Ashby Primary School
2015 marked 140 years since the school commenced operation as a Victorian State School.
History of Ashby Primary School
Ashby Primary School is one of Geelong’s oldest schools. It has been a State run school since 1875 and has existed in one form or another for over 150 years. The school traces its origins to 1855 when Head Teacher Joseph Mowbray and 5 students began at the Preston Street school officially known at the time as the Methodist Free Church School.
Despite fees of up to 1 shilling & sixpence per week, enrolment increased and by 1866 the building had become overcrowded. A quarter-acre site was selected on the corner of Pakington and Albert Streets. The new school opened in 1867. With such a convenient site in the middle of a populous area , and with the support of the school committee, "Mowbray's School" gained a government contribution of £800 towards the cost of the new building. Mr Mowbray was widely respected and in 1868 the children presented him with an ink stand, gold pen, pen knife and paper cutter.
In 1873 the government established free, compulsory schools. Mowbray's school had an enrollment of 244, with 5 teachers. The overcrowded school building was auctioned and purchased for the newly established Borough of Geelong West, for £457. It was used as council offices until 1924, when it was demolished. Stone from the old building was used to build the grandstand at West Oval.
In 1874 a tender for £4,597 was accepted for the building of a new school in Lawton Avenue, the present site. Joseph Mowbray was appointed Head Teacher of the new Ashby Primary School, number 1492. The enrollment was 876, although the average attendance was only 427, despite State education being compulsory!
The name Ashby probably arose in the 1840s when a small village on the outskirts of Geelong was called by that name. It is not certain why the name was used. Some believe it was due to the native ash trees found usefully abundant in the area, whereas others believe the name reflected the area of England called Ashby-de-la-Zeuche, where many early settlers had lived.
Whatever the origin, the names Ashby Village and Ashby School were being used from the days of Joseph Mowbray. Joseph Mowbray remained Head Teacher until his retirement in 1884. He died aged 78 in 1905.
In 1929 the school's name was changed to Geelong West Primary School. In that year Geelong West was officially proclaimed a city, and in an atmosphere of civic pride the Town Clerk, Howard French, asked for the name change. After much discussion and dissent the change was finally made and on 31 July 1929 it became official. Despite this, Ashby remained the school's unofficial name, particularly among ex-pupils.
In 1988, to celebrate Australia's Bicentennial year, Geelong West Primary School changed its name back to the original, historic name of Ashby Primary school.
The present Ashby building is the same one built in 1874, although many interior and exterior modifications have been made. These changes include:
1958 - The original bell tower removed for safety reasons
1974 - Upgrade to provide modern facilities
1975 - The Lawton Avenue garden replanted and enhanced
1996 - Fencing the junior school playground. The original school bell was placed on display in the school's foyer
1997 - The Castle playground designed and built by local artist Bernard Dorelat
1998 - Fencing the senior school playground. Lighthouse playground designed and built by Bernard Dorelat
1999 - School repainted in heritage colours and the original sandstone exposed.
2003 - Oval re-grassed
2004 - New shade cloth areas established in the infant playground
2005 - New stage and shade area beside the oval
2008 - New bike shed opened. The infant pavillion is constructed
2009 - A 220,000 litre tank and 20 solar panels are installed to boost Ashby’s efforts at sustainability
2010 - New stage and children’s kitchen. Major renovation of the hallway, library, I.C.T. rooms and office area begun.
Today Ashby’s wonderful buildings, extraordinary playground and hi-tech equipment would no doubt amaze Joseph Mowbray and his original 5 students.