OLD SCHOOL OF THE DAY
St John’s Schoolhouse Museum
45 Constitution Ave.
Reid, ACT (Australian Capital Territory), 2612, Australia
Visitors can take a step back in time to the days of slate boards, slate pencils, blackboards, chalk, and inkwells and get in touch with Canberra’s early history at the St John’s Schoolhouse Museum, situated adjacent to the historic St John’s Church and churchyard. Canberra’s first schoolhouse was built in 1845 by Robert Campbell of Duntroon for the education of workers’ children. Consisting of a schoolroom with five attached rooms it served as the residence for the schoolmaster and his family. The building was constructed from rubble and bluestone quarried locally, with shingle roof and the walls being two feet thick to afford protection from Canberra’s harsh climate. Children walked across the fields to attend school and pioneering families on the school roll include the Blundell children who lived in Blundell’s Cottage, one of the few stone buildings of its type to have survived intact in the ACT. The school’s first 30 or so years were far from easy. Suitable teachers were hard to attract to small rural communities and retaining them was difficult. Reports from teachers during these early years reflected the hardships they experienced, including meager funding and social isolation. The Schoolhouse finally closed as a school in 1907 and in 1969 it opened as a museum. It is set up to depict schooling in the 1870s. Today’s children like to ring the school bell, sit at the old desks, gaze at photographs of 19th century school pupils and play simple but entertaining children’s games of an earlier age. Visitors will find extensive photographic displays which show the growth and development of Canberra from a scattered farming community to the national capital. Scrapbooks dating from 1954 to the present are held at the Schoolhouse. They consist of newspaper cuttings, brochures, photos, letters and journal articles relating to the Schoolhouse, St John’s Church, other Canberra churches, the Campbell family and the history of Canberra. Royal visits, heritage issues and other local interest stories are also included. The museum is staffed by volunteers and is open on Wednesdays 10.00 am to Noon and Saturdays and Sundays 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm. School excursions and group tours at other times are by arrangement.