Canterbury Public School

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Canterbury Public School was first opened on 25 March 1878, initially in the Church of England hall, across Sugar House Road (now Church Street), Canterbury NSW.

The landmark stone schoolhouse followed shortly after, with heavy rains delaying completion. It was designed by the Mansfield Brothers who were well known Sydney architects at the time. It is believed to have been constructed from local sandstone and the original structure is now used as a teacher's staff room. It is now a heritage listed building. In the application to the Government, one hundred children had promised to attend the school, some walking as far away as present-day Earlwood. Until this time, the nearest Public Schools were at Ashfield, Moorfields, Petersham and Marrickville; the Church of England School in the village of Canterbury had closed the year before.

Initially, there were 161 pupils and steadily rose as the Canterbury district grew during the next few decades. By the time Miss Boothe, of Ashfield, was appointed the first mistress of the girls department in 1886, the enrolment had reached 247. By 1912 the school had 845 pupils.

With extensions built in 1889 and 1912, the school received its first demountable in 1913. Called a pavillion classroom, it incorporated the latest design ideas in providing ventilation and natural light.

The school serves a culturally diverse community currently consisting of 255 students.[1] A significant number of students attend the school from out of area. A notable headmaster was Robert B. Parry.

The school celebrated its 120th anniversary with a reunion at the Canterbury Park Racecourse in 1998; several of the guests present had also attended the centenary dinner in 1978.

Timeline 1878 to 1940

June 1877 An application was made to the Council of Education for a Public School at Canterbury with 161 prospective pupils. The application was approved.
Nov 1877 Mr. Thomas Perrott notified the Council of Education that he would accept its offer of £360 for two acres of land with 204 ft. frontage on Sugar House Road and extending through to Minter Street.
16 March 1878 Pending the completion of government school buildings, the Reverend James Carter granted permission for the new public school to be opened in the Church of England school buildings recently closed down. In return he requested the Council of Education to pay £20 outstanding on improvements to the former denominational school buildings. Mr George Wenholz was appointed teacher in temporary charge and was later assisted by a pupil/teacher, Master Pyman.
25 Mar 1878 A request was received to use the schoolroom for a public meeting to discuss the incorporation of the village of Canterbury.
9 Aug 1878 The first Canterbury Public School Board was appointed. Members were Messrs. John Campbell Sharp (chairman), Thomas Perrott (secretary) and Alfred Barton Miller. These men had been nominated by Mr. J.S. Jones, Inspector at Stanmore.

Mr. Edwin Tyrell was appointed an additional member on 13th September of that year.

1879 The first school buildings which included a teacher’s residence were erected by Messrs. Signell and Clarke at a cost of £2,558. The building, a substantial stone structure, comprised one schoolroom and one classroom.
21 Apr 1879 Parents and citizens signed a petition in favour of Mr. Wenholz being appointed permanently in charge of the school. However, the Council of Education pointed out that since he had not had country service, he could not be permanently appointed to a city school.
5 July 1879 The final payment was made to Messrs. Bignell and Clark for the construction of the school building.
17 Jan 1880 Mr. Thomas Burks installed three water tanks for the school.
16 Mar 1880 Messrs. Thomas Austin Davis, Matthew Roberts and Donald Robertson became additional members of the Canterbury Public School Board.
28 Sep 1882 Mr. R.B. Parry became headmaster; Mr. Weinholz. handed over the school only under duress, and was transferred to Parkes.
31 July 1885 Enrolments reached 247 and average attendance 200. It was decided to add another building to ensure adequate floor space. The additional building of wood with an iron roof was erected by Messrs, Fallick and Kendall for £485.
5 Dec 1888 Complaints were made regarding the inadequate water supply at the school, which consisted of tanks and a well. The water main was at this time approaching the village of Canterbury, but no move could be made until it actually arrived. The well was filled in in June, 1901.
Jan 1891 A 75ft. picket fence was erected by Messrs. Eaglee and Saggers.
20 Aug 1891 The first celebration of Arbor Day was held at the school.
4 Jan 1898 As a result of a typhoid epidemic in the district, the school grounds were treated.
Aug 1900 Repairs and improvements were made by Mr. D.McDonald for £136. They included tar paving, construction of a drinking trough and the strengthening of school foundations.
25 Apr 1900 A new building for the girls department was completed by Hr. McDonald for £1,315. Due for completion in January, 1900, delay was due to a spell of rainy weather which caused moulded brick material for the basecourse to deteriorate. This section had to be constructed before the superstructure could be completed.
31 Jan 1902 The staff consisted, at this stage, of a principal, two assistants and two pupil teachers in the boys’ department, a mistress, three assistants ,and one pupil teacher in the girls' department.
5 May 1905 Mr George Dart took over as principal. Mr. Parry retired at the age of 64 after 23 years service at Canterbury Public School.
1905 A long standing claim for compensation for land resumed in 1891 was paid. In May, 1902, the trustees of the estate of Mr. Frederick Clissold deceased, had claimed compensation of £729/6/- from the Department of Public Instruction for two acres three perches of land resumed for school building at Canterbury in 1891. Although notice of resumption had been served on Mr. Clissold in July, 1891, no claim for compensation had been made by Mr. Clissold within the statutory 90 days. The respondents claimed that Mr. Clissold had at the time entered into an agreement with the Department of Public Instruction that his claim for compensation be deferred until his defective title to the land was cleared up but departmental records did not bear this out.
2 July 1908 Facilities for cookery classes were set up in the Church of England, school hall.
April 1910 The manual training class enclosed the end portion of the verandah of the boys’ department to serve as a storeroom for manual training material and tools.
8 May 1911 Permission was granted for the afternoon lessons to begin at 1.30 p.m. instead of 2.00 p.m. due to train travel arrangements.
1 Jan 1913 Canterbury Public School was raised to Class I and a separate infants department was established.
23 Feb 1914 An evening domestic science course was approved, and day classes in domestic science established for school children.
29 July 1915 £3,411/13/1 was spent on four extra rooms constructed by the Constructor of Buildings. A seventh class began in the girls’ department.
Nov 1916 Permission was granted to the Canterbury Branch of the Parents and Citizens’ Association to erect a noticeboard in the school grounds to advertise meetings.
26 Mar 1917 A verandah and balcony were enclosed for £138/17/- under the supervision of the District Works Officer.
14 July 1917 The Parents and Citizens Association was advised that the establishment of an Intermediate High had been deferred for the duration of the war due to shortages of finance, materials and teachers.
16 Nov 1918 A science room was fitted up for £68/15/7.
1918 Canterbury Public School donations to war effort appeals had included £530 subscribed in 1918, and donations of clothing to War Chest etc.
7 Feb 1919 The school was connected to Ashfield Telephone Exchange
5 Aug 1920 The Department of Public Instruction approved plans for the erection of a Soldiers’ Memorial in the school grounds.
24 Sept 1920 A western wing of 10 infants classrooms added to the girls’ department was completed , replacing scattered temporary classrooms. The contractor, Mr. Wright, undertook the construction for £6,103/12/1.
1921 During 1921 the school was connected with the sewer.
Nov 1922 Drinking taps had been recently installed and the water supply extended to the school garden.
17 March 1925 A tender by Mr. S.T. Baker for £9,543 for a new building to house the Boys’ Department was accepted by the Department of Public Instruction. The work was completed on 20/11/25.
Dec 1925 Pemission was granted for the school to use Pratten Park for sport on Monday and Wednesday afternoons commencing with the 1926 school year. Previously Hurlstone Agricultural High School had used the park, but it was then in the process of shifting to a new site.
7 Dec 1925 Kerbing and guttering was completed on the Alice Street, Minter Street and Smith Avenue frontages. The Department of Public Instruction contributed £65/7/6.
May 1926 Canterbury Girls School Improvement Association contributed £300 towards a girls' gymnasium. The balance of £232/10/- was found by the Department.
15 Aug 1929 The school was broken into and a fire noticed in the girls’ fitting room in the early morning. References to breaking and entering occur regularly in the records from now on.
15 Feb 1930 Average enrolments in the Girls’ Department reached 591.
19 Feb 1930 The Headmaster requested the services of two gardeners to remodel the school gardens.
1931 A Domestic Science building was completed for £30,925 to house 644 pupils. Two cottages were demolished in late 1930 to make way for the new building. Enrolments had by then reached 644 Domestic Science, 546 boys, 588 girls, 466 infants.
Sept 1938 To overcome the difficulty of disposing of rubbish a brick incinerator was built for £47.
13 Oct 1939 A medical report referred to the dangerous state of the girls’ and infants’ playground area, where the asphalt had become considerably broken up. There were frequent references during 1939 to accidents to children caused by the loose uneven surface. It was estimated that £1,200 would be required to resurface the playground and provide playground seats.


Howe, G. (1 April 1997) "Golden Rule Days" The Inner West Courier.

"Canterbury Public School, 1940-1940". Courtesy NSW Education Department