Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Early schools

 St John’s School-Church, Beecroft (1891)

 The first record of this establishment was in November 1890 when Charles Tucker and William Coward, as trustees, purchased land on the corner of Hannah Street and Beecroft Road. Hart & Sons of Parramatta won the tender to build a school-church which was opened in February 1891. “The pretty little building was crowded to overflowing and a number gathered around the entrance.” The opening was conducted by Archdeacon Gunther and the local Church of England Minister Rev George Macintosh assisted. [1] Despite this opening it was not until 18 January 1892 that the building was licensed as a church. In 1905 this site was sold and the present site on the corner of Beecroft Road and Chapman Avenue was purchased. The building was towed by steam traction engine to be relocated on the new site – where it remains to the present day.

 Despite the original building being called a school-church there is no evidence that it was ever used as a school. 

 1]        Cumberland Mercury 14 February 1891 p 6

 Willabah School (Miss Ogden’s School) Beecroft (1892-1902)

 This school was mostly located in Mary Street, on the first house block, just behind the later built Higgins General Store (in 2020 a liquor store) on the corner of Mary Street and Beecroft Road. It was founded by Sarah Emily Constance Ogden who was only 19 years of age and her 17 year old sister Gertrude Augusta. The two sisters were the daughters of George Ogden who had been a surveyor in the Lands Department and died, aged 79 years, on 27 January 1900. The newspaper reported that “his death was due to a general breaking up of the constitution.” [1]

 While initially classes were conducted in the Ogden family home (called ‘Willabah’ Beecroft Road) a small weatherboard school room (not a whole lot larger than a shed) was soon built and remained on the site in Mary Street until the 1970s.

 The curriculum for girls and boys at the school had an emphasis on music and teaching. Both of the sisters had graduated from what is now Sydney Girls High School. Dance classes were also conducted on a Saturday afternoon by the dance teacher for the Misses Ogden – Beatrice Long. When Miss Ogden sold the school Miss Long went on to open her own school called Beecroft College. [2] The school held its first end of year entertainment in 1898 consisting of a number of ‘tableaux vivants’ and pianoforte solos. The students participating were: Dorothy Whittell, Flora McCall, Hilda Holcombe, Bessie Stobo, Doris Tucker, Katie McMillan, Harold Ogden, Clement Meadmore, Alice Chorley, Jeane Dobbie, Irene Thompson, Nellie Dongers, Phyllis Meadmore, Mabel Chorley, Rupert Tucker, Leila Conley, Gladys Allard and Flo Tucker. [3]

 Gertrude married Rev Arthur William Coates of Newtown in October 1902. [4] At the end of that school year prize giving, Miss Ogden announced that, after 10 years of her running the school, Miss Simpson would then take over the school. Miss Simpson had formerly been a teacher at Ascham, Darling Point. [5] Miss Simpson renamed the school Ravenhurst College and relocated where it was conducted.

 Mrs Ogden and one of her daughters left their home at “Willabah” Beecroft and moved to Mudgee in 1917. [6]

 [1]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 7 February 1900 p2

[2]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 17 March 1900 p11

[3]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 23 December 1898

[4]        Sydney Morning Herald 30 October 1902 p1; Evening News 11 October 1902 p3

[5]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 27 December 1902

[6]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 15 December 1917

 Ravenhurst College, Beecroft (1903-1909)

 Miss Elise Simpson purchased Miss Ogden’s School, changed its name and relocated it to a new home on Beecroft Road between Wellham and Kirkham Streets. Miss Simpson had been a teacher at Ascham Darling Point and then taught with the Misses Ogden. She was a ‘matriculant of Sydney University.” Advertisements for the school imply that it took boarders and continued to have a curriculum centred on art and music.

 Miss Simpson sold the school in 1908 for reasons of her health. It was purchased by Mrs Eleanor Dow. Mrs Dow had a university degree from Melbourne. [1] Unfortunately shortly after her purchase there were two fires lit at the school by a 9 year old male boarder in 1909 [2] and these led to the school’s closure.

 [1]      Cumberland Argus and Fruit growers Advocate 15 August 1908

[2] Cumberland Argus and Fruit growers Advocate 27 March 1909

 Beecroft College (Miss Long’s School) (1904-1921)

 Beatrix Frances Helen Long and her mother Helen commenced a school in their homes on Beecroft Road – eventually moving into the building now being the second house on Beecroft Road north from Copeland Road. BeecrotcollegeextractMiss Long had been a dance teacher in Miss Ogden’s School having learnt to dance with the children of the then Governor of NSW, Lord Carrington and been taught by Mrs Warakitis for seven years. [1] Her father had been a medical practitioner in Marrickville but had lost his money during the 1890s depression and died in 1906.

 The school may have had as many as 100 enrolments at its most popular. While boys were enrolled in kindergarten it only took girls in the later years.

 Miss Long sold the school in 1915 to Mrs Florence McCarthy. During the Influenza Epidemic of 1919 Mrs McCarthy had to close the school because of government regulations. As a result Mrs McCarthy subsequently claimed compensation of over fifteen pounds for this closure.

 [1]        The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 17 March 1900 p 11


Ellswood College, Beecroft (1910-1913)

 The school was founded by Mrs Mary Boylson in Malton Road. In 1912 it had 15 students enrolled. At least two of Mrs Boylson’s daughters also taught in the school which specialised in music. In 1910 one student graduated in the Trinity College examination.

 Tragically Mrs Boylson was killed while crossing the railway line at Beecroft at dusk on 15 July 1913. While her daughters carried on the school it appears to have closed shortly thereafter.  

 Cheltenham College (1919 ? -1922 ?)

 Located in Beecroft this college for boys of all ages operated at least between 1919 [1] and 1922, and held prize givings in each of these years in its own hall [2] and was qualified to prepare students for the intermediate certificate within high school. [3] The Headmaster was Rev T Vivian Grey. Rev Grey was an ordained Church of England (now Anglican) minister. He had been a minister in Molong and in New Zealand. The school was said to have “large playing fields and open air dormitories.” It was also advertised as being 430ft above sea level. [4]

 [1]        The Daily Telegraph 14 May 1919

[2]        Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate 23 December 1922 p8 and a photograph of Award book plates are held by the Beecroft Cheltenham History Group for Eric Lowe.

[3]        Government Gazette 9 April 1926 p 1639

[4]        The Daily Telegraph 14 May 1919

 Beecroft Grammar School (1925-1965)

 This school was established by the Rev Albert Booth (1887-1960) with the school room (now demolished) being on what is now 152 Copeland Road East and the headmaster’s house and boarding house still standing at 154.

 Albert Booth was an ordained Church of England (now Anglican) Minister who had seven appointments in twelve years of ministry. This included Sale in Gippsland immediately following his marriage in Melbourne [1] and with his last parish was at Picton. Between 1922 and 1924 he was senior master at Barker College, Hornsby. This was not a happy appointment as one of his teaching colleagues says that he was “inclined to be fussy about certain types of matters” [2] and the school history says that while “hearty, big and generous…his manner did not commend him to the boys.” [3]

 Having noted these comments, the letter acknowledging his resignation from Barker College from the Principal, Mr W C Carter, graciously said:

 “You have my cordial good wishes for success in your new venture. From all accounts, a good preparatory school is much needed in Beecroft & I am sure that your experience with us should enable you to start a school of your own with every confidence of support & success. If I can advise and help you in any way please do not hesitate to let me know & I shall take a lively interest in your undertaking.” [4]

 In a new and different environment Booth flourished and tackled the growth of a school with gusto. He called his home “Shirley” after his daughter [5] and established the school in the next suburb to where he had grown up at Pennant Hills. [6] Old boys remember Rev Booth vigorously and energetically clearing the bush and reclaiming a creek area to form the school oval – now called Booth Park in Sutherland Road.

 Rev Booth set out his ambition for his school as:

 “(1)      that the smaller school for the small boy means greater happiness and less loneliness

(2)        that an abundance of milk food, poultry, eggs etc means health and contentment

(3)        that sound schooling in addition to character building is the foundation of successful manhood; and

(4)        that individual tuition is the backward child’s only hope of improvement.” [7]  

Later these were summed as saying that the school was “an expression of the family ideal.” [8]

 The situation of the school was also important when, in 1939, it is advertised as having “complete immunity of the school from epidemics for the last fifteen years is a tribute to its healthy position.” [9]

 The school had good results with for boys preparing to enter the Great Public Schools including winning scholarships to other schools [10]

 The school attracted boys from local families like Arnott, Somerville, Millner and North [11] but also from further afield. [12] Recognising and responding to the needs of families during and after the Great Depression Booth advertised how the school fees had been reduced. [13]

 The school closed 5 years after the death of the Rev Booth.

 [1]        Punch 3 April 1913 p573

 [2]        S W Seaborg quoted in S Braga Barker College-A History (Ferguson, Sydney, 1978) p 161

[3]        S Braga Barker College-A History (Ferguson, Sydney, 1978) pp 160-1

[4]        Letter W C Carter to Mr A Booth dated 25 August 1924. Photograph of letter held by Beecroft Cheltenham History Group. Original held on 26 February 1989 by Mrs G Lowe

[5]        Engagement of Shirley Winifred Booth was announced Sydney Morning Herald 24 October 1947 p20

[6]        Punch 3 April 1913 p573

[7]        Farmer and Settler 7 December 1933 p12

[8]        Famer and Settler 7 December 1939 p 14

[9]        Farmer and Settler 7 December 1939 p14

[10]      for example J Badgery-Parker to Trinity Grammar: Sydney Morning Herald 8 December 1948 p6. Also see Farmer and Settler 7 December 1939 p14

[11]      Sydney Morning Herald 16 December 1930 p15

[12]      for example Teddy Welch from Penrith: Nepean Times 24 February 1938 p5

[13]      Farmer and Settler 7 December 1933 p12

 Beecroft Presbyterian Ladies College

 See the separate article  on this web site for Arden

 Eschallens Private School, Cheltenham

 This school was certified as a school in 1926 [1] and already had a number of students (boys and girls) being awarded prizes in that same year.[2]

 [1]        Government Gazette 9 April 1926 1639

[2]        Sun 17 December 1926 p7


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