Following Sir Henry Parkes’ Education Act of 1880, the Government of the Colony of New South Wales decided to establish, under the control and administration of the Department of Public Instruction, a system of Public High Schools. The first of these were the two Sydney High Schools. On October 1, 1883, the Boys School enrolled 46 students at the Francis Greenway designed building constructed by convicts in Castlereagh Street, Sydney. This site was that of the present Elizabeth Street store of David Jones Ltd. (which runs through to Castlereagh St.).
I have yet to find a postcard of the early Boys High School, so the present postcard of the sister Sydney Girls High School will act as a surrogate, for both the schools were initially jointly sited, and in their final position at Moore Park, they were separated only by a low fence. This sepia photograph postcard was unknown by the Alumnae of the Sydney Girls High School until I sent a scan to them. The illustration on the postcard shows a large irregular-shaped room with some hundred young girls seated closely on benches (of ages from early teens ranging through mid and late teens) with at least 6 adults, one of whom was male, and presumably they were teachers. Five of the teachers were standing along the walls, and a formidable woman was seated prominently on the aisle at right front, undoubtedly the head mistress. The wall was draped with a clock and photos, and at far left there was a free-standing world globe, partially obscured. The postcard was described as ‘142. Class Room – High School– Elizabeth St. Sydney’. (Figure 1).
The other side of the postcard showed that it was identified as a ‘G G/ S’ card in a circle, Regd. Trademark and it was from ‘COPPERSTYLE/ G. GIOVANARDI, Publisher, Sydney. The dull blue-green ‘HALF PENNY’ KE VII stamp of Great Britain (issued 1.1. 1902) was cancelled with a roller cancel, with an illegible town and date of posting. The recipient was a boy in Edinburgh, the sender an Aunt (Figure 2).
The Boys School had 3 homes – Castlereagh Street, Mary Ann Street, Ultimo and Moore Park (all in Sydney). The Castlereagh Street site first formerly housed the St. James Church of England Grammar School. Prior to it’s occupancy by the parochial school, in 1829-1882 it contained the Sydney Public School. The Boys High School commenced formal lessons with a staff of four. Its students occupied the lower floor with its entrance in Castlereagh Street, while the Girls High School had the upper floor and entered from Elizabeth Street.
The school was officially opened by Sir George Reid, Minister for Education, on October 8, 1883. Thus Sydney High pioneered the field of Public High School Education in Australia. Early in 1892 the boys moved to new premises in Ultimo Sydney, the first building designed as a High School in any of the Colonies; and, the girls now had the whole building to themselves. The present Boys High School was officially opened by the Hon. D.H. Drummond on June 9, 1928 at Moore Park, Sydney, whereas the Girls High School had moved to this location in 1921. The original walled school (boys’ entrance side), located between Elizabeth and Castlereagh Streets is seen in Figure 3.
The Public Instruction Act of 1880 was responsible for the establishment of eight high schools in N.S.W. – four for boys and four for girls – in Sydney, West Maitland, Bathurst and Goulburn, in recognition of the need “to provide a course of instruction for the completion of the Public School Curriculum and the preparation of students for the University of Sydney”. The Sydney Morning Herald of September 17, 1883 invited boys and girls to attend an examination to qualify for admission to the new Sydney High Schools on September 20, 1883. Following this examination 46 boys and 39 girls reported to the school on October 8. Some had been awarded scholarships to cover school fees, some were to pay 8 pounds 8 shillings per year, and the rest paid nothing because their parents were unable to pay fees.
Why did I write about this postcard? For 2 reasons, firstly I consider that this postcard was relatively unusual, for all the other photocards produced by G. Giovanardi of Sydney that I have seen before, showed the outsides of buildings, situated in New South Wales. The other reason was more personal, as I am an alumnus of Sydney Boys High School, during the time that James Hubert Killip was headmaster (1936-51), as seen in Figure 4.
Has anyone any information about a postcard featuring the schoolboys similar to Figure 1. Maybe Mr. Giovanardi had a daughter at the school?