Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey


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1871 : The Preston School of Design

In the interim, the Preston School of Design was formally opened on 30 October, 1871, reports suggesting a building constructed to house about 120 people and costing around £150 which was raised locally  The school was noted as having 96 pupils, 69 of whom had attended eight times or more in the previous quarter   It was credited on opening as being the first School of Arts building in Victoria

The school appears to have been operating in temporary premises (probably the nearby Forester’s Hall) for some months beforehand, a Mr  Hiram W  Paterson noted as conducting classes in drawing since May, the first School of Arts building in Victoria  

A School of Design was what we might today call a technical school - sadly, not a lot of the history of the Preston institution remains, but there are references to the establishment of a school of telegraphy, one of the few career opportunities than available to young women

"    Preston bad set an example which might well be copied by more populous and wealthy communities  Genius or ability should not be the monopoly of one class, and it was not too much to say that these schools of design, which were now scattered throughout the country, including 1,000 scholars, would develop much talent in the youth of the country    "

Numbers seemed to have dropped once the initial novelty wore off : the annual report in November, 1872 suggesting some 55 pupils and attracting, based on a Government grant of 2/6d per student, a total of £1/17/6d compared with 33 at a similar school in Northcote

Several reports of the school mention various visiting dignitaries, the most prominent His Honour Judge Bindon, chairman of the Technological Commission, but the only mention of a local was Edward Wood, J  P , founder of Wood's store and one of the group which gave Preston its name back in 1854

The passing of the Free Education Act in Victoria in 1872 (believed the first of its kind in the world) eventually saw the demise of most of the well-meaning “shilling” schools, including the local Wesleyan and Anglican versions, but just how it may have affected the School of Design which appears to have been career-oriented rather than providing a general education remains unknown

PRESTON SCHOOL OF DESIGN  The anniversary of the Preston School of Design was celebrated on Friday evening last  The proceedings commenced with a tea meeting, in the School of Arts building  Later in the evening a public meeting was held in the Foresters'-hall, at which there was a large attendance of the pupils and their friends  In opening the meeting, The Hon  S  H  Bindon (who presided) commented upon the economic way in which the schools had been established and conducted, and on the especial value of technical instruction, and alluded to the success of the telegraphic class at the Industrial and Technological Museum, which had conferred benefit on many of the pupils, and had cost the state very little  There were many other branches that would prove useful that might be established  The public spirit of the people of Preston in erecting the first school of art building in the colony was an evidence that they appreciated the value of art instruction  The Germans had found the value of scientific studies in their success in the late war, and it was the opinion of Lord Derby that unless science was introduced more into English industry it would go to the wall  The Hon  R  Ramsay, M L A   was glad to see such a large attendance, and that the people of the district took such interest m the success of the school  The work that Judge Bindon had taken in hand in connexion with technical instruction was a very useful one, and he knew no one who had devoted so much time and earnestness to the furtherance of this moat important subject  It was very desirable that suitable employment should be found for young women, and this had been provided for to a certain extent by the class for telegraphy alluded to by the lion, chairman  The Hon  J  Balfour, M L C , Mr  F  R  Godfrey, M L A , and Mr  S  H  Roberts, secretary to the Technological Commission, also addressed the meeting  The proceedings were enlivened by some most excellent music and singing between the addresses  Mr  Juniper conducted and Mr  Hart presided at the piano, and the songs and glees were capitally rendered by the pupils and hon  secretary of the school  

The Age, 3 November, 1874

The committee behind the School of Design announced around the same time plans to include a public reading room in the building and after collecting public subscriptions, the first Free Library opened in May, 1876, later joined by a South Preston Free Library run on the same basis in Clifton Grove (later used as the first classrooms for the Roman Catholic school)

The School of Design was never shown as such in directories, but from the early 1890’s when Preston was sufficiently settled to enable the compilers of the directory to include a street grid, it was on the eastern side of High Street one door north of Percival-street  It functioned through to around 1907 when a Council Library opened, then in Gower-street

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