In 1840. in partnership with Francis Lochee, Edmund Stirling founded the Inquirer. Edward Lyttleton's father was a surgeon who had come to Western Australia under Thomas Peel's unsuccessful settlement scheme, who met with an accidental death at Albany in 1835. 100 The widowed Sarah Lyttleton obtained from Peel a sum of money he owed her husband, and with this purchased the Marine Hotel and ferry at Mandurah. The business prospered, and in 1838 she sent her son to the Classical School in Perth. The only boy at the school whose family was on the land was Shakespeare Hall, but they were not a typical farming family. Indeed the boy's father, Henry Edward Hall, formerly of Shakerstone Manor and Newton Burgolands in Leicestershire was a man of decided individuality and gentility. They were considerably better-off than most landed families at the time, having inherited money from the sale of the family estates in Leicestershire. In 1833 Mrs Hall could afford to return to England to put her older children to school, and two years later, when the family moved from Mandurah to Perth, the younger children were sent to Wittenoom's rectory school. 101

Finally, John and Alfred Turner had come to Perth from England with their parents in 1831. 102 The family were evidently yeomen farmers and they originally look up land in the Avon Valley. Extremely dissatisfied by 1837, they sold their property and moved to Van Diemen's Land in 1839. In 1838, therefore, the Turners were no longer farming, but probably had ready cash from the sale of their property; and the two boys, one aged fourteen, the other thirteen, were temporarily placed at the new school.

Such then were the families who could afford the high fees of £10 ($20) per annum at the Classical and English School. Nine were successful business families, one father was a clergyman and senior civil servant; and two were farming families but atypical — one being of the gentry class and the other of the yeomen class. For the most part they were, what today would be called, upper-middle class, though the Halls , Leakes and Wittenooms were probably the 'uppermost'. On the other hand, George Hodges, the son of a baker and inn keeper; and for the Turner brothers, whose parents were yeomen farmers, the school may have been grasped as a means of upward social mobility.

Besides the enrolments at the Classical and English School, records show that James Roe, the son of the Surveyor-General, attended Wittenoom's rectory school. 103 Edward Stone, the son of the Crown Solicitor, was sent at first to Boyd's Boarding and Day School, and then to Charlesworth's boarding school at Guildford. 104 Robert Sholl, whose father was then a newspaper proprietor and later Government Resident in the North-West, attended Sherwood's Perth Classical School. 105 And Charles Harper, Jr., as already observed, was educated at his father's rectory school at Toodyay.


Perth's nascent ‘higher-class’ schools helped to give such boys an advantage over contemporaries in the competition for the few openings in the civil service, private offices and business firms.

Some of the wealthier families seem to have used the local schools to prepare their sons for public schools in Britain. Parents came to the decision to send their sons 'home' for their schooling, most reluctantly, for not only did it mean a prolonged separation from the children, but also the endurance of sailing voyages which then:

‘were at worst an extremely hazardous and uncertain undertaking, and at best an uncomfortable, lengthy, and irregular means of travel’. 107

The inducements were strong, however. Prospects were opening for educated young men in Britain and the Empire, and well-to-do Englishmen who had migrated to Western Australia were anxious that their sons should not miss out on the benefits of a public-school education.

Thus Edward Stone went to England when he was about ten to attend Chigwell Grammar School in Essex. The second master at Chigwell in these years, the Rev. Francis Williams, later became headmaster of St. Peter’s College, Adelaide. 108 George Walpole Leake received his early education at Wittenoom’s school in Perth, but later was sent to King's College, London. Both these boys went on to study law and enjoy high professional standing in Perth. 109 J. M. Ferguson, son of the Colonial Surgeon, received a grounding in local schools, but, at the age of ten, was sent 'home' to Scotland to attend Dundee High School. In later life, Ferguson was a sea captain, a successful businessman, 110 and a leading benefactor and supporter of Scotch College, Perth. George Shenton, a prominent Perth merchant with land holdings throughout the colony, sent his son to England to be educated at the Queen's College, Taunton. 111 And in 1842, the widowed Lady Spencer returned to England with her three sons ‘for their education’ 112 Other prominent colonists who put their sons to schools in Britain in these years include the Hardys, the Halls, the Waylens, and the Brockmans.

There remained, however, a small but vocal group of parents in Western Australia who were unable, or unwilling, to send their children to Britain but who were dissatisfied with the higher-class schools in the colony.

Early in 1855 the General Board of Education had announced a new policy which augured well for the future of higher education in the colony. Its annual report explained:

‘The principal alterations which have been adopted after much consideration are ... the fixing as a present limit, an Education for Boys equal to that obtainable ... at a good English Grammar School, and for girls such a one as a respectable middle-class person would endeavour to secure for his daughter in England. 114

It seemed that once again the government was about to supply what the private sector was unable to provide.

Although the scheme was approved in principle by Governor Fitzgerald, 115 a temporary recession delayed its implementation. 116 Then when Kennedy succeeded


Fitzgerald as Governor later in the year, the General Board's proposal for higher education was summarily dismissed. The Colonial Secretary informed the Education Board that

His Excellency is of the opinion that the class of education you proposed giving in the Government Schools, and which was approved by the late Governor, is of a character far too grand for the present wants of the colony, and beyond what the public are called on to provide.' 111

Thenceforth, the colonial schools would provide only elementary levels of instruction as they had done almost from the beginning, and expenditure would be scanty. Despite vehement protests 118 and the resignation of three of the four members of the General Board, 119 Kennedy was adamant, and no further government grants were made to higher-class schools for more than twenty years.

A further blow, for those looking for a better school, was the death in 1855 of Wittenoom, the inveterate champion of higher education in Western Australia.120 Significantly his obituary in the local press drew attention primarily to his pioneering services to education, especially the education of the 'future leaders' of the community.

For those anxious to see the establishment of a grammar school or the like, the situation looked dismal at the end of 1855. Throughout most of the pioneering period, higher-order instruction had been available in the colony, but the attempts to establish something more than a private academy or a rectory school had proved unsuccessful.

In 1856, however, hopes were revived, this time with more optimism than ever, through the announcement that Archdeacon Mathew Blagden Hale had been appointed first Bishop of Perth and would soon be leaving South Australia for the new city.


[Some footnote numbers are missing from the text in the original.]

1. J.F.C. Harrison, The Early Victorians 1811-1851, (St. Albans, 1975) pp. 174-206.

2. Stirling to Murray, 20 January 1830. Historical Records of Australia. Series 111, Vol. VI, p. 6.

3. N. Ogle, The Colony of Western Australia: A Manual for Emigrants (London, 1839), p. 83.

4. Bussell to his cousin in England, quoted in T. Turner, Turners of Augusta (Perth, 1956), p. 99.

5. J. Cowan, 'Some pioneer women’, Early Days, Vol. 1. Part 10. p. 45.

6. Perth Gazette2 March 1833.

7. Perth Gazette, 2 April 1836.

8. Harrison op.cit., p. 150.

9. F. K. Crowley, Australia’s Western Third, (London, 1960), p. 29.

10. Inquirer, 14 July 1841. The first of a series of three articles on 'Education' by 'Philomathes'. The others 21 July and 4 August. Also see 25 October and 1 November 1843.

11. Ogle, op. cit., p. 112.

12. Pownall, Secretary of General Board of Education, to Colonial Secretary, 5 December 1855. Education Committee File: Copies of Outward Letters, 1847-1856.


13. Inquirer, 10 January 1855.

14. Supplement to Western Australian Statistical Register (Perth, 1902).

15. Statistical Returns of Western Australia 1848-1854 (Perth, 1854). In 1854, the total population (including temporary military personnel and convicts) was 11.976.

16. E. L. French, 'Secondary education in the Australian social order. 1788-1898' (Ph.D., Univ. of Melbourne, 1958), pp. 33-44.

17. Crowley, op. cit., p. 7ff.

18. J. G. Powell, The Narrative of a Voyage to the Swan River (London, 1831), p. 181.

19. E. W. Landor, The Bushman or Life in a New Colony (London, 1847), p. 114.

20. Crowley, op. cit., pp. 19-20.

21. Perth Gazette, 2 April 1836.

22. J. R. Wollaston, The Picton Journal: 1841-44 (Perth, 1948), p. 59.

23. Inquirer, 5 January 1842.

24. S. Moore, Farm Journal 1839-49, entry 16 May 1847.

25. Inquirer, 27 March 1850.

26. E. W. Landor, op. cit., p. 114.

27. Inquirer, 23 December 1853.

28. cf. D. Mossenson, State Education in Western Australia, (Perth, 1972), p. 6ff.

29. Inquirer, 7 March 1849.

30. Perth Gazette,, 4 July 1856.

31. Supplement to the Inquirer, 7 September 1853.

32. A. Burton, The Story of the Swan District, 1843-1938( Perth, 1938), p. 65. The Western Australian Almanack, 1884, p. xix, lists G. W. Logue, schoolmaster, Herne Hill. In subsequent directories his occupation was described as ‘mail contractor’; he may have continued the school on a part-time basis after 1884.

33. Pownall to Colonial Secretary, 5 December 1855.

34. Perth Gazette,, 20 July 1853.

35. Inquirer, 3 July 1844.

36. Perth Gazette, 7 March 1846.

37. R. E. Cranfield, The Wittenoom Family in Western Australia (Perth, 1962), p. 7.

38. Newark Grammar School was founded in 1532 by Thomas Magnus.

39. N. F. Jackson, Newark Magnus: The Story of a Gift (Newark, 1964), pp. 118-125.

40. Perth Gazette, 25 February 1843.

41. Supplement to the Inquirer, 7 September 1853.

42. E. Stone, Some Old-Time Memories (Prahran, Victoria, 1918) p. 29.

43. Perth Gazette, 20 September 1850.

44. Gibson to Colonial Secretary, 17 September 1847. C.S.O. Letters Received, 1844-48 MS. Ac No. 36, B.L.

45. Minutes to the General Board of Education, 8 September 1847, MS. Ac No. 526. B.L.

46. J. A. Venn (comp.). Alumni Cantabrigienses (Cambridge, 1947), p. 41.

47. Lochee to Colonial Secretary, 27 April 1843, C.S.O. Letters Received.


48. Wittenoom and Moore to Colonial Secretary, 28 April 1843, ibid.

49. E. Stone, Some Old-Time Memories (Prahran, Victoria, 1918) p. 29.

50. Perth Gazette. 23 December 1843. Coupland advertised for a golden eye-glass that he had lost.

51. General Board of Education, Minutes, 12 December 1849.

52. ibid. 24 November 1849.

53. Perth Gazette, 8 May 1841.

54. Inquirer, 22 June 1853.

55. Perth Gazette. 7 March 1846.

56. Inquirer, 3 October 1855. The school was to be opened early in 1856.

57 J. R. Wollaston, Wollaston's Albany Journals 1848-1856 (Perth, 1948), pp. 218-220.

58. General Board of Education: Copies of outward letters 1847-1856. Letter of dismissal, 18 June 1856.

59. ibid. Secretary to Grey, 11 July 1856.

60. Charlesworth was the Congregational minister at Guildford in 1854. Perth Gazette, 24 March 1854.

61. E. Stone, Some Old-Time Memories (Prahran, Victoria, 1918) p. 24.

62. Wollaston 1848-56, op. cit., p. 35.

63. Letter of appointment, 6 January 1855. C.S.O. (Records, Inward Correspondence), 1855, No. 329/36, B.L.

64. Like his counterpart in N.S.W., the Rev. Richard Johnson, Wittenoom was automatically given the responsibility for education soon after his arrival. See Mossenson, State Education in Western Australia, pp. 2 and 12.

65. C.S.O. 61/204, Mr Wittenoom's School. 15 August 1838’.

66. The parsonage was one of the largest homes in Perth, standing on the corner of Barrack Street and the Esplanade, where the Weld Club stands today.

67. Blue Books, 1844-46.

68. Harper, formerly a barrister of Gray’s Inn, London, was the first Western Australian settler to be ordained. He served in Toodyay from 1839 to 1853.

69. R. Erickson, Old Toodyay and Newcastle (Perth, 1974), p. 124.

70. The school began in Harper's own home, 'Woodbridge', Guildford in 1895.

71. Information supplied by the Catholic Archivist in Western Australia, Sister M. Raphael.

72. N. Hans, New Trends in Education in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1951), pp. 37-41.

73. J. A. Harrison, Private Schools in Doncaster in the Nineteenth Century (Doncaster, 1969), passim.

74. Supplement to the Inquirer, 7 September 1853.

75. Kimberley, History of Western Australia (biographical section), p. 20.

76. 7 March 1849.

77. Perth Gazette, 25 February 1843.

78. Inquirer, 19 July 1853.

79. N. Hans. op. cit., p. 63.

80. ibid., p. 117

81. 22 June 1843.


82. French, (thesis, op. cit.), p. 47.

83. Note the failure of the Australian Association of Bengal, which had planned to establish a regular shipping service between India and Australia. Swan River Guardian, 1 February 1848.

84. Interview with John Deacon whose M.A. thesis 'A survey of the historical development of the Avon Valley, 1830-1850' (Univ. of Western Australia, 1948) concerned the district where Wallingford was to be opened.

85. Sr. M. Raphael of the Convent of Mercy, Victoria Square, Perth.

86. Perth Gazette. 7 March 1846.

87. Editorials in the Inquirer, 4, 11, 18, 25 March 1846; also Inquirer, 1 December 1847.

88. Opened in 1849 by the Sisters of Mercy, and now named Mercedes Catholic Girls' School, the school has the distinction of being the oldest private school in Western Australia.

89. See A. G. Austin, Australian Education 1788-1900 (Melbourne, 1961), p. 46.

90. The N.S. W. schools of the 1830s were the King's School, Parramatta; the Sydney College; and the Australian College. C. E. W. Bean, Here My Son, (Sydney, 1950), pp. 27-28.

91. Jackson, op. cit. pp. 122-3. Jackson cites passages by R. P. Skilton, a contemporary historian and great admirer of Wittenoom’s achievement at Newark.

92. Mossenson, op. cit., p. 5.

93. The reference to Clitheroe Free Grammar School in Lancashire, in British Parliamentary Papers, 1868, (The Taunton Report), Vol. IX, p. 503.

94. ibid., Vol. XVI, p. 404.

95. Crowley, op. cit., pp. 3-6.

96. Based on C.S.O. Index to Letters Received, 1839-1845. This gives a brief description of content, but, unfortunately, many of these letters have not survived.

97. B.B. op. cit., pp. 142-3. Gibson was a graduate of Cambridge, not Oxford.

98. E. Stone, Some Old-Time Memories (Prahran, Victoria, 1918) p. 12. Mrs May Hodges, the enterprising wife and mother, was the first woman to hold a land title in Western Australia.

99. Perth Gazette, 15 January 1842. At this time, Andrews was associated with a company which ran a ‘shipping service' on the Swan.

100. A. Hasluck, Thomas Peel of Swan River (Melbourne, 1965), p. 170.

101. ibid, pp. 143 and 163.

102. C.S.O. Shipping List, Vol. XIII, 1831.

103. Kimberley, op. cit., (biographical section), p. 76.

104. E. Stone, Some Old-Time Memories (Prahran, Victoria, 1918), p. 29.

105. Kimberley, op. cit., (biographical section), p. 20.

106. Inquirer, 24 January 1855.

107. Crowley, op. cit., p. 23. The voyage to England took about 100 days.

108. E. Stone, Some Old-Time Memories (Prahran, Victoria, 1918), pp. 32-3.

109. Leake was also sometime editor of the Inquirer and a member of the local Legislative Council in the 1870s-1890s.

110. Kimberley, op. cit., (biographical section), pp. 74-5.

111. ibid. pp. 10-11.

112. Wollaston, Picton Journal, p. 138.


113. Pownall to Colonial Secretary, 5 December 1855, in: Education Committee: Copies of Outward Letters, 1847-56.

114. Report of General Board of Education, 1855. published in Government Gazette. 20 March 1855, pp. 3-5.

115. Captain Charles Fitzgerald, Governor of Western Australia, 1848-1855.

116. Inquirer, 7 March 1855.

117. Barlee to Pownall, 23 November 1855, /., 12 December 1855.

118. 19 December 1855; 2 January and 13 February 1856.

119. Mossenson, op. cit., pp. 23-25.

120. Inquirer, 24 and 31 January 1855.

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