Sebastopol State School No. 1167 (Former)
Written by Troy Neenan
As urban development continues to expand Sebastopol it becomes difficult to be reminded that the region has a proud history built upon the sweat and labor of our previous generations.
Ballarat is proud of its historical lineage, and as citizens of Ballarat we seek to restore our buildings and street not just for tourism and commerce but to enlighten future generations of where they come from and where our city started.
While new schools become built and are forgotten Sebastopol primary school still remembers its old history. Over 140 years the old school building still stands as a reminder of the thousands of lives that have become enriched through learning.
During the hustle and bustle of Ballarat’s gold rush period, the fledgling community known as Sebastopol was both the home and workplace to the pioneering miners and their families.
During this busy period a number of educational establishments had been erected around the Sebastopol area with 50 pupils.
These included a school in the North West corner of Albert street and Morgan street run by a Mrs Slater, as well as a private girl school located west of the Sebastopol pool and a private school operated by a Miss Thompson and a Holmes.
In 1861, Edward Twiss established a non-vested church of England known as Sebastopol State school 578 (SS578).
Documented as a flimsy building formed by removing the partitions out of the floor of a dwelling, the original school lacked both proper ventilation or lighting.
After the Education act was established in 1973, SS578 was converted into Sebastopol State School 1167 and was made into a common (primary) institution.
Newly re-established into a common school, Edward Martain Whatty was appointed as the first Head Teacher (Principle.)
Whatty, a tall, thin, silent man named was assisted in teaching 150 pupils with his wife Mrs Whatty, a Miss Partridge, and a Miss Anderson.
While Mr. Whatty controlled the common school house, his wife was in charge of the middle classes. Miss Partridge was said to rule effectively in the big room while Anderson controlled the younger classes.
By this time attendance was 150, while the Roll number was 578.
The building itself was announced in October 1873 and was originally supposed to have six rooms.
In April 1874 on the 20th the bid for the building’s construction was given to Llewellyn Edwards and Co. for £3,395 19 shillings and a sixpence. Which is approximately 4 million dollars of today’s money.
The new school was officially opened in January 22nd 1873 but the changeover didn’t fully happen until the Roll moved into the new building at Yarrowee street when the building was finished in January 1875.
With the new building finished SS 1167 obtained one of the largest attendance at the time with 1000 pupils being taught by 16 teachers on staff.
The department also rented the Wesleyan school room in Beverin street. A big barn-like structure it was a mile away and held enough floor space for 8 or 10 classes.
A minor note in history on the 6th of January 1891 the school’s first certificate of merit No.757 was awarded by the education department of Victoria to William Morgan Abrahams.
As expected, as Ballarat’s gold rush days came to an end the school’s attendance dropped dramatically. As the gold within the surface dirt lowly receded the miners within the Ballarat area retreated to Kalgoorlie where new opportunities lay.
By 1930 the enrollment for the school reached 137 with the 1940’s having a mere 80 pupils enrolled with 3 teaching staff.
Renovations were also made in 1911 among which were the removal of tree stumps and the planting of Cypress hedges around the grounds.
Due to the second world war and the increase in both homes and industries, attendance slowly began to stabilize with enrollment reaching 305 by 1969 with ten teachers on staff.
By this time the building had also undergone a multitude of changes and remodeling since its first reincarnation. In 1973 there were nine classrooms, an office, a staff room, and a sick room, the stairwells were external.
In 1978 the school moved to its new building in Warreen Street turning their old building into a community centre.
In 1979 Mr Arthur Jenkins of the Historical Society stated at a meeting that Community Centre was available and that Mr Greg Smith, the acting Secretary reported that a grant of $1500 was provided by the government. The funds would be used for renovations and repairs to the building.
On Friday 14th December 1979 the Historical Society held their first meeting inside the former school.
The Sebastopol Historical Society took over 1 room.
Fred Hagelthorn, MLA, Minister of Agriculture;
John Edward Jones, JP, member of the local council from 1896-1939.
James Ferguson, Senior Inspector of State Audit Offices.
Henry J. Barker, B.A High rank teacher position
George Ellingsen, Dip,ED Lieutenant-Cornel in the army.
James Harries, appointed Home Affairs Department
W.F.Gates, Inspector of schools.
Lilian Ling, M.A held senior positions at Ballarat HS and Ballarat girl’s school. Also co-author of Mathematics texts.
Harold Jolly, inspector of Art in Victorian schools.
1911-1913 Mr. J.E. Jones
1914-1921 CR. R. Odgers.
1922-1925 Mr J. Baxter
1926 1930 Cr. J. Busch
1931-1942 Mr. H.V. Reynolds.
1952-1956 Mr. J. Rae
1957-1973 Mr. L.A. Spencer.
Edward M. Whatty Jan 1st 1864 – Aug 7th 1875
James Oldham Feb 1st 1876 – Nov 11th 1878
William L. Clarke Nov 26th 1878- Mar 31st 1881
Hugh Young May 7th 1881 – Oct 14th 1883
James Elvins Oct18th 1883 – Oct 6th 1886
William Dimsey Nov 9th 1886 – Aug 22nd 1893
Edward J.M. Hamilton Aug 23rg 1893 – Feb 2nd 1895
Timothy Costelloe Jul 5th 1893 – Nov 30th 1908
Albert V. Birrell April 19th 1909 Aug 31st 1910
Andrew J.N. Horan Sep 1st 1910 – Dec 31st 1916
Thomas Jones Jan 1st 1917 – Sep 30th 1917
George Ellingsen Oct 1st 1917 – Mar 31st 1921
Henery W. Corrie Sep 19th 1925 – Dec 1936
Frank Clough Jan 1st 1938 – June 1957
William P. Mitchell June 1957 – Dec 31st 1968
Walter Stalker Jan 1969
Numerous Organizations have influenced not just the school but also the building itself.
One of the earliest groups that aided the school and building was the Mother’s Club which was formed in 1936 with president Mrs. B. Reynolds.
By holding events like the Children’s Frolic, the Mother’s group was able to gain funding for the school. A number of their more successful ventures was a Victory Tea in 1945 to celebrate peace in Europe and the Pacific with 150 children and 50 mothers in attendance.
After the school moved associations continued to use the building for functions and meetings including the Gem club.
Current associations involved with the community center include:
Sebastopol Historical Society.
Vision and Realisation, Vol 2, Education Department of Victoria. Pg 663, Year 1973.
Sebastopol Primary School No. 1167 Centenary 1873-1973.
Gemma Daley, 1997, Sebs school marks its 125th birthday, Ballarat Courier, pg15.
1st Minute book of Historic Society. Vol 1, Pg 82.