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Glenthorpe College

Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 3 years, 3 months ago

Time Travellers in Essendon, Flemington and the Keilor Plains







by Jill Ridgway


The former Glenthorpe College, photographed in 1974 by Sam Merrifield.  Courtesy of the Essendon Historical Society. 


See also Glenthorpe College Students


Prior to the establishment of state secondary schooling in Victoria in the early twentieth century, the curious young were educated in myriads of small private schools. While church-funded grammar schools and the like thrived and expanded, spawning the education industry we know today, alongside these were individuals and families who chose to become the centre of young people’s and families’ lives, guiding their intellectual growth. Among these, at 19 Maribyrnong Road Ascot Vale, was Glenthorpe College.


Glenthorpe College flourished in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Local and trusted, families appreciated the fact that college classes ran from pre-primary through to matriculation, without the need to travel far or change schools during their child’s education. Despite, or perhaps aided by, the great depression of 1893, its student population and reputation, grew exponentially.


This exemplary institution was the creation of the Butler family, and more specifically, their eldest daughter, Margaret Hester Butler. Richard Butler and his wife Elizabeth arrived in Australia from Ireland in 1863 with two young daughters, and another was born the next year.[1] Records in the Teachers’ Records Book[2] provide considerable insight to the family.


Richard had been a teacher with the National Board of Education and Church Education Society in Ireland. In Melbourne, he was placed in training for seven months and sent to the small rural Brucknell Creek school no. 105 (now known as Cudgee), 25 kilometres east of Warrnambool, where he maintained his position as Head Teacher for 23 years until his retirement on a pension of £72 per annum. The inspectors’ assessments of him were unflattering for some years, but despite being ‘not one of the new school,’ as he settled in, he was recognised to be honest, careful and conscientious. His wife Elizabeth, when their youngest daughter was of school age, was employed as Work Mistress from 1868, and when she retired with her husband in mid-1887, after eighteen years teaching, received a superannuation pension of £9 per annum.


All three of the Butler sisters became pupil teachers in Brucknell Creek School,[3] and the elder two went on to teacher training and employment in schools throughout Victoria. Eldest daughter, Margaret Hester, helped her parents for seven years in their school, from age fifteen and a half, and her assessments initially indicated that she was disinterested in the position, although she developed considerable ability over the years. After a placement in Warrnambool, she was sent to the Training Institution in January 1883 and eventually gained her Teaching Certificate in early 1884, a Licensed Teacher of Singing and Qualified to teach Gymnastics. Embarking on a career that was plagued, as for all women teachers, by temporary positions in inconvenient locations, she honed her skills in Carpendeit (No 1500), Fitzroy (No 2511), Flemington (No 250), Beechworth (No 1560), Cranbourne (No 2068), Ascot Vale (No 2608), Terang (No 617), Dargolong (No1154) and again at Ascot Vale from whence she ‘Resigned January 1891 to become Principal of Glenthorpe College Ascot Vale.’ By this time, she was recognised as ‘a skilful and valuable teacher.’


Meanwhile, second sister Annie Elizabeth was employed as a Pupil Teacher in March 1882 when she was 21 years old: there could only be one Pupil Teacher at a time at a school that size. Her assessments were favourable from the beginning and it is likely she had been helping in the school, albeit unpaid and unrecorded, from age twelve, when she finished grade V. She qualified for her Training Teacher’s Certificate in June 1886, with Botany, Singing, Gymnastics and later Drawing. In a mere four years, Annie’s career saw her teach in a total of thirteen locations: Richmond (No 1396), Campbelltown (No 1129), Nar Nar Goon (No 2248), Brunswick (No 1213), Grasmere (No 1817), Yarra Park Richmond (No 1406), Hexham (No 296), Princetown (No 2652), Panton Hill (No 1134), Somerville (No 2656), Maryborough East (No 2828), Sandhurst Violet Street German School (No 877), then Prahran (No 2855) from which she resigned in December 1890. Her positions, and those of her sister, varied from an Assistant in the larger schools to Head Teacher in small schools: but the prospective solitude of another country placement was probably the last straw for Annie.


Also, after just a couple of years as a Pupil Teacher, third sister Janie taught at Ascot Vale for just one year in 1887 before resigning. Her parents had already retired and a plan was obviously incubating.


Richard Butler was mentioned as a ratepayer on 19 Maribyrnong Road, Ascot Vale from at least 1886[4], and it is likely the three sisters resided there for the last years they were teaching in inner city departmental schools. When he and Elizabeth moved to Melbourne after retirement, tutoring from home could have provided extra income. The stability and security of working from the family home would have appealed to all three sisters. More than a few students from the local school followed the capable and cultured mistresses on to their new venture.


In preparation for a considerable enrolment, and reflecting the popular new curricular interest in health and movement, a school building was constructed on the Regent Street end of the property. This housed a large hall (gymnasium) and two class rooms.[5]


MMBW plan from 1904 showing the Glenthorpe buildings at 19 Maribyrnong Rd and 38 Regent Street. 

Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria collection, Plan No 833


No advertisements in newspapers seem to have heralded the inauguration of the college, perhaps unnecessary with signs in shopfronts and word of mouth. The first public notification from the school was found in the North Melbourne Advertiser (26 Dec 1891, page 3), one year into its life, under the heading ‘SCHOOL SPEECH DAYS. Glenthorpe Ladies’ College, Ascot Vale.’ Proceedings were led by Rev. D. Macrae Stewart, followed by music and recitations, ‘agreeably given, and showed careful instruction on the part of the principals.’ These presentations shed light on the curriculum. ‘The chairman spoke in eulogistic terms of the very high qualifications possessed by the principals, and of the great advantages to be derived by the pupils placed under their care.’ Another benefit mentioned was the physical training in the special feature – the gymnasium.


Abundant prizes were awarded, with names living through to today, informing us of the families that attended the school.[6] Classes included mathematics, geography, French, sciences, English, singing, sewing, arithmetic, history, drawing and mapping, writing, reading, spelling and Scripture, with awards also presented for goodness, neatness, general work, fancy work, homework and diligence. Leather-bound books featured amongst the prizes over the years. The vast majority of the students were females, but a few males foreshadowed a coeducational establishment. Indeed, ‘Ladies’ was not included again in the college’s name in newspapers until 1908, close to its demise.


It should be noted that many schools paid for insertion of articles such as these, providing advertising and interest to a wider community, and schools also allowed capable students to remain on for an extra year after matriculation to increase their likelihood of exhibitions and thus further bolster the school’s reputation. It was still only one decade since university places were available to women, and there were few opportunities for college graduates to avail themselves. Thus the college is even more estimable for its high standards and advantaging girls’ intellectual development in the curriculum.[7]


The presence of Rev. D. Macrae Stewart at Speech Night raises the question of whether the college was supported by a particular church. The Presbyterian Church in Ascot Vale used the Masonic Hall for worship and Sunday School prior to construction of its building further along Maribyrnong Road, and this physical proximity to Glenthorpe College was compounded by the fact that several college parents were elders of the Presbyterian Church. But ministers of other churches also came to teach Scripture, so perhaps the college remained openly non-denominational.


In a 1997 Essendon Historical Society Newsletter, Mary Costigan collates information left by previous students and local newspapers, providing additional context to articles available digitally in Trove. In particular, she introduces the memories of her mother, Beatrice (nee Piggin) White who attended Glenthorpe with her two sisters, and Walter McRae Russell. She reports from 4 January 1894, "24 new pupils, making 100 since 1891, of which 71 were still pupils for this year."[8] In 1895, there were more than 100 enrolled.[9]

Expectations on Glenthorpe College students were high, and the Misses Butler were adamant that good behaviour, effort and achievements were rewarded. Apart from Miss Fox, the art teacher, who presented a prize in 1891, staffing from these early years is not clear. Annie Butler was more focussed on the older students, and Margaret Butler on the younger ones, but each probably taught all levels. Janie was the daily governess and father Richard taught primary classes. The boarding house was no doubt ably run by Elizabeth with the necessary servants to help with meals, laundry and cleaning. Student numbers increased rapidly as Glenthorpe’s reputation spread, and other staff were soon needed.

R. S. Welchman, M.A., with impeccable qualifications including exhibitions in History and Logic, prizes and medals from Melbourne University, was employed at Glenthorpe College after five years as a lecturer at Ormond College.[10]  The first published Glenthorpe College matriculating student was Winifred Lizzie Merriman in June 1894. Welchman left to open his own school, Melbourne Academy just around the corner in 10 Moonee Street in 1895. This venture did not last long.[11]


From 1895, Mr. D. M. R. Coghill, M. A.[12] was the Headmaster and teacher of Classics at Glenthorpe College. His knowledge was vast and his teaching rigorous. Minnie A. Lonie and Fanny E. M. Kelly matriculated this year.


The forceful teaching triangle of the three sisters was broken when middle sister, Annie, married Rev. S. Archer Harris in the school hall in September 1895. The wedding notice in two newspapers provided more advertising, and the list of wedding presents provides further insight into the school community.[13] Previously a Wesleyan minister in Emu Bay Tasmania, Archer had studied under Principal Whitley, and his mission would take the couple to Baptist churches in Tasmania, New Zealand, New South Wales and throughout Victoria. Their influence on the College was not permanently severed, however.


The fifth Speech Night, held again at the Masonic Hall opposite the college, ‘was crowded to excess.’ The college now had one hundred and thirty students and invitations were limited to family and friends. Musical, elocutionary and calisthenic items were on the program.[14] The Flower Queen was again performed by students, led by Miss E. Peacock and Mr Coghill. It must have been a favourite of Principal Margaret Butler. Her own accomplishments as a teacher are described in later entries in her Teachers’ Record: ‘She has a fine speaking voice and a fine lady-like presence and a commanding style. She is impressing herself on the students.’ And she was given a score of 85 for being a ‘fine singing mistress.’[15]


The Argus of the same date said the hall ‘was crowded by a fashionable audience. The walls were adorned with quite a gallery of the pupils’ art work…showing sterling merit.’ The Rev. Sugden, M. A., Master of Queen’s College was presiding, and was cheered when he expressed that ‘it would be a sorry day for Victoria when its private schools, with their reverence, high ideals, enthusiasm, and splendid methods, ceased to exist.’ We learn that Miss Nellie Fairhall was the Music teacher (and was for eight years until the end of 1898) and Rev. W. R. Cunningham attended to impart religious instruction. One week later, The Australasian also published the Prize List.[16]


Miss Butler was buoyed enough to advertise for the first time in The Argus, introducing the high calibre of her staff, and continued advancement of Glenthorpe College’s acclaim.


GLENTHORPE COLLEGE, Ascotvale (One of the Largest Private Schools in the Colony, 131 pupils enrolled during 1895). - Principal, Miss Butler, trained teacher Education Department, Melbourne. Full Time Senior Master, Mr. D. M. R. Coghill, M.A. Staff of Six Full Time and Eight Visiting Teachers, including Mr. W. Huey Steele, M.A.; Dr. Wiechmann; Senhor Loureiro; Mr. E. A. Jager, Rev. W. R. Cunningham, hon., &c. Successes recent Matriculation; also recent Musical Society's Exam. FIRST TERM, Monday, 3rd February. [17] 


If there were any doubt about Margaret’s credentials as principal, an advertisement in the Essendon Gazette of 9 September 1897 listed her accomplishments, which included Department qualifications in Mathematics (Euclid, Arithmetic), French, Botany, English, Singing, School Management, Art of Teaching, Gymnastics, etc. Further to this, Margaret's abilities were recognised in her position of 'charge of the pupil teachers of Ascot Vale State School for four years, passing several teachers through their full course and qualifying them to become Head Teachers of State Schools.' [18] It also said she had been chosen to teach special singing classes at the Centennial Exhibition, which is confirmed by an advertisement from 1889. [19]


The above Gazette advertisement continued that 106 pupils were taught by 6 full time staff and 3 part time. The staff were listed as Miss Butler,[10] Mr. D. M. R. Coghill, whose qualifications including an MA from Melbourne University were unquestionable; Mr. R. Butler and Miss J. Butler, Margaret's father and sister, both 'Ex State School Teachers', in the Junior School. Visiting staff included Miss (Georgina) Sweet who was a BSc from Melbourne University; Dr Phil F. Wiechmann who taught French and German and whose Trinity College students had won five exhibitions in Modern Languages; Miss Fox who taught pencil and crayon drawing; Mr. E. A. Jager, President of the Musical Society of Victoria, Miss Nellie Fairhall who had a First Class Music Certificate from the Education Department; and Senhor Loureiro, a Portuguese artist, who had been a student at l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The advertisement went on to list the Matriculation subjects that students had passed in the 1896 year-end examination: Algebra, Euclid, Arithmetic, English, French, History and Geography. It affirmed that Post-Matriculation Work was also available.


The Glenthorpe College Speech Day marking the end of the 1897 school year provided ample reason to celebrate[21]: six girls had matriculated and of those outstanding results had been attained. Dux Elizabeth Ann Touzell, gained a special mention and honour in physiology amongst her nine passes, and the other five girls amongst Ethel Caroline Finch, Edith Constance Groube, James A. Steele, Mary Beatrice Sutherland and Margaret Jane Grainger all passed seven subjects. It was pointed out that as all these pupils had been at the college for three years or more, the matriculation results were attributable to the college’s teachings alone. There were 103 students in the school, and many of them performed musical, oral, and physical exercise performances at the Speech Night and numerous artworks were on display. High academic standards were not the singular focus of the college, which provided a wide-ranging curriculum, full of artistic expression and lyrical pursuits, and it encouraged movement, sports and games not just for the boys.


Despite these successes, sadness was to befall Miss Butler. In February 1898, her father Richard, who had been such a support in the background of the college died, aged 74.[22] He had lived a good life, but the loss was hard to bear for the Glenthorpe College principal in Ascotvale, her sisters living so far away, and their mother. It also meant a decrease in guaranteed family income from his pension. The previous year, Margaret’s sister and former college principal, Annie Harris, had come home to give birth to her first child, who sadly was premature and stillborn. Then, in November 1897 young Janie Butler had married John White from Cororooke, Colac, in the Ascotvale Presbyterian Church. They were to live in Queensland for some time. Margaret was the only one of the three sisters left in the college. Perhaps her mother provided her with sufficient moral and physical support in the copious demands of its management.


Presiding over the eighth Speech Night[23] was Thomas Brodribb, formerly inspector of the Department of Education, who had seen Margaret’s development as a teacher from the start. He noted the size of the school and the average attendance of over one hundred students for the past four years. Miss Butler outlined the successes of a total of nine matriculants, most with eight passes and several special mentions. It should be pointed out that many of these students were in the post-matriculation class. Elizabeth Anne Touzel received an exhibition. Exam results out the next week were not so voluminous, with Harry George Steele being the only one in the class to matriculate.


The case for Glenthorpe College as a school of excellence was presented in The Argus in January 1899.[24] This could be said to represent the zenith of the college’s life. Staff and families could be suitably proud of their chosen school, particularly in light of the included critical assessment of the tendency for other, particularly larger, schools to enhance their successes.



School for Youths and Maidens Average, 100 Pupils

Directress, Miss BUTLER Head Master, Mr D. M. R. COGHILL, M. A. Assistants, Miss G. SWEET, M. Sc., Dr. WEICHMANN, SENHOR LOUREIRO, Mr. JAGER, Mr PEAKE, and other well-qualified teachers.

Very successful with matriculation results, winning several honours and special mentions, besides ordinary matriculation passes. One Result of Post Matriculation Work. - Of the five exhibitions awarded by the University, and open to all matriculation candidates, five colleges were represented, Glenthorpe College being one, Miss Touzel, who has just completed her fourth year at the college, being an EXHIBITIONER in elementary anatomy and physiology and botany. To secure this in a college which does not resort to what the directress considers the sweating system of offering private scholarships to either matriculated or other students is something of which the college is justly proud. Boarders, 14 to 20 guineas per term. Christian home. Parents kindly write to Miss Butler to learn special advantages obtainable in this college. Drawing and gymnastics are included in usual curriculum, the only extras being painting and music. They are included in the 20 guineas fee, also matriculation and post matriculation work. TERM COMMENCES 6th FEBRUARY.


What must have been a hard blow for Margaret came in mid-1899 when her senior full-time headmaster of four years, D. Murray Coghill, was appointed Deputy Principal of New College in Box Hill, a ‘high class boarding and day school.’ Had Coghill stayed with Glenthorpe College for his daughter Minnie’s education? She was in the matriculation class with Harry Steele. Or had he chosen the broad challenge of management rather than the limits of teaching? New College had gone through a peak and then trough when its popular principal moved to Wesley College, and it would have been fertile ground for him; he was not backward in using the Glenthorpe name in advertising his new school.[25] It would not be advantageous for Miss Butler to publicise the fact that he had gone. The only report of the 1899 Speech night was of the resounding encore for Master Outtrim’s performance of ‘Ora Pro Nobiit’,[26] with him classed as a prodigy.[27]


In February 1900, Janie White, Margaret’s younger sister returned from Queensland for the birth of her second child of six. Three of her four other children were also born in Ascot Vale, in 1902, 1904 and 1907. The last born was named after Margaret (with Elizabeth’s maiden name Jebb as a middle name) implying a certain intimacy between the sisters. Elizabeth was able to briefly be a doting grandmother to her grandchildren. On the other side of the Tasman Sea, where Archer Harris was a minister in New Zealand, Annie had also had a healthy birth of son Howard Archer Harris in July 1900.


February also brought the success of another matriculant, Mary Eleanor Edelston, but it seems the peak of the college had passed. Without the gravitas of Head Master Coghill, and with the rise of other schools in the district, managing a private college of pre-primary to post-matriculation was fraught with difficulties. In the ten years since it was established, Glenthorpe College had ridden its own wave, but the educational landscape had changed considerably, and was to further.


Undaunted, and recognising the college’s past strengths, Margaret advertised again at the beginning of the 1901 school year.[28]



GLENTHORPE COLLEGE Matriculation and Musical successes.

Exhibition; several passes, many honours, and nine special mentions

by University examiners for special excellence. Over 100 pupils

annually for past seven years, both sexes. Splendid staff.



NEW TERM, 4th FEBRUARY Miss Butler at home

afternoons and evenings from Tuesday. 29th inst. Prospectus.


In June 1901, Lily Absalom, Archibald Norman Colquhoun, Eleanor McKenzie MacDonald and Percy George Rudd matriculated. And with this mid-year success, Margaret advertised again; her ability to prosecute her case was improving.[29]



Four pupils matriculated in eight subjects each at the recent May examinations. During the past five years 20 pupils have matriculated from the college, averaging eight passes each. The University examiners have in their reports 10 times singled out these pupils, and mentioned them as sending in papers of special excellence.


Honours have been gained and an exhibition won. No scholarships are given, and the above singularly successful result shows parents what can be done by ordinary pupils with first-class staff.

State schoolmaster of country town writes last month to Miss Butler, re the success as above of his son and daughter: - "The result has shown that we acted wisely in placing them under your care."

N.B.-I have much confidence and pleasure in assuring parents that the best tuition obtainable is given to the pupils entrusted to my charge. Special features -Mathematics and languages



Two more Glenthorpe College students matriculated in January, Leonard Douglas Johnston and Charles Roy Walker.


A small advertisement for the 1902 school year heralded the arrival of a new principal – Rev. Archer Harris.[30] Annie and her husband had returned, although to what extent they supported the school is not clear. Annie was now the mother of a two year-old, and Archer was ministering in Newmarket Baptist Church. Nell Macdonald matriculated in June. In July 1902, Margaret touted that eight students had matriculated since May the year before; the advertisement included the motto Sabor annia vincit.[31] There was no mention of Archer here.


In September 1902, there was a crisis of employment. A teacher must have left suddenly, and perhaps it was Annie or Archer, as he was in the Baptist Church in Balmain New South Wales by December. Glenthorpe College advertised for ‘an expert in English, History and English Text book for matriculation class to apply at once to the principal.’[32] Despite this drama, Victorine Clarice Groube and Violet Nash Denyer were able to matriculate. Further abroad, a Tasmanian article about Devonport Academy would have interested Miss Butler. It stated that Miss Lonie, the directress, had secured the services of Miss Merriman for music and special subjects.[33] Already two of her students, well qualified graduates from Melbourne University, were active in the world of education.[34]


To quell any community anxiety regarding staffing, the next year, Glenthorpe College’s advertisement included the names of important staff.



Ten pupils matriculated 1901-2, nine passed, three mathematics, algebra, geometry, arithmetic. Success phenomenal. Vacancies four boy boarders; Christian home.



Mr. Herbert Hewett, M.A., Miss Merfield, B.A., Miss Connell, M Sc., Fraulein Mathese, Mr. G. Peake. Miss Jefferies, &c.[35]


An eminently qualified staff, from which teachers came and went. Those remembered by Beatrice White included Mr. Treleaven, Mr. Burridge (who became minister of St John's Presbyterian Church Essendon), Mr. Hamley, Miss Jeffrey (whose red hair prompted the nickname Jinner), former pupil Miss Robina Crosbie, Fraulein Matthiais, Mademoiselle Smetzer (later Vice-Principal at Essendon High School), Mr. Peake (president of the Music Society of Victoria), Miss Nina Fleming ("Art, from the Gallery"). The majority of these had no actual teaching qualifications, but their love of the subjects they taught, and a vocation to engage their wards, endured in memories of students who “revelled” in the study of Euclid and Latin. And the curriculum was not all academic: gymnastics featured highly, and cricket and other games were played against various public schools.[36]  


Matriculation success continued with Keith Gemmel Colquhoun and Wyndham Heathcote.[37]  The August 1903 update stated 'five pupils' had matriculated since May 1902.[38] Emphasis was still placed in high academic standards and also excellence in drawing and music.


Former pupil Dr. Walter McRae Russell was interviewed for an ABC radio programme called Melbourne on my Mind. He spoke of his childhood and days at Glenthorpe, including a verse poem about the college.


Miss Butler was, and justly, our very esteemed head,

But very strict, believe me, one remembered all she said!

Behind her back she was referred to as Biddy, but

No scholars at this school ever stayed in the shallowest rut.


He continued:


Good cricketers and other sportsmen were bred at this school,

For we practised, regularly, ardently - this was always the rule.


Costigan reports they played against junior teams from Scotch College, Melbourne Grammar, Wesley College, Xavier College, Geelong College, Geelong Grammar and St Thomas's. The students were also taken by train for summer picnics on the bay, visiting the sea-baths.[39]


Whereas every year, the word Ascotvale had preceded Glenthorpe College’s name in advertisements, placing the college’s entries at the top of other schools, for the first time, they were displaced by another school, Annesley College in Auburn, and a simple alphabetical advantage of being at the top of the list was extinguished. 


Advertisements indicated the continuation of the college for a few more years. Maintaining classes 'from infants to matriculation', the fifteenth year of the college was not to continue well.[40] Mrs. Butler was old and ailing. Margaret’s sisters were interstate. Financial burdens were unyielding. And in mid-October 1905, Elizabeth, Margaret Hester Butler’s beloved mother and centre of her private life passed away. It was a devastating blow. Miss Butler was alone. In the 1904 Wise Post Office Directory, Miss Margaret Butler was found at the ‘ladies’ school’ in Maribyrnong Road. In the 1905 Sands Directory, Miss M. H. Butler was at ‘Glenthorpe Coll, 38 Regent Street.’ In mid-1906, a simple ‘Duties resumed’ newspaper entry indicated a deflated institution.[41]


Behind the scenes, bureaucracy and time were moving against the college. The Registration of Teachers and Schools Act 1905 demanded annual submission of applications, and with two of these extant, we have vignettes of the college in its decline.[42] In June 1906, Margaret continued as the sole Head teacher and Proprietor of Glenthorpe College, which was still a sub-primary, Primary and Secondary school now with fifty-three students attending, five of whom were boarders. The average student attendance for the past five years had been eighty. Subjects taught were Latin, French, English, Geometry, Algebra, Arithmetic, History, Geography, Physiology, Reading, Writing, Spelling, Music and Sewing.[43] There were supposedly six boy and nine girl matriculants attending, but a note in a margin redefined that to nine in total. Past results were clearly stated. Fulltime staff were listed as Margaret H. Butler, Jean May Jeffrey (a matriculant from Ballarat School of Mines)[44], and three former students, Lottie Forster (had shared a sub-matriculation prize in several subjects in 1898 and gained a credit in the DMSV[45]), Jessie Robson (Dux of Class V in 1898 and Upper V in 1899), and Cathie Smith (who had been George Peake’s pupil). Visiting teachers were Miss Anne Gates (local Painting and Drawing instructor), M. Aubin Lapra de Saint Romain (B.A. from Dijon, France), and Mr George Peake, a total of eight teachers.[46] Students were taught in a building of three large rooms, fifty by forty feet.


Apart from the paperwork, little changed in the bureaucracy for a few years, but restrictions on who could teach what and how school buildings needed to be were in the pipeline. Further, general financial stability was working to favour larger, better equipped schools and the writing was on the wall. Margaret was faced with a moral dilemma; she had taught some of her students since pre-primary and they had known no other school. Families were still entrusting their children to her. But Glenthorpe College needed reorganisation, and she needed a rest. She negotiated with the newly formed St Thomas’s Grammar School in Essendon to enrol the boys and several families transferred there.[47]


In February 1907, with only 25 students on the books, Archer Harris made the application for registration of ‘Glenthorpe Ladies’ College’ as Co-principal and Proprietor with Mrs. A. Harris. Biology, Botany, Hygiene, Elementary Science, Citizenship, Brushwork, Singing and Religious Instruction were added to the previous year’s list of subjects taught. Matriculation was no longer a goal of the curriculum, Junior Public Examination and ‘Senior Public Examination when required’ being the highest standard. Three visiting teachers remained for Drawing, Painting and Music classes, and three full-time teachers included the principals and Miss Robson. A modicum of continuity prevailed but just where Margaret had gone,[48] and whether she returned or not, is unclear, nor are the motives of her sister and brother-in-law known. Their lives had, for the most part, been quite divorced from the college except for 1902, when he was noted as principal, and Annie later (in an introduction to his new position in Grafton New South Wales) as the successful teacher of the matriculation class.[49] Indeed in his letter accompanying the application for registration, he stated they 'have both been registered by you as secondary teachers. We were intimately connected with this same school in the time when it was most successful in secondary work.’[50] Was it Annie’s wish to return to the family home? Or did they both find life on a small cleric’s stipend hard? Had Margaret requested their return? Had Margaret been called to help younger sister Janie? In 1902, Archer had been attached to the Newmarket Baptist Church and Geelong, and after five years in New South Wales he was attached to the Coburg Baptist Church in 1907.


The family dream that Margaret had nurtured for fifteen years had finally crumbled. How much rancour or angst had preceded the closure may never be known. The pressure of staffing, finances, parental demands, bureaucracy, and a changing educational landscape may have been overwhelming. Sibling rivalry may have led to exacerbation. Overgrowth in student numbers may have compounded problems in the peak years, when two buildings held 131 students, and Margaret was too busy to enjoy the gentlewomanly life that she may have envisaged for herself. Hers was not the only undoing, as many other small schools were forced to close in the coming years. One final attempt to shore up finances was attempted in early 1908 when a Continuation School was advertised,


CONTINUATION SCHOOL. Girls taken as boarders, Glenthorpe Ladies' College, comfortable Christian home; terms moderate. Apply Principal,[51]


but by July 1908, Glenthorpe College was no more, and one year later the buildings were on the market.


"19 Maribyrnong Rd, Ascot Vale "Glenthorpe College", a substantial brick villa 7 rooms, out offices, large schoolroom, class rooms, sewered.  Price £1000.  Let £80 per annum Miss M H Butler, Werneth State School.  Letter 29/9/09." [52]




The house and school building that had been known as Glenthorpe were used over the next years for many community group meetings. Miss Annie Baulch moved her ‘Stanmore College’ there and ran it until she died in 1912, when her sister Lillie continued teaching music in the house.


Janie Butler had no responsibilities in the school after her marriage, although she was on the registered teacher list in both 1908 and 1910. A farmer’s wife, she had six children, four of whom were born in Glenthorpe, the last after Elizabeth’s death. They were James Butler (B 1898 Rockhampton), Jean Elizabeth (B 1900 Ascot Vale), Anna Fellowes (B 1902 Ascot Vale), John Robert (B 1904 Ascot Vale), William (B 1905 Nirranda, near Brucknell Creek) and Margaret Jebb (B 1907 Ascot Vale). Janie lived out her years in Victoria, dying in Box Hill in 1945. At least two of her children became career teachers.


Annie (Butler) Harris re-joined the Education Department in July 1908, when Archer was transferred to the Kerang Baptist Church. She taught for just two years, first at Strathfieldsaye, near Bendigo, perhaps implying some necessity for income, then Tragowel and Kerang. The department inspector was not impressed with her work, stating ‘trained twenty years ago but has had little experience in teaching and no experience of the present programme. Her experience renders her unsatisfactory.’ Indeed, she would have found it hard to teach primary after her years in upper secondary. Following Archer on his appointments around Victoria, living in Auburn, Ringwood, Orrvale (near Echuca), Deepdene, he was in Porborneit in 1931 when Annie died in Camperdown, aged 69 (#8354), not far from where she had spent her childhood.


Margaret was appointed to school no. 1252, Carlton North, on 13 July 1908. Her Teacher’s Record then includes Werneth (3608), Kellalac (2358), Mount Eliza (1368), Burwood East (454) and Balwyn (1026). The inspector’s report in 1911 included ‘has ability + energy – taught actively and brightly. A very good teacher of singing.’ Her official record finished with “Ceased 29 Aug ‘11.” It defines neither retirement, nor resignation, but it is probable that Margaret was unobliging when frequently asked to transfer to new and unknown places. Four transfers in one year would challenge any competent teacher. Werneth was where Margaret’s sister Janie’s family was through these years, and Margaret was instrumental in establishing school No. 3608 for the young family’s benefit.[53] She taught in a church building for a few months until the Holly Bush School building was transferred after it closed in May 1909, and then until November 1910, when she was relegated to the temporaries’ treadmill as above. Her resolve was clear, however. Electoral Rolls place Margaret in Werneth from 1912 to 1915 as ‘teacher’, and one more year as ‘retired teacher.’ She was living on the White’s farm, and possibly was their full-time teacher. No record places her back in the Werneth School. She lived with her other sister Annie and Archer in Ringwood for a couple of years at the end of World War One and again from 1926 during the Depression years. In the Electoral Rolls during these years, she defined herself as retired, but in 1925 and 1926, living in Box Hill and then Kooyong Road, she was recorded as teaching again. Her address for 1926 was “Ben Ledi” Kooyong Road, in which resided the owner of Coles Stores, merchant G. J. Coles and his family in the late 1920s.  


Still highly respected, Margaret was invited to a reunion of college students held in the Fitzroy Gardens in 1931.[54] She died aged seventy-three in Grosvenor Street, Moonee Ponds in 1932.[55]


See also Name List of Glenthorpe College Students


©Jill Ridgway, 2021

[1] Richard 1824-1898, Elizabeth (nee Jebb) 1826-1905, Margaret Hester 1859-1932, Annie Elizabeth 1861-1931, Janie 1864-1945. A son Robert, also born in Ireland, died in Victoria in 1876 (#9969), aged twenty.
[2] Teacher Record Books Public Records Office of Victoria VPRS 13579/P1.  Richard was ID 261, Elizabeth ID 3037, Margaret ID 7036, Annie ID 9773, Janie ID 10362.
[3] Brucknell Creek on present day maps was listed as Bruncknell’s Creek in Vision and Realisation.
[4] North Melbourne Advertiser 8 January 1886 page 2.
[5] PROV VPRS7882/1/535/3691 Glenthorpe Ladies College shows the building as it remained in 1910.
[6] A list of known students follows.
[7] For an interesting discussion of this and scholarships supporting such schemes, see The Argument from Matriculation Used by Proprietors of Victorian Secondary Schools Around 1900 by M. A. (Ken) Clements and Nerida F. Ellerton Accessed https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED589555.pdf 4:00pm 8 November 2020.
[8] It is not clear where this was reported.
[9] Essendon Historical Society Newsletter No 14 Oct-Nov 1997, page 6.
[10] Essendon Gazette 20 Dec 1894. Personal communication from Lenore Frost.
[11] A short time later he taught at South Melbourne College.
[12] He joined the staff in March 1895 but was still teaching elsewhere at that time.
[13] Table Talk 13 September 1895 page 13.
[14] Table Talk 27 Dec 1895, page 12.
[15] PROV Teacher Record Books VPRS 1359/P1 Unit 24.
[16] Australasian 4 January 1896 page 34.
[17] Argus 25 January 1896, page 9. Steele was an electrical engineer and lecturer at the Ballarat School of Mines, and university exhibitioner before becoming a Presbyterian minister; Wiechmann, a professor and matriculation examiner; Loureiro, a renowned artist whose paintings can still be seen in the NGV; Jager, a music examiner.
[18] Reported in EHS Newsletter No 14 October-November 1997 page 8.
[19] Age 20 February 1889 page 8.
[20] This is Margaret.
[21] Argus 5 January 1898 page 3.
[22] Age 10 February 1898 page 1.
[23] Argus 21 December 1898 page 9.
[24] Argus 23 January 1899, page 3.
[25] The Reporter 27 Dec 1901 page 4, etc. New College later became Box Hill Grammar School.
[26] Probably Nobis.
[27] Table Talk 21 Dec 1899 page 22.
[28] Argus 2 Feb 1901 page 6.
[29] Argus 24 July 1901, page 9.
[30] Argus 29 January 1902 page 11.
[31] Age 25 and 26 July 1902. This must have been an unfortunate typographical error, probably from misreading the script for Labor Omnia Vincit – Work conquers all. How embarrassing it would have been.
[32] Argus 20 September 1902 page 3.

[33] The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times 12 Jan 1903 page 2.

[34] This school was to continue until 1937 under different names, including Lindula High and St Margaret’s School, and Minnie Lonie was to return as its head for its last years, after leaving to marry and raise a large family.
[35] Argus 31 January 1903 page 9 These are more or less accurate spellings of some following. Robina Crosbie was teaching from at least 1903 until 1907 when she married John Urquhart Macdonald.
[36] EHS Newsletter October-November 1997.
[37] Argus 18 June 1903 page 7.
[38] Argus 1 August 1903 page 13. One name may be missing here.
[39] Essendon Historical Society Newsletter February-March 1998 page 7.
[40] Argus 31 January 1905 page 10.
[41] Age 21 July 1906 page 10.
[42] PROV Glenthorpe Ladies’ College, VPRS 10300/ P0 unit 2, item School No.102.
[43] It should be noted that Botany has disappeared. Few schools could teach any science subjects that required experimentation, due to lack of facilities, and Glenthorpe had always been among these.
[44] She had headaches, and was nicknamed Jinner because of her red hair, Walter Macrae Russell’s poem divulged.
[45] Diploma, Musical Society of Victoria.
[46] The full-time teachers were registered through prior employment and their matriculation.
[47] PROV Glenthorpe Ladies’ College, VPRS 10300/ P0 unit 2, item School No.102.
[48] Archer stated in his letter accompanying his application “Owing to Miss Butler’s absence, I am not able to give the exact numbers of those who have passed the secondary examinations during the past five years.” PROV Glenthorpe Ladies’ College, VPRS 10300/ P0 unit 2, item School No.102.
[49] Grafton Argus and Clarence River General Advertiser 4 February 1904 page 4 “With her sister Mrs. Harris had been most successful in starting and carrying on the college in a special building which they erected for the purpose. Her own special department, the matriculation class, was one of the chief features of the school, and many pupils gained their University certificate.”
[50] Archer and Annie are both listed as registered teachers in the Victorian Government Gazette Register 24 January 1908.
[51] Argus 22 Jan 1908 page 3. The Principal in the case was supposedly Archer Harris, or had Margaret returned?
[52] Personal correspondence via Lenore Frost from Blumfield's Property Register, p 1374 (EHS). 
[53] Vision and Realisation states that Elizabeth Butler opened this school, but the Teacher Record Book contradicts this.
[54] Herald 5 November 1931 page 22.
[55] Age 20 September 1932 page 1.

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