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Chain of Ponds [1871 - 1916]

A History of Chain of Ponds School 1871–1916 By Garry Norman Smith

At four o'clock on a Friday morning in October 1916 the Chain of Ponds Provisional School was destroyed by fire. According to the records uncovered at the State Archives and Records NSW, "There is nothing left intact but the tank and the chimney". The school building was not insured but the teacher's residence was covered; the residence was not damaged.

Mr Lionel Barber, teacher at the school, sent a telegram from Gunning to the Chief Inspector, Mr Dawson, to inform him that the school had been destroyed and that the matter was in the hands of the police. As it turned out there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire.

Lionel Barber received permission to sell off the furnishings, the school's "very choice cow", "in full milk" and the sulky 'in splendid repair'. Thomas Starr placed the advertisement in the Goulburn Evening Penny Post (23 November 1916) and managed the clearing out sale held at the school on Saturday 25 November 1916.

The Provisional School at Chain of Ponds had already been recommended for closure due to the poor attendance by local children – this was an issue that was to influence the school's status throughout its history. 

The school began as a Provisional School in 1871. Provisional elementary schools emerged in 1867 to cater for children in areas of scattered population. Parents and other local citizens had to provide a school building and all furniture; the teacher was paid by the Council of Education (later the Department of Education) which also supplied books and equipment.

Chain of Ponds School started with the support of local farmers and graziers who had to ensure at least 15 children to attend the school. By 1878 the locals had the required number of 25 children to request that a Public School be established at Chain of Ponds. The local School Committee made application on 8 April 1878. The committee consisted of John Johnson, James Hazell, John Robinson, Edward Hinds and William Buist.

[New South Wales Government Gazette, Friday 30 August 1878 (No.270), page 3466]

Among the local parents who 'offered up' their children for the Public School were notable forebears of the author: Charles Alchin – children, Percy, Albert and Martha; William Alchin – children, John, Sidney, Alfred and Margaret. 

By the following year – 1879 – Chain of Ponds Public School had a total enrolment of 46 pupils, 19 boys and 27 girls; school fees were levied at £14 5s 4d per annum. These pupil numbers were more than for Dalton Public School – 35 pupils. (Burrowa News, Friday 4 July 1879, 2).

The board of the school added two new members in 1879: Mr Granger and Mr Lade. (Goulburn Herald and Chronicle, Monday 22 September 1879, 2). This may well have been in response to a serve from the Goulburn Herald correspondent in July:

I hear that Mr. Johnson has tendered his resignation as hon. sec. of the local board, Chain of Ponds public school, to the Council of Education, owing to the apathy of the other members of the board. It is a great pity, as Mr. Johnson has been most zealous and energetic in promoting the interest of the school for a number of years. I think the appointing of five or six persons as a local board is a farce, for where one or two are indefatigable in their exertions to keep up the prestige of the school, others are mere nonentities, satisfied with the honor (if honor it is) of seeing their names appear as members of a local board, instead of assisting the willing ones to make the school prosper. The parents of the children attending the Chain of Ponds public school and the Jerrawa provisional school should hold meetings, and revise their local board by throwing out the nonentities and electing gentlemen [sic] who are willing to promote the interest of their schools.

Apropos of schools, I think a Sunday-school should be established here. It is a standing disgrace that the little ones should be allowed to run about playing on the Sabbath instead of being at a Sunday-school.

[Goulburn Herald and Chronicle. 26 July 1879, p. 2]

From 1878 to 1904 Chain of Ponds Public School began a chequered life as a local school for several families. There had previously been controversy around attracting a teacher; there was originally no residence when the provisional school operated but a residence was constructed with fencing by 1882. A new brick and stone building was recommended in 1883 to replace the slab school house. The school and residence suffered over the years and were often in need of repairs for the flooring, chimney and overall painting. Several locals were successful tenderers for repair and maintenance work; Henry Hately painted the building in 1899 and Robert Bayley carried out fencing work in 1901.

When pupil numbers fell, mainly due simply to poor attendance, the school's status as a public school came under consideration. In 1887 the inspector of schools noted that many pupils were attending on a part-time basis: in the quarter ending 31 December 1887 James Hazell 8½ days attendance, Mary King 4 days and Joseph Hinds 5 days were notable examples. The need for children to be useful on the farm may have led to many avoiding their schooling, with the connivance of their parents.

Chain of Ponds School did not remain a Public School for long; due to falling enrolments and attendance the school was reclassified as a Half-Time School in May 1906 with Arthur J. Bundock as teacher. The school was serviced by itinerant teachers who had another school to attend; Chain of Ponds School had the school at Berebangalo as its Half-Time Partner School. 

While extensions to the teacher's residence were made in 1908 the school had already been reduced to a provisional school in 1906. Once again repairs to the school became an issue; so too such matters as the disposal of the 'soil' from the three water-closets at the school. Mr E. Alchin successfully tendered for the job in 1910 at a price of £4 10 shillings. The history of the school until its demise in 1916 is marked by reports of some poor teaching, outbreaks of diseases such as diphtheria and scarlatina, poor attendance, especially at harvest, chronic dilapidation of buildings and finally the destruction of the school house by fire. The children remaining at the Chain of Ponds Provisional School were transferred to Lade Vale School.

[Thanks to the Staff of State Archives and Records NSW at Kingswood for their assistance in learning about Chain of Ponds School – Garry Smith].

Reproduced from Gunning & District Historical Society blogspot with grateful acknowledgement to Garry Smith and the Society. Original, with illustrations, can be found here.

School inspection 1880

"Mr. Inspector Murray, of the Yass district, inspected the Chain of Ponds public school last Thurs-day. There were about thirty scholars present, which was very good considering the busy times. Mr. Hazel was the only member of the local board present owing to the short notice given of the in-spector's visit. The inspector's report was a very good one, and he highly complimented the teacher (Miss C. Corbett) upon her energy and perseverance in bringing the pupils up to the standard in which he found them. It is to be hoped that we shall retain her services, for she is the best teacher that we have had for some time.

A little consternation was caused on Monday by a snake which had domiciled under the teacher's residence making its appearance in the play-ground. Several of the boys having perceived it they courageously attacked it with slates, sticks, &c., and quickly despatched it, to the delight of the teacher, for a snake in not a pleasant companion at any time".

[Goulburn Herald and Chronicle,14 February 1880, p.4]

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NSW Government schools from 1848

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