Pyrmont Public School

Pyrmont Public School

Pyrmont Superior Public School, on the corner of John and Mount Streets was an impressive structure, described in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1884, as having majestic proportions, “in strong contrast with its rather dingy and dilapidated surroundings.”

It comprises a central portion enclosing stair-cases, hat rooms, lavatories, entrance hall, and bell tower, with school and class rooms on either side and at the back.

The large rooms on each floor are 45 feet 6 inches long by 25 feet wide. There are class rooms at the back, and teachers’ rooms, 15 feet 6 inches by 12 feet, off the entrance hall, which measures 19 feet 6 inches by 16 feet. The infants’ rooms are on the ground floor; the boys being placed upstairs, while the girls will occupy rooms on the left wing, entirely separate from contact with the other scholars. The girls’ schoolroom is 63 feet by 25 feet, and is entered by a separate door.

The rooms are well lit and ventilated…there will be some outhouses and a small playground. In front, facing the street, there will be a verandah and railing. The building is very substantially built, and will cost about £10,000, without the furniture.

By 1905 there were 525 pupils. Boys and girls were encouraged by the Lord Mayor’s Gold Medal. Boys were schooled in woodwork, girls in needlework and domestic duties. In 1916 Headmaster William Elston installed washrooms allowing children to shower and bathe. He also arranged for the Department to buy three houses on Mount Street from Robert Saunders, where a gymnasium was built in 1919. The school produced champion athletes who competed at state and national levels in water polo and swimming. In 1921 the school was a “Copy Book School”, for having the only residential domestic science school of its kind in Australia. Promoted by Director of Education, Peter Board, it was an experiment in training girls to perform all forms of domestic duties. This impressive institution fell victim to demography. Numbers dropped in the 1920s as houses were pulled down to make way for more wool stores and flour mills. A strong delegation campaigned for keeping the school open, but the Government counted the pupils and closed the school in 1933, sending the pupils to Ultimo school.

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