The History of the former Laverton State School

The oldest school in the Altona area is the Laverton Primary School (No. 2857).

The former Laverton State School is located on the corner of Cameron Avenue and Kiora Street. In 1886 the land developer and auctioneer, for the new Laverton Estate, Charles Raymond Staples commissioned the well known surveyors, Bruford and Brian, to design a township and together with Alfred Clark induced the railways to build a station on the Geelong-Newport line at what is now Laverton. The planned township was to commence at the railway line and spread south from the station. Staples’ marketing brochure assured would be buyers that reserves for public buildings had been set aside and over 25 acres had been allowed for parks and recreation reserves.

The same year that that sales began new residents began writing to the government seeking a school building. There were 15 school age children to be proved for initially on a part time basis. True to their word, developers Staples and Wise made land available, free for a school to be built. This was all well and good but by 1887 a school was yet to be built. It was at this time that the Wesleyan church building was offered for rent as a school building which was immediately taken up. This temporary school building was opened on 4 October 1887 with Elizabeth Strahan in charge of 46 pupils.The building was 25 feet by 18 feet and whilst it was taken on it was on a temporary basis as it was not considered of a suitable size bu the local Board of Advice.

A permanent school building was constructed and completed in  September 1888. It was a gabled rendered brick building with a slate tiled roof. There was also a gabled porch at each end of the building which measured 36 feet by 20 feet. The construction cost was £700. From 1888 until 1895 Ada Waldron was the teacher but enrolment declined until by 1914 when 19 pupils were attending. In 1899 the temporary teacher, Isabel Bannister, advised the Department that there were a number of loose bricks over one of the doors and that other repairs were required. In 1907 it was advised that a fence was required to be built around the school to prevent wandering cattle from entering the school grounds and creating damage. Between 1905-13 it was a practising school for trainee teachers. One of the teachers was Mr Fred Whelpton (1911) who was also a member of the Melbourne Football Club, playing 6 games over two seasons with the club. By 1926 it was reported that the school yard was too small so additional land was purchased.

In 1935 under directions from the Public Works Department the school underwent window and floor modifications. The segmented arched windows at the front and back of the building were replaced with a three-light-multi pane window group. The previous gallery or stepped floor was replaced with a new flat floor which was installed on new stumps and bearers. By this date the school consisted of one large classroom, a cloak room entry and a rear porch, a timber shelter shed on thee west side. By 1945 it was considered that the school yard and building was inadequate and a new site was acquired in Epsom Street and two prefabricated classrooms were erected in 1950-51. The school in Epsom Street opened in March 1951 with 65 pupils. Further classrooms were added in 1956, 1959 and 1969. The school had grown such that a further school was opened in Armstrong Street in June 1960.

The original school was closed and sold as a residential building and was occupied for some years. It was vacated and fell into disrepair but was brought back to life by the community around 1988 and re-opened as a Community building. It was again renovated and restored to near its original being in 2018/19.

The former Laverton State School is significant to the Western region as it is one of only a small number of well preserved 19th century school buildings remaining. It is also recognised as the oldest building in the locality, standing out as once an isolated structure serving a rural community and the  has been the focal point of the local community over a long period. During WWI the school was the center for events to raise funds and produce items for the war effort and to welcome the local service personal home. In 1922 a honour board listing those who enlisted from the area and those that had attended the school was purchased and displayed within the school building. When the building fell into disuse and disrepair in the 1980’s it was again the community that rallied to restore this important structure.

References:

  1. Barnard, J, 1999, Environmental History in Stage One of the Altona, Laverton & Newport Districts Heritage Study
  2. Graeme Butler & Associates, 2000, Altona, Laverton & Newport Districts Heritage Study Stage 2 Volume 1
  3. Victorian Public Records Office ss2857 School Building files (VPRS 795/1674)