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Official Opening of School House

25th October 2023

PRINCIPAL'S SPEECH - OFFICIAL OPENING OF SCHOOL HOUSE
FRIDAY, 20 OCTOBER 2023

We are delighted to showcase the incredible work that has taken place over the past twelve years involving a team of heritage advisors, architects, lawyers and builders who have painstakingly and respectfully restored this iconic building to its former glory.

School House was the first building established on our heritage North Ward site. It was the first classroom and dormitory, welcoming 10 day students and 13 boarders when it opened its doors on Monday, 16 April 1888.

The city of Townsville was founded in 1865, some 23 years before a group of local business people, farmers and members of the clergy lobbied the state government to establish a Grammar school in Townsville so that locals did not have to send their children south for secondary school. After raising the required one thousand pounds, the government allocated this land for the development of School House.

In 1903, Cyclone Leonta tore through Townsville, significantly damaging School House – there are some photos on the video tonight which show the level of destruction caused.  School House was then rebuilt in a slightly different design by local architects, FDG Stanley Tunbridge and Tunbridge.

The new design,  in which we stand today, was considered a cooler, more suitable building for the tropical environment, with the verandahs on both levels used for sleeping in the hotter months. Until 1940, all lessons, with the exception of science, were conducted on this lower level of the building, while upstairs was used for boarding.

The building was used for many purposes throughout the latter decades until it was closed for restoration in 2011. 

The result of this restoration process is what you see today. From the original bricks, (which still bear the scratchings made by students over the years), to the colour palette, every detail has been considered to retain the integrity of the era.

To us, this is not just a building. Rather it is our history, and one that weaves around the story of our city’s growth.

On the first level we now enjoy this wonderful meeting space where our staff and students gather frequently for meetings and classes. This room is named the Roberts Room, named after Gladys Roberts, one of the first female students to attend the School, who graduated with academic distinction in 1905.

On this level we also have the Principal’s Office and a spectacular boardroom named the Durward Room in honour of Judge Stuart Durward, Chairman of our Board of Trustees for 25 years from 1997 to 2022. A very special feature of the boardroom is the beautiful boardroom table that was handcrafted by our Year 11 Design and Technology students.

Upstairs we have another wonderful meeting and function space, now named the Hartley Room, after Past Grammarian, Effie Hartley, who was the first female prefect and Dux of the School in 1905.

We also have a kitchen to service the function rooms, and the Townsville Grammar School Museum, which is still under construction, with the support of our Past Grammarians Association. I hope you have a chance to wander through the building this evening and take in every detail that honours the era of the turn of the 20th Century.

Indeed it is difficult not to walk through this building without imaging the many people and their stories who lived and learned within these walls.

School House has long been a part of the Townsville City Council’s Heritage Trail and was added to the Queensland Heritage Register in 2002.

School House not only belongs to Townsville Grammar School - it belongs to the city of Townsville and its community.

The School’s 135-year history is a fascinating story, one that captures the spirit of the north - one of endurance, resilience and community. It is my hope that we can use School House as a way of capturing this history for past, present and future Grammarians.

We hope this lovingly and respectfully restored building will become well-known as a part of our city’s heritage and that our community will enjoy visiting and using the space.

It has been our honour to restore this history and to have the privilege of passing it on to future generations. In this, our 135th anniversary year, it is my pleasure to welcome you to School House, and I thank you sincerely for joining us to celebrate this significant milestone in the history of this old and great school.

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