The earliest school in St Kilda,
in Acland Street,
was founded (and funded) in 1851, by the Church of England. It later became
Common School No. 565.
It survived for over 30 years until it was
replaced by St Kilda Park State School (20). A second school, this time
for boys only, was opened by the seventeen-year old William Cox on 24 February
1855 in a five-roomed timber house in Neptune Street. William taught in a room
8.8 x 7.3 metres which could have accommodated sixty pupils. Room sizes are
important for earlier schools, in determining the number of double desks, and
hence pupils, that could fit.
The next year, this school was supported by
government funding as a National school, for both girls and boys. After various
moves around St Kilda, its 170 pupils were accommodated behind a house in
It was described as one of the best schools in the colony.
The second precursor of BrightonRoadState
(now Primary) school was a Denominational School No 584, founded by the
Presbyterian Church in Inkerman
Street, on 1 October 1856.
Its average attendance rose to 178 pupils. The new Education Department
(unusually) leased it for a year until the end of 1874. Eleven days later in
January 1875, State School No 1479, St Kilda (Brighton
Development of this school reflected the
colonial government’s increasing intervention in primary education. At the end
of 1873, the new Education Act
was enforced in
Education (at least up to age 15) was free (in most subjects), compulsory and
secular. The government took over responsibility from local committees for
building all schools and began a massive building programme. Amazingly, about a
third of all nineteenth century Education Department schools were built in
An architectural competition held in July 1873
produced 13 new school designs, Brighton Road is not directly derived from these
designs, (as many schools were), but is another new urban school design
initiated by the head of the Education Department’s Architecture Branch, Henty
Robert Bastow. The initials B(?).J.M.
(with D.M.) are on the drawings and could refer to
Edmund J. Maplestone, Assistant Draftsman in 1876.
Lacking today’s access to demographic
research, the Department found it difficult to estimate the prospective number
of pupils for the new school: its unusual mirrored plan and front elevation with
a pair of central gables, is said to have resulted from its indecision between a
building for either 320 or 640 pupils, even in the builder’s contract. The
design for the BrightonRoadState
school influenced that of at least two later schools: Daylesford No1609
(1873-75) and Geelong West (formerly Ashby) No1492 (1875).
The site is part of the triangular St Kilda
Market Reserve (33). It now comprises the Town Hall (1890), Holy Trinity
Anglican Church and its hall, the Uniting (former Wesleyan) Church (1877), an
electrical substation, as well as the school buildings and playground. The
architects of the UnitingChurch,
Crouch and Wilson
(44), designed its tower to closely reflect the earlier tower of the
which had been built three years earlier.
Duplication of the Brighton Road school’s plan
produced a very long single-storied façade, with gables projecting at each end
and the pair of gables facing at its centre, with one entrance between and
others nesting in the end angles. The right entrance has the picturesque high,
square belltower. It retains its bell, still occasionally used and can be heard
as far away as Balaclava.
Its brickwork is polychromatic, in cream. red and
brown, which the department architects frequently adopted in the nineteenth
century, following the recommendation of influential English art theorist, John
Ruskin for use of ‘constructional colour’.
under head-teacher John Hadfield (1875-88) who came from ChristChurchSchool,
soon became known as progressive. A scholars’ lending library opened in August
1875. Free night classes attracted 100 pupils, many of mature age, when
secondary education elsewhere was fee-paying. The school’s drum and fife band
achieved local fame. A photograph in 1882, shows
frock-coated and top-hatted teachers, boys in knickerbockers, jackets and heavy
boots and the bandsmen in braided jackets and caps. Its cadet corps was said to
be one of the finest in the colony. One of the cadets grew up to become Major
General Sir John Hoad, Commander in Chief of the
Commonwealth Military Forces. In 1900, 24 pupils volunteered for the Boer War in
500 ex-pupils served in World War I: 55 did not return. Their names are
recorded on an honour board in the 1914 building.
Concerns of inadequate accommodation for all
pupils at BrightonRoadSchool,
were confirmed by the huge initial enrolment of 604 pupils, necessitating
employment of 12 teachers. This crowding was eased by the construction of St
Kilda Park School in 1882, and later at Brighton Road
most unusually, by the demolition of the tower in 1887 and the erection of a
second storey over the central three gabled bays, culminating in a similar
tower, but with a balconette.
After an amalgamation of St Kilda Park with
perhaps due to the Boer War, it is not known for how long, they were separated
again in 1907. This may partly explain the confusion in which some famous pupils
are later claimed by both schools. In 1913 a record pupil population of 1,269
In 1919, an influenza epidemic led to the
school being requisitioned as a temporary hospital for 600 patients.
most distinguished pupil was Sidney Nolan (1917-92), one of the most famous
Australian artists (9). He was extraordinarily prolific. Many of his
works develop tragic themes from Australian history: the deaths of Ned Kelly,
Burke and Wills, and of Galipolli; as well as of our
flora and fauna. He also designed for the theatre, ballet and opera, both here
and in England,
where he lived in later life. He engaged in a memorable feud with his former
friend Patrick White, for whose novels he designed several covers. Nolan
received the Order of Merit (1985), Commander of the Order of Australia
(1988) and was Australia’s
only Royal Academician. Several of his works depict St Kilda subjects,
the Sea Baths, and BrightonRoadStateSchool
yard, including the School’s number. This last work was painted in 1944 and is
held by the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Nolan explained that the central statue in the
work depicts his schoolteacher: ‘we were well taught and when released, ran wild
at playtime, the boys trying to be masculine with feats of glory like hanging
from the football scoreboard...the playground was a mass of dispersed activity
and that’s how I still activate my paintings...’ (Sidney
Nolan, 17 July 1978). He was at Brighton Road
Both Brighton Road
claim former Governor General Sir Zelman Cowen, and
test cricketer Keith Miller as former pupils.
In 1901, BrightonRoadSchool
was renovated and the tiered platforms removed from the classrooms. Internal
toilets were installed in cloakrooms. New classrooms were added in 1907 and in
the following year, external windows enlarged by inserting concrete lintels,
classrooms were divided with glass screens and the
porches were sealed up. In 1914 a new, red brick Federation style
pavilion-shaped infants’ building was erected, designed under Chief Architect E.
Evan Smith. (Drawings are initialled B.J.M. and J.H.M.).
Over 1966-67, a new, well-graded sports oval,
canteen and seven new classrooms were opened. In 1969-70, a library and
multi-purpose room complex was built, innovatively financed by a co-operative
During the 1980s, the school grounds were
extensively landscaped and in 1989, the Children’s Courtyard between the 1875
and 1914 buildings was created. Its bricks record names of the pupils that
Today, Brighton is
proud of its involvement of parents in the management of the school on School
Council and through its sub-committees, and as partners in the classroom. Early
each morning parents observe pupils read, write and measure. Today, the school
has many Chinese and Russian pupils, as well as from Japan,
and New Zealand.
It celebrates its cultural diversity and teaches about Australia’s
past, both indigenous and European.
David and Wilson Sayer Core.St Kilda Conservation Study Area 2.(undated).
pp115-118. Different architects’ initials are
given here: T or P(?) G.F.
Since the drawings do not appear to survive, this could not be checked.
Ed. Vision and Realisation.A Centenary History of State Education in Victoria.Education
Department of Victoria, Melbourne
Vol.3. pp300 ,302, 344 & 345.
Laurence. Victorian Schools. A Study in
Government Architecture 1837-1900. MelbourneUniversity
1980. pp105,107 & 108. (Sketch
plan and illustration).
Butler. The History of St Kilda from its First
Settlement to a City and After. 1840-1930.
St Kilda City Council.
1931. Vol.1. p384-387.