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Grammar School

200 High St; aka Girton College, and aka Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Community of Christ)


In 1883 a proprietary grammar school was established in Fremantle and a school house, now Girton College, was built at the top of High Street, a trained master (Henry Briggs) being brought from England. In 1886 the master resigned and established a school of his own, which resulted in the closing of the first school and the ultimate occupation of the building by the new school, which had a course of great prosperity until the retirement of Briggs in 1897. Briggs afterwards achieved distinction in the political arena and was president of the Legislative Council when he was knighted. Hitchcock: 65.

The building at 200 High Street was originally intended to be the Fremantle Grammar School 1885-1905. The Rose and Crown Hotel building, on the Hoyt's/Oriana Cinema site on the corner of High and Queen Sts, was associated with the Grammar School, apparently as a boarding house for scholars.

The FGS was later Girton College for girls, and then apparently The Church of England School for Girls (Library).

It was used 1945-1988 by The Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (now known as Community of Christ). The pastor was Oscar Stack, a barber who was also on the City Council (1967) and after whom Stack Street was named. The building was originally intended to house a school run by the Church of England from 1885. It is now a private dwelling. The housing for the school bell has been removed from the roof of the heritage building. The unsightly bolts have been left sticking up as evidence of the removal.

The building stands at 200 High Street, opposite Monument Hill. It was built by Melbourne architect Charles Inksep in the Gothic Revival style, from limestone and corrugated asbestos. The school was established as a public school by the Anglican Church in 1885. Henry Briggs was sent from England in 1882 to help establish it, and was its headmaster until 1897. The grammar school closed in 1905 and that was put down to the headmaster's (later Sir Henry Briggs) interest in politics.
In the 1920s the building became a short-lived girls school named Girton College, and in 1945 was bought by The Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (now known as Community of Christ) for use as a place of worship until 1988. Wikipedia.

Henry Briggs's house is adjacent to the school to the East. Oscar Stack and family, while he was pastor of the RLDS church, lived in a separate house to the east of the older buildings. It can be seen at the extreme right of the 1972 photo below.

Alec Smith:
My sisters went to school at Girton College on High Street, opposite the Monument. In the 1880s it had been a boys boarding school, but when the English headmaster left it became a girls school with a co-ed kindergarten. It later was used as a church and is still standing. I went there with my sisters until I was seven. We would catch the tram from the West End. I remember playing the mornings and then sleeping in the afternoons at the house around the back. Miss Scott and Miss Lightly ran the school. Alec Smith 2004, 'The boy from the West End', in Karen Lang & Jan Newman, Wharf Rats and Other Stories: 100 Years of Growing up in Fremantle, FPS: 114.


This photo from 1972 shows the church, as it was at that time, with bell-housing and bell still in place. This is from the Fremantle History Centre, file #795A, the photo attributed to F.A. Sharr. The Library provides the following valuable note.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was originally built 1855 as Fremantle Grammar School. The Headmaster was Henry Briggs. He and his staff taught 27 boarders and 93 day scholars. The school closed in 1905 due to Mr Briggs's involvement in politics. In 1909 Miss Haines opened a girls' school known as Girton College until 1918. In 1919 it was reopened as The Church of England School for Girls with Miss Bessie Scott and Miss Barbara Lightly as teachers.

(By "Smiler.")
Fifty years ago [1882?], at the rear of the Anglican Rectory in Cantonment-street, the Fremantle Grammar School was opened under the auspices of a Board of Governors, with Mr. Henry Briggs as headmaster.
Six years later sole control was taken over by Mr. Briggs and the school was renamed "The Fremantle School." Under the latter title it was continued until September, 1897, when Mr. Briggs. relinquished school teaching to enter politics. These schools have left their mark on the life of Western Australia. "Old boys" of "Paddy Briggs' " school are scattered throughout the length and breadth of the State, and to-day are filling prominent positions in every walk of life.
The nickname "Paddy" was acquired owing to the fact that our old head was born on the anniversary of St. Patrick's Day. In our schooldays it was always the privilege ot the head boy to ask for a half-holiday to celebrate the occasion. This request was usually granted, but on one memorable occasion, owing to the eagerness of a small boy, who asked in an "Irish whisper": "I wonder if Paddy is going to give us a half-holiday to-morrow," the request was refused. Needless to say, that boy was very unpopular and had to pay the penalty.
The school filled a large place in the social life of early Fremantle, and the annual "speech days," "sports days" and annual ball were always eagerly looked forward to by the youth and beauty of the time.
An interesting paper clipping from "The People," dated December 19, 1891, sets forth that the first rowing race between the Perth High School (now Hale School) and the Fremantle Grammar School took place on the previous Saturday aud resulted in a win for Fremantle Grammar School by three lengths. The distance was three-quarters of a mile. As I pen these notes what memories and visions of schooldays pass through my mind! The lessons we learned are dimmed and almost forgotten, but the songs we sang lustily in our boyhood will always be remembered:—
"Forty years on, when afar and asunder
Parted are those who are singing to-day,
When you look back and forgetfully wonder
What you were like in your work and your play."
And so, after forty years, perhaps fifty years, we met together and looked back, some perhaps with satisfaction, their boyhood's ambitions realised, others, bearing the scars of battle, still fighting on, whilst many have passed beyond. And what of the old master who taught us? He was a strict disciplinarian, and the slacker and shirker were always under the whip. Many a boy has cause to remember his correction, perhaps over-severe at times, but it was always done with a sense of duty and for the good of the boy in question. After all, "boys will be boys," and we live to forgive and forget.
Henry Briggs served his day and generation well, and before the close of his life was decorated by his King with the K.C.M.G., a decoration of which all his old scholars are extremely and justly proud.
An instance of "Paddy's" thoroughness recurs to my mind. A boy had committed some offence, but would not own up, and naturally no one else would tell. The head, not to be beaten, lined up the whole school, caned them from the highest to the lowest, and then remarked "Now I have got the right boy."
And so, when the roll was called by one of the old masters at the jubilee reunion held in the School Hall (Girton College) on October 4 [1932], many "old boys" toed the line and the spirit of youth returned. But, alas! many names were unanswered, many scholars looked in vain for the chums of their schooldays, and the toast of "Absent Friends" was drunk in silence. And memory awakened and brought to mind another of our schoolday songs—
"Hark to the stroke, and another, and another.
Tolling at night tor the passing of a brother.
One life more from the common life is taken,
Work all done, and fellowship forsaken.
Playmate, sleep, and far away awaken.
Ding! Ding! Ding!" The Fremantle Times, Thursday 27 October 1932, page 3.

References and Links

Girton College, Prospectus, Battye Library Private Archives MN 614.

Garry Gillard | New: 26 August, 2017 | Now: 8 July, 2022