Early schools

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 as a hall.

Despite the original building being called a school-church there is no evidence that it was ever used as a school: however it might have at one stage fulfilled this intention. 

[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 the Australian Agricultural Company who died, aged 79 years, on 29 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 this school, Miss Long went on to open her own school called Beecroft College [2].

This 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 to that house.

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. Also see Sydney Morning Herald 30 January 1900.

[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 at 114 Beecroft Road. 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. The boy was taken before the Children’s Court and sent to Ormond House for neglected children.

[1] Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 15 August 1908

[2] Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers 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 near present-day Arden. In 1914 they re-located this school into the building now being the second (two-storeyed) house from the corner on Beecroft Road north from Copeland Road.  Miss 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. Her father had been a medical practitioner in Marrickville but had lost his money during the 1890s depression and died in 1906 [1].

The school may have had as many as 100 enrolments at its most popular. While boys were enrolled in kindergarten and the junior school, it only took girls in the later years. Often the girls went on to other schools for example, Helen Macready went to the Presbyterian Ladies College Croydon and Esme Connell went to Bedford College Strathfield [2].

Miss Long sold the school in 1915 to Mrs Florence McCarthy (nee Hague Smith). Mrs McCarthy’s husband, Jack Edmund McCarty was fighting in World War 1 at the time. She had two children (Elwin Justin born 1909 and Nancy a’Beckett born in 1912). 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. The last entry for the school in the Sands Directory is 1922.

[1]      The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 17 March 1900 p 11; Northern District Times, 1 June 1988 p.17.

[2]      “Together again 71 years on” Northern District Times, 1 June 1988 p17

Ellswood College, Beecroft (1910-1913)

The school was founded in 1910 by Mrs Mary Boylson in what is now called Bimbadeen 15 Malton Road [1]. In 1912 it had 15 students enrolled. Two of Mrs Boylson’s daughters (May and Marcella) 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.  

[1]      The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 2 April 1910 p.8

Eschallens, Cheltenham (1915-1929)

This school was located at 66 Cheltenham Road, Cheltenham. It appears to have commenced in 1915 and ran to 1929. It was run by Miss Harriet M Jones with assistance from her two sisters. The school was named after the school they attended in Switzerland – where they became fluent in French and German. Evidence that it was certified as a school exists for 1926 [1] and from a newspaper article it had a number of students (boys and girls) being awarded prizes in that same year [2]. The school had about 20 students and went to third grade. For singing classes, one of the Miss Jones played the piano in the front parlour and the students stood on the lawn outside of the window and sang [3].

[1]      Government Gazette, 9 April 1926 1639

[2]      Sun, 17 December 1926 p7

[3]      information supplied by Mrs Esme Rae and Mrs Lorna Fennell

Cheltenham College (1919? -1924?)


Located in Oaklands Kirkham Street Beecroft (the former Tucker home) 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 Talbot Vivian Grey. Rev Grey was an ordained Church of England (now Anglican) minister. He had been a minister in Cumnock NSW [4] 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 [5].

After the school closed, the Rev. Grey conducted a guest house in the home [6].

[1]      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]      Molong Argus, 29 September 1911 p4

[5]      Daily Telegraph, 14 May 1919

[6]      A Tierney, A Beecroft Childhood, memories of the 1940s (privately printed, Castle Hill, 2011) p 12.

Pennant Hills College (1917-1922)

This school had originally been conducted in Hillcrest, Weemala Avenue Pennant Hills by Mrs Phillips and her nieces Elsie and Sylvia Massey. This school was closed because of the influenza pandemic of 1919 [1].

While the Pennant Hills site was still being conducted, a new school was established by Mrs Phillips in Beecroft – but it was soon taken over by her sister, Mrs George (Catherine) Massey, in 1918 [2]. It was conducted in Sheen (corner of Hannah and York Streets) the home of the Herring family that had recently been vacated by the Vicars family who had stayed there while their home Yallambee was being built in Cheltenham [3]. It was established as a Church of England (now Anglican) day and boarding school for girls and the Chairman of the Board was Rev Joseph Young of Carlingford parish. By 1919, Mr William G Dunn had taken over as Headmaster and Mrs Massey was described as the Principal. Mr Dunn commented on a pleasing growth in school number notwithstanding the influenza pandemic – which had closed the school in Pennant Hills. The number of boarders had again grown in 1920. The last record of the school, found to date is an advertisement in September 1922 indicating that enrolments were sought for the final term that year [4]. The property had been sold in 1922 to Twilight Homes [5].

[1]      H Barker & P Dewey, Pennant Hills: People and Places 1800 – 2010 (Pennant Hills Civic Trust, Pennant Hills, 2018) p. 219.

[2]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 21 December 1918 p. 6

[3]      See elsewhere on this website for entries on Sheen, Yallambee, Herring and Vicars.

[4]      Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 1919, 29 May 1920, 23 December 1920 p. 11and 2 September 1922 p.11; Daily Telegraph, 7 January 1922.

[5]      See elsewhere on this website for the history of Twilight House in Beecroft under the story of the house, Sheen, in York Street Beecroft.

Beecroft Grammar School (1925-1965)

This school was established by 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 being 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].

While we might note these comments, the letter acknowledging his resignation from Barker College from its 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].

Two long term teachers were two sisters, the Misses Craig, who taught in the later 1940s to 1960s. One of the Misses Craig was a ‘powerful woman’ who Nigel Butterley, later an important Australian composer, remembers as ‘insisting that any word which had an ‘h’ after a ‘w’ such as white, when or where, must have the ‘h’ pronounced’[14].

Butterley also remembers one of his friends, Michael Slater, a bigger boy, walking home with him after school one day during World War 2 and pushing Butterley into one of the air raid shelters.

The school closed 5 years after the death of 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

[14]    Information supplied by Janet Paterson 8 February 2013 and Nigel Butterley in 2005.

Beecroft Presbyterian Ladies College. Link to Schools/Arden Arden

See the separate article under Schools/Arden on this web site.