Early history

First headmaster(Taken from the “Ashgrove State School History of the first one hundred years 1877-1977”)

In 1877, thirty-five years after Brisbane became a free settlement, the Ashgrove School was opened.

Robert Little and Darby McGrath bought the first Crown land at public auction on 1st September 1856. The Ashgrove district quickly became popular and by 1875 all the local Crown land had been taken up for small crops, dairy and beef cattle holdings.

Waterworks Road was built with convict labour to provide access to the Enoggera Reservoir, completed in 1866. The road also served farms, a slaughterhouse and gold diggings in the hills beyond the Reservoir.

The “Courier” newspaper of 29th January 1876 carried this notice:

“31st January 1876. Public Meeting of the inhabitants on the Waterworks Road, Upper Ithaca Creek and adjoining localities will be held at the residence of Mr. Harding, St John’s Wood THIS DAY (Saturday) at Four o’clock p.m. to consider a proposal to establish a PRIMARY SCHOOL at the junction of the roads near the Pipe Track Tunnel and to elect a Provisional Committee”. (The Pipe Track carried the water supply across Rainworth, then in to the City).

There were about 93 children in the area eligible for schooling.

The Harding family had 10 children of school age. Besides these there were the families of their employees, of farmers along Waterworks Road, and of settlers among the ranges to the north between Enoggera Creek and Kedron Brook, and on Upper Ithaca Creek.

On the provisional Committee were G.R. Harding, A. Stewart, H.H. Payne, I. Paten, I. Bennett and E.H. Arundell – most of these are recorded in today’s district place names. Mr. (later Judge) Harding offered 2 acres for the school site, where the West Ashgrove Methodist Church now stands. The land’s value of £30 was to be included in the compulsory local contribution of one-fifth of the cost or site and buildings. When the site was approved, Mr. Harding and the other committee members contributed generously. Mr. Arundell suggested that the surplus money might be applied “to fencing and clearing the land and laying in the water”. The Committee worded their request thus:

“At the present time there is no school within a distance of the proposed site and the district is suffering very much from the want of one. Numbers of children are growing up without any education at all… This Committee humbly requests that their proposal may receive early consideration.”

Aborigines still lived up in the hills then, but there was no thought of schooling for their children. They would come sometimes to trade with Alexander Stewart’s Kanakas brought in to labour on his stately colonial style home, Glenlyon House.

The Census of 1876 recorded a population of 173,253 (almost 27,000 in Brisbane). By 1907 the State’s population had increased to half a million.

The first Ashgrove school

First schoolThis was a neat little hardwood building with 500 square feet of floor space, 33 by 17 feet, with a wall height of 12½ feet, roofed with hardwood shingles, and ventilated by revolving casement windows.Verandas 8 feet wide were set at front and cack, the front one for hats and ports, the back one being fitted up with hand basins.The building lay just to the rear of the Ashgrove West Post Office (in it’s previous location).The teacher’s residence consisted of five principal rooms, two smaller bedrooms, and a detached kitchen with a colonial stove “suitable for a small family”.The total cost came to £678/6/3, £104 of which was contributed by the local residents. There were 57 children of school age living within a two-mile radius of the school.It is believed that this was the first metropolitan school to be established after the State Education Act was passed in 1875 to provide free, compulsory and secular education for all.

The school grounds adjoined Chapman’s dairy. Opposite the school lay scrubland extending to Ithaca Creek.The nearest shops were at Paddington and Red Hill. The nearest residence was W.J. Trouton’s home, “Betheden” to the east, then bushland out to Mrs. Fanny Baily’s small home where the quarry now is.Mrs. Baily’s home doubled as a Post Office after Head Teachers Stephens, Reinhold and Towell had acted as unsalaried postmasters for some years.(Mrs. Baily was paid first £6, and later £12 per annum for her official duties).

Eliza JaneThe school was officially opened on Saturday 4th November 1876, by the Minister for Public Instruction, Sir Samuel Walker Griffith, who was later to become the first Chief Justice of the High Court.An impressive number of prominent citizens attendee the ceremony. When the school opened for instruction on 22nd January 1877, the roll listed 66 pupils.Mr. James Brunton Stephens, a well-known man of letters, was the first Head Teacher. He received an annual stipend of £150, while his assistant, pupil teacher Joseph Dorset, was paid £40.Mr Stephens was born at Bo’ness in Linlithgowshire, Scotland, in 1835 and educated at the Parish School where his father was Master.He later attended the University of Edinburgh. After emigrating to Australia – a four month journey in 1866, he taught privately at Tamrookum, a cattle station on the Logan River, at the Brisbane Normal School and at Stanthorpe State School. From there, he applied for the position of head Teacher at Ashgrove, in order to be near the City’s libraries. He remained at Ashgrove for six years, then joined the Colonial Secretary’s Office, where he remained until his death in 1902.

Among the works he wrote, many no doubt by the light of a kerosene lamp in the schoolmaster’s cottage, was the opening hymn for the first National Agricultural and Industrial Association Exhibition in 1876 and his well-known patriotic poem, “The Dominion of Australia”. One term after the school was opened, School Inspector J.G. Anderson wrote in his report:

“The order was found to be rather rough and the discipline somewhat lax, but the tone was very satisfactory. A good working routine is established. The teaching is for the most part accurate, logical and vigorous. Considering that mos the pupils were in a neglected state as tho their education before the opening of the school, and that scarcely a third of them had ever been at school before, great progress has been made and the future of the school is very hopeful”.

Encouraging words for what must have been a difficult beginning. Irregular attendance was fairly common in those days. Only 45 of the 66 pupils were present on the day of the Inspector’s visit. Not until 1900 were Truancy Officers to be appointed, and not until 1902 were they supported by the “strong arm of the law”.

Since the school was also the postal depot, the early settlers called there to collect their mail. When Mrs. Baily took over as Postmistress, she was also the Sunday School teacher at The Gap Methodist Church. She must have had a wonderful spirit for she was so near-sighted that she was forced to play the hymns with one hand while holding the hymn book close to here face with the other! Historical documents indicate that the settlers who attended Church services often dressed casually and occasionally came barefooted. They thought nothing of walking great distances, for people walked everywhere in those days and thought nothing of it.

The name Ashgrove is probably derived from Mr. Holmes’ Grove Estate and ash from the numerous Ash Trees growing in the area – a 200 acre property first subdivided in 1884.

In 1896 the original school buildings were extended at the cost of £149/11/8.

During the First World War teachers of both sexes attended special courses in Cadet Training. With so many male teachers away on service, females often assumed the role of Cadet Instructor. Equality of the sexes was still some way off, however. In 1917, for instance, the Central Technical College offered 50 free places to boys leaving primary school. The course, covering two years, had no entrance examination. Its educational subjects were English, Mathematics, Elementary Science, Drawing and Civics. The vocational subjects ere Carpentry, Joinery, Electrician’s work, Fitting and Machinery and Plumbing.

School photo 1917

Girls, on the other hand, had to pass an entrance examination. Twenty-four places were offered and the subjects were very practical – Cookery, Housewifery, Domestic Economy, English, Household Accounts, Dressmaking and Millinery.

By 1921 the school was too small to accommodate the rapidly growing enrolment. Nor was the teacher’s residence any longer adequate. The School Committee wrote to the Department on 10th March 1921:

“I am sure if you were to visit the place you would wonder what a humpy it was”.

The extension of the tramline to Oleander Drive in 1924 caused a sharp increase in housing development. In 1926 the firm of T. M. Burke subdivided the Glenlyon Garden Estate and offered 5 acres of school grounds. The Department, under considerable pressure to provide more pupil accommodation, accepted their offer. The old school building was removed to the new site and extensions were added. The exchange took place during Mr C.E. Daniels’ term as Head Teacher. During this time (1915 to 1936) annual enrolment rose from 70 to almost 300. Mr. Daniels performed many extra-curricular duties. In one report requesting new fencing he explained:

“I have managed to patch it up with wire and saplings.”

When he retired the School Committee presented him with “a wallet full of notes” in recognition of his long and devoted service.

Mr. Daniels’ term saw the introduction of a new philosophy of education. Prior to 1930, syllabuses had imposed the rigid uniformity of “traditional” education – uniform rules, regulations, routines, courses, furniture, textbooks and unfortunately, pupils were expected to be “uniform” too.

“Children should be seen and not heard” – “Stand! Seats back, 1-2! Turn! March!” or “Pencils down! Hands away!” All older pupils will remember this restrictive working to numbers. They will remember too, how the low achievers were punished with the cane when they failed to come up to the class average. There was a time, mercifully past, when school and fear were synonymous for some unfortunate children. The Department’s new Syllabus introduced in 1930 stressed “social” living. The teacher was “to guide, to correct, to suggest”.

The health hazards of earlier days were reflected in the school’s correspondence. Tuberculosis, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, whooping cough, scarlet fever all took their annual toll. In 1927 the first diphtheria immunization campaign began. Teachers were instructed to support the campaign but not to involve themselves actively, for “in some quarters there may be obstruction to this work”. The first Salk vaccine campaign took place in 1956. Nowadays we take health safety for granted. But older pupils will remember relatives and friends who fell victim to those earlier epidemics, some never to recover, some to be crippled for life.

In 1927 the school celebrated its Golden Jubilee, when Mrs. Rosalie Stephens, widow of the first Head Teacher, was a guest of honour. When the tramline was extended to the West Ashgrove terminus in May 1935, the Ashgrove School again became overtaxed by the rise in the district’s population. Two hundred and sixty pupils were crammed into what the Progress Association President M. W.R. McDonald termed “an antiquated specimen of architecture”. Classes were held in all weathers on the verandahs, in the play shed, in the Head Teacher’s office. The deep dust under the school was a great nuisance.

Finally, on 19th March 1938, the first stage of the new brick school building was completed, and was officially opened by the Minister for Health and Home Affairs, Mr E.M. Hanlon.

The new wooden building was taken away across Waterworks Road to become the West Ashgrove Kindergarten.

During the same year, the playing fields were extended by Relief Workers, for this was still the depression era. Departmental correspondence at the time deals with State aid dispensed to the children of Relief Workers, and of parents on the “dole”.

The Second World War bought public works to a virtual standstill so that the second stage of the new brick building was not completed until 1945. During the war many boys joined the Brisbane Boys Patriotic Club. The girls formed a branch of the Junior Red Cross in May, 1940. Choirs from the school sang at patriotic benefit concerts at the City Hall.

In 1941 the hitherto all-male School Committee welcomed its first lady member, Mrs. Gladys Clappison.

Wartime brought slit trench drills and other interruptions to normal school routine. There was another holiday for a visit from the American fleet to Brisbane on 19th March 1941. In 1942 all Queensland Schools remained closed until 2nd March. There were three extra days holiday (20th to 22nd August 1945) to celebrate Japan’s surrender.

In 1946 Soccer was introduced and the friendly competition for new recruits between the Rugby and Soccer factions continued through to the 1970’s. The building’s third stage was completed in 1959 and in 1960 the school reached its peak enrolment of 820 pupils.

In 1957 the school swimming pool was opened. The Club’s first president was Mrs Sadie Woodman and the first Swimming Meeting was held on March 2nd, 1966. Originally Club night was a Friday and admission was 5 cents. During the same season pool lighting and a filtration plant was added.

1963 saw the abolition of the Scholarship Examination – a great relief to many overworked Grade VII teachers. The mining boom of the sixties brought increasing affluence to Queensland, and this was reflected in the increased sophistication of teaching methods.

Ashgrove School had been well in advance of many other Queensland primary schools in the provisions of a library, housed first in the vestibule and now in a separate air-conditioned building. A movie projector, a radiogram and extension speakers to each classroom were already in use by 1952. A television set (on loan) was installed in 1961. By the close of the sixties the blackboard had long ceased to be the sole teaching aid, along with duplicators, overhead projectors, film and filmstrip projectors and tape recorders. Many of these school resources were the result of the enthusiasm and hard work of the Parents and Citizen’s Association, the Swimming Club Committee, the Ladies Auxiliary and associated organizations. In 1977 Ashgrove State School celebrated it’s 100 year anniversary.

1990 onwards

Many major improvements to the school grounds and buildings have been undertaken since 1990.  The Creative Skills Centre, originally a toilet block, was remodelled and officially opened in 1991 as an art, pottery and cooking facility.  The Under Cover Parade area was officially opened in May 1996. A block (the main brick building) was refurbished during 1996-97. Staff moved to the new staffroom on the ground floor and the old staffroom on upstairs was transformed into a computer lab. A multipurpose building on the oval with soundproofed music teaching rooms was completed in 2001 and was officially named the JB Stephens Centre after the school’s first Head Teacher. In 2002 Education Queensland purchased another 522 square metres adjoining the year one playground. 2002 also saw the upgrading and resurfacing of the western carpark by the BCC, the widening of the swimming pool and the remodelling of the tuckshop and uniform shop. Improvements to the school in 2003 included the repainting of the outside of A block in traditional heritage colours and introduction of air-conditioning into many of the classrooms. The school is now fully air-conditioned.

In 2007 Prep became the first year of school for children in Queensland. A double Prep teaching facility was added next to the tennis courts for our first intake of Preppies. In 2008 the old Preschool was refurbished and another Prep building, J Block, was added next to the former preschool to cater for four Prep classes. These Prep children were the last cohort of students to attend Year 7 at primary school as all Year 7s transitioned to high school from 2014.

An Outside School Hours Care building was erected next to the JB Stephens Centre in 2008. A new Hall and Resource Centre was built in 2010 as part of the BER program and officially opened in May 2011. The old library was removed and the Year 7 classroom (D Block) was moved to the oval to make way for this new building. 2010 also saw the installation of electronic whiteboards in all classrooms.

The P&C Association plays a highly active role in supporting our school to provide the best possible learning environment for our students. Ongoing improvements to the school grounds and facilities over the last few years have included new playgrounds, three outdoor gazebos, water tanks, swimming pool lighting, chilled drinking bubblers, refurbishment of cricket nets, resurfacing of tennis courts, shade covers and the establishment of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden (SAKG). The old preschool building was renovated in 2014 as a Masterchef kitchen for specialist SAKG lessons. The double prep building and upper tennis court were removed to make way for the construction of a two story 8 classroom block. This building, officially named the GR Harding Building, opened at the start of 2014 as home to Prep and Year 1 students. External painting occurred on A Block and B Block, Wifi connected throughout the school, LED school sign erected, new perimeter fencing installed and a multi-purpose tennis court built & climbing frame built on the oval. The long awaited refurbishment of the swimming pool change sheds occurred in June 2015.

Current school enrolment in 2018 is 786 students with a total of 31 classes. The school follows the Australian curriculum for English, Mathematics, Humanities and Social Science (HASS) and Technology. The other key learning areas include The Arts, Health & Physical Education (HPE) and Languages other than English LOTE (Chinese). Students have the opportunity to learn a String instrument from Year 3 and Woodwind, Brass, Percussion from Year 4. Students in Years 4 to Years 6 have a choice of competing in touch football, softball, cricket, netball, AFL, soccer, rugby league, water polo and triathlon for interschool sport on Friday afternoons.

Well known past students of Ashgrove State School include William Jolly (the first Lord Mayor); Ian Healy (Australian wicket keeper); Keith Urban (country singer) and Andrew Stockdale (band member Wolfmother). Mrs Anita Bond has been the school principal since April 2016.

Head teachers/Principals of Ashgrove State School

Apr-2016 to present: Bond, Anita

Jul-2002 to Mar-2016: Murphy, Patrick

Jan-1999 to Jun-2002: Litzow, James

Jul-1989 to Dec-1998: Herse, Charles John

Jul-1987 to Jul-1989: Kelly, John R.

May-1987 to Jul-1987: Carr, J.

Jan-1975 to May-1987: Killoran, J.T.

1974; Pearce, D.

Jan-1973 to Dec-1974: Harvey, L.B.

1972: Strachan, B.W.

Jul-1970 to Aug-1972: Long, D.D.R.

Oct-1969 to Jul-1970: Heber, J.

Jan-1967 to Oct-1969: William, D.J.

1967: Shields, John A.

Jan-1952 to 1966: Wasley, Leslie John

Jan-1949 to Dec-195: Cutler, Leslie T.

Jan-1946 to Dec-1948: Bonham, Philip Henry

Jan-1940 to Dec-1945: McComb, William Robert

Jan-1939 to Dec-1939: Gilchrist, Harry Edward

Jul-1936 to Dec-1938: Morrow, William Henry

Apr-1915 to Jun-1936: Daniels, Charles Everitt

Oct-1914 to Mar-1915: Gray, William Thomas

Jul-1913 to Jan-1915: Waddle, Isaac

Jun-1909 to Jun-1913: Fielding, Thomas

Aug-1907 to Jun-1909: Reinhold, Charles William

Sep-1903 to Jul-1907: Johnston, James

Jan 1891 to Aug-1903: Avenell, Richard Goodal

Jul 1887 to Dec 1890: Croston, William

Jul 1884 to Jun 1887: Towell, John Chaseley

Jan 1883 to Jun 1884: Reinhold, Charles William

Jan 1877 to Dec 1882: Stephens, James Brunton

Last reviewed 27 November 2019
Last updated 27 November 2019