Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Berwick Grammar School 1882-1928 and the Vieusseux family

Berwick Grammar School began in 1882 as a private school owned by the Head Master, Edward Vieusseux (1854-1917). Edward was the third son of Louis and Julie Vieusseux who had arrived in Melbourne in 1852. Louis was a Civil Engineer, but in 1857 opened a private school for girls, Valetta House Ladies College, in Clarendon Street, East Melbourne, where the Freemasons Hospital now stands. Edward had two older brothers, Stephen who died at 15 months and Lewis, the eldest boy, who disappeared on a family picnic in January 1858. Lewis, aged seven. was riding behind the family buggy on a stock horse, went off the track to look at something and his riderless pony returned but Lewis did not.  His body was found two years later, by a wood cutter, about ten miles from where he had disappeared.

Edward had worked at Jacob Hessel's boarding school in Harkaway, at the property Ratharnay, from 1880 and previous to this he had taught at Geelong Grammar. His father, who as we know had operated  his own school for many years, financed the purchase of a house in Berwick for his son to operate a school  and so Berwick Grammar school began.

The property they purchased was on the corner of Brisbane Street and Church Street and had been used by Miss Adelaide Robinson as a girls school from when it was built in 1877. It was on 1.5 acres of land.


The Berwick Grammar School, now  a private house.

It is  not known how many boys were enrolled in the early years of Berwick Grammar, there are apparently no school rolls in existence and it is thought that around 400 students were educated there over the life of the school. The South Bourke and Mornington Journal has a report of the first prize night and Mr Vieusseux is reported to have said that attendance has  not been as numerous as it might have been, still there has been an increase during each succeeding quarter; and the many inquiries and promises of pupils for the coming year, lead me to anticipate and excellent commencement for 1884.


South Bourke and Mornington Journal December 26, 1883

The same article also has  a list of  the honour recipients, which gives us some idea of the subjects on offer and also some of the pupils names.

South Bourke and Mornington Journal December 26, 1883

The subjects included English, Geography, French, Writing, Latin, Conduct, Mathematics. Gymnastics and  Music. Students in the first year inlcluded F. A'Beckett, R. A'Beckett, F. Britten, A. Brunet, G. Brunet, D. Clark, G. Clark, F. Coppin, G. Coppin,  T. Dwyer, F. Elmes, J. Hennings, A. Kent,  D. MacKinnon and G. Warry, 

Edward Vieusseux unexpectedly died on November 6, 1917, aged 63. the School then became affiliated with the Church of England, who acquired the buildings. The School then went through a succession of Head Masters, eight in eleven years until it closed in 1928 - The Reverend P.P McLaren became Head Master at the start of 1918, he was replaced by the Reverend Charles Zercho in 1920; in 1922 Mr Hancock took over, then the Reverend Douglas Howard, Mr Charles Kenrick, Mr Paul Polan, Mr J. H Morgan and lastly the  Reverend Hubert Brooksbank. The building became the short lived Winchester House Grammar school, then a guest house. From 1949 until 1972.  Mary Blackwood, who was on the staff at the Diocesan Office in St Pauls Cathedral.  used the building to train teachers and for a holiday camp for 'Christian Holidays' for children. The Building was named Mary Blackwood house after her. It then became a Community school, until 1977 when it was used as a place of instruction into the Jewish faith. The Church of England (or Anglican church) finally sold the building in  1990.

There is an Avenue of Honour in Church Street and a memorial plaque to the nine past students of Berwick Grammar School who were killed in World War One. You can read more about this here.

Here's some family information about Edward Vieusseux.  He was married in 1877 to Emily Ross. They had four children -  Lewis John (1879-1890) Edward Telford (1881-1887) Dorothy Jean (1888-1921) and Nellie Phyllis (1889-1914). It was a sad situation that three of the children pre deceased their father and the four of them pre deceased their mother, Emily, who died in 1940, aged 83. All the family are buried in the Berwick cemetery.


John Bellair has written an interesting history of the Berwick Grammar School, which is where I obtained some of the information for this post.  John was sent to board at the School in 1918 when he was eight years old. We have a Reference copy of the book at Narre Warren and you can purchase a copy at the Berwick Mechanics' Institute 15 High Street Berwick www.berwickmilibrary.org.au

I have created a  list of newspaper articles about the Berwick Grammar School and the Vieusseux family on Trove, click here to access the list. 

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