STONY CREEK STATE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL NO. 886.
The original school building measured 24 ft. by 14 ft. It cost £35 to build, and had an itinerant teacher in charge. In 1866, an application was made by Mr. W. W. Walker, on behalf of the local community, for assistance with an increase in salary and a grant of £70 to extend the building. The grant was refused, as the Board of Education did not consider the building suitable. However, the salary request was approved as from 15th July, 1867. Mr. James Knight was the first head teacher.
With a net enrolment in 1867 of 37 pupils, the school had to be extended to a size of 36 ft. by 14 ft. by 11 ft. In 1869, a red brick building was built at a cost of £243 and the old building then became a three-room residence.
The gold rush at Stony Creek in 1876 saw a great increase in the number of children attending but, by 1893, when the gold had run out, there was talk of closing the school. By 1902, when the net enrolment had fallen to 10, the District Inspector considered that the school should operate on a part-time basis with the Red Lion School No. 850, situated near Majorca. The Stony Creek School finally closed in 1916.
In 1905, Miss Elizabeth James was appointed head teacher and she immediately set about redecorating the interior of the school building, earning the compliments of Mr. A. Dean, the School Inspector that year. In 1906, Mr. Dean’s compliments were for the gardens and he noted that a flower house had been erected.
That Miss James was able to gain the interest and support of the local community was obvious when many parents attended on Arbor Day , 1907, to witness the planting of 15 trees in the school grounds.
To create the rock gardens, the story is told that the children were asked to bring a small piece of rock or quartz to school each day for the purpose of outlining the flower beds and the large map of Australia. The boys were responsible for clearing the grounds of old stumps and carrying in soil and gravel for the garden. A sundial was a feature of the completed garden, as well as a summer house with pot plants, a garden seat beneath a shady tree, and climbing plants covered a wire netting framework by the school porch.
In October, 1910, Inspector Saxton visited the school and made the following report: “The teaching in this little school has been of the sound, thoughtful type it is a pleasure to find. The school is in the heart of a forest of scrub yet a garden more suitable for a city flourishes. The children and parents are extremely interested in everything that pertains to their school and its life. Nothing is too good to be done for it
The children’s intelligence has been very well trained. They are being given excellent habits and the community owes to Miss James very much indeed for the institution she has made to live in their midst. The value of the school as a lead centre of the little community is inestimable.”
This report was typical of the comments made by the District Inspectors about Miss James, even after she had left! When she left in September, 1912, a farewell concert was given in the Stony Creek School, and Miss James moved to Clunes, where she lived and taught – and created another beautiful garden.
Her successor at Stony Creek was Miss Elsie Ellis, a temporary teacher until May, 1913, followed by Miss Ann Weir as head teacher. From March, 1914, until 30th June, 1916, Miss Margaret Spotswood was in charge and her last entry in the teacher’s time book was “Adieu”.
From then on, the school operated part-time with Red Lion, with Mr. A. Arnold working Red Lion on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Stony Creek on Tuesdays and Fridays.
After the closure of the Stony Creek School, the records were kept in a tin trunk in the shelter shed at the Talbot School. Here they were discovered at a working bee in 1973. As the then president of the Talbot School Committee, Mr. L. Solamano, remarked at the time, it was very fortunate that they had not been thrown out as rubbish and burned!
(The above is based on an article which appeared in the “Ballarat Courier” in March, 1985. My thanks to Edna Jarvis for supplying me with a copy of it. Ed.)
Web-site – http://home.vicnet.net.au/~adhs/ADHSMain.htm Newsletter No. 205 AUGUST, 2002