Prince Alfred College in 1869

From the South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900)  Wed 23 Jun 1869


The above College, of which the foundation, stone was laid by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh in November; 1867, was formally opened on Tuesday. the 27th of May, the holiday kept in celebration of the accession of Queen Victoria, under- viceregal patronage. The day being a holiday, and the weather propitious, success was looked forward to – the matter being in the hands of the Wesleyan body— as a matter of certainty; but, whatever the expectations may have been, there is little doubt they were more than realized before the conclusion of the proceedings. The attendance, both at the breakfast and at the subsequent meeting was in excess of that which had been calculated upon, although there was ample provision and, accommodation for all who were induced to add by their presence to the success of the auspicious event.

The people began to assemble on the grounds soon after 11 o’clock, and from that time for several hours continued to pour in from all directions. The number who visited the College, and grounds throughout the day must have reached many hundreds, if not some thousands of persons. His Excellency the Governor and Lady Edith Fergusson, accompanied by Captain Deering, arrived a few minutes before noon, and alighted at the entrance to the College, where they were received by the President, the Rev. W. L. Binks, and the Hon. J. Colton, M.P.

They were then conducted through the building, and His Excellency expressed his satisfaction with its architectural and general arrangements. Whatever may be the various opinions in regard to the important question of national education, everyone will welcome the establishment of high class voluntary educational institutions such as that which was inaugurated on Tuesday.

The site is a beautiful block of land, adjoining the property known as Dr. Kent’s, in Kent Town, and contains about 13 acres, studded in parts with a few handsome gum trees, sufficient to remind old colonists of what the country was for miles around before it became occupied with the neat and homely residences with which it is now covered. They will also afford a welcome shade to the denizens of the playground in the scorching summer weather, although there is also thoughtful provision made in this matter in connection with the school buildings. The block has a frontage of 500 feet to the Park Lands, looking towards the city, and runs back as far as Young Street, being bounded by another public road on the side facing the Mount Lofty ranges.

A brief resume of the history of the College movement may be interesting on this occasion. The question of founding a College in connection with the Wesleyan body is one that engaged the attention of many of the ministers and leading laymen of the body for a number of years. A resolution affirming the desirability of the formation of such an establishment was carried at a district meeting held in 1854, when the late Rev. Mr. Draper was Chairman of the Adelaide District. That resolution, we believe, referred to all the colonies but since then the desired object has been accomplished in Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania, where there are Colleges in successful operation. No steps were taken, however, in South Australia for a considerable time after the commencement referred to. On the arrival of the Rev. J. Watsford to take charge of the Adelaide Circuit some years afterwards the matter was resuscitated, and by means of his earnest advocacy brought prominently under the consideration of the office bearers and active members in the several churches, who became impressed with the importance of the proposal, which Ied to their taking decisive action in the year 1865. On the 8th of September of that year a number of ministers and friends having held a meeting amongst themselves took the responsibility of bidding for the site which has now been ornamented with the Prince Alfred College and became the purchasers at the price of £2,750.

That step having been completed, it was resolved that a handsome building, suitable for the object in view, should be erected as soon as possible, which decision was approved at the Conference held in the early part of 1866. A number of liberal promises were made towards the undertaking; and at the close of a meeting in the Pirie Street Lecture Hall, on the 9th of July. 1867, the total amount promised was £2,700, which included one sum of £500, two of £300, and two at £200. At the meeting referred to, which took the form of a public breakfast, several excellent and able speeches were delivered, in which the aim and intention of the institution were set forth and explained. The funds promised had reached upwards of £3,000 at the time the foundation stone was laid, and now, through the characteristic liberality of the members of the Wesleyan body throughout the colony, assisted by many of other denominations, the sum total, including promises, amounts to £4,350.

The centre portion of the building only is at present erected, the designs having been furnished by Mr. Garlick, of Register-Chambers, under whose supervision the work has been carried out. It is in the Elizabethan style of architecture, and the centre which is now completed has a lofty and imposing appearance, very noticeable from all the eastern part of the city. The quoins are of cut freestone, and the bay windows on either side are enclosed with imitation stonework done in cement, forming a pleasing contrast with the Glen Osmond stone, of which the remainder of the structure is built, and for which Mr. C. Vernon, by whom that part of the work was executed, deserves favourable mention. The contour of the edifice is rendered sufficiently ornamental by neat colonnades above the bay windows and a projecting balcony over the entrance, the smaller windows being finished with corresponding balustrades, and the roof with an ornamental cresting and finials at the apex of either gable end; the height to the ridge ot the roof is 64 feet. The masonry contract has been carried out by Mr. W. Lines and completed in a very satisfactory manner.

A basement storey runs along the extent of the building, affording ample kitchen accommodation, besides a dining-room for the boarders at one end and matron’s apartments at the other. On the ground floor the principal entrance leads into a spacious lobby or hall, from which springs a bold staircase of Tasmanian blackwood. On this floor is the large schoolroom, 57 feet by 27, well ventilated and lighted, the windows being fitted with ground glass. On the same floor is a handsome reception room in front, and at one side, where [there] is also an entrance for the boys, a hat and cloak room, properly fitted with pegs and pigeon holes. At the other end is a large classroom, or second schoolroom, and there is also a study for the President. The second floor is occupied chiefly by a suite of apartments for the President, rooms for the Headmaster and other masters, and conveniences in the way of closets and storerooms. There is also a large room provided for the accommodation of any of the scholars who may from sickness require special attention. The third floor contains the dormitories, the principal one being 40 feet by 28, and another 24 by 18, for the use of the elder scholars. A master’s sleeping room is so arranged as to command a view all over the general dormitory, which, as well as every other portion of the building, is amply ventilated. This desideratum is achieved by an extensive kind of air tube opening to the roof out of the staircase chamber, which is systematically connected with openings from all the several floors. Abundant provision, too, is made in the way of bathrooms and lavatories, the latter being provided on an extensive scale both up and down stairs, a supply of water being obtained from the Waterworks mains, which have been connected at considerable expense. At one end of the building there is a convenient arrangement for the purpose of lifting anything that may be required from the bottom to the second storey. Gas as well as water pipes have been laid to the various floors— the former with only a prospective object, though the latter will of course be utilized at once.

At the rear of the main building there is substantial stabling accommodation for eight or 10 horses or ponies, a shed for the boys to play in in wet weather, and other necessary conveniences. There are also now being added stable and coach house for the use of the President of the College, who has his residence at the institution. The total cost of the building will be, exclusive of the land, about £6,250, and with the land £9,580, 2s, 7d.

The design when completed by the addition of the wings will occupy a frontage of 256 feet, each wing having a veranda in front, and will afford accommodation sufficient no doubt to meet the requirements of the colony for many years to come in conjunction with other similar institutions.

The present building is already almost out of the workman’s hands, and is to be quite ready for duties of the College to be commenced in it at the close of the holidays, when a large accession to the numbers (about 50), who have been meeting at the Pirie Street Lecture Hall, is anticipated. The Committee deserve praise for the energy with which they have pressed forward the work to such a successful issue, in which they have been ably assisted by Mr. Garlick, the architect, of the firm of Garlick & McMinn, and the success with which everything passed off on Tuesday must have been a source of gratification to all concerned.