Williamstown Primary School No. 1183, Hobsons Bay Heritage Study 2006 - 1878 School
Statement of Significance
What is Significant?
The Williamstown Primary School No. 1183 complex, comprising the original school designed by HR Bastow and constructed by Beauland & Spencer in 1878, the Infant School designed by GW Watson and constructed by Shillabeer & Hallett in 1906 and the Moreton Bay Figs, Canary Island Pines and Elms at 111-119 Cecil Street, Williamstown.
How is it Significant?
The Williamstown Primary School No. 1183 complex is of local historic, social and aesthetic significance to the City of Hobsons Bay.
Why is it Significant?
Historically, it was the first government school established in Williamstown and the 1878 school boldly illustrates the optimistic new era of secular education made possible by the Free Education Act of 1872, while the 1906 infant school illustrates the change in educational philosophy during the early years of the twentieth century toward the provision of buildings to serve the particular needs of very young children. The complex as a whole forms part of an important group of public buildings, which dramatically illustrate the significant development that occurred in Williamstown during the late nineteenth century and is also important for its associations with people such as HR Bastow, John Longstaff, Sir John Norris CAM and Dr. George J. Jenkins. The mature trees are important for their associations with the important early period of development of the school and illustrate prevailing attitudes to landscape design of public places during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (AHC criteria A4 and D2)
Aesthetically and architecturally, the 1878 school is significant for the impressive design by the notable government architect, HR Bastow, which was reputedly cited as the best school in the Australian Colonies by its contemporaries. The design, which was executed using a relatively uncommon material (basalt) achieved the full articulation of the various architectural elements generally used under Bastow such as the distinctive 'E' plan, crossing spires, intersecting roof gables and semi-detached round tower. The 1878 school is also part of a public building precinct where local stone is prevalent. Architecturally, the 1906 infant school by GW Watson incorporated new and innovative design features, which influenced school design for years to come. The setting of the school is enhanced by the mature exotic trees, which contribute to the historic cultural landscape in this area. (AHC criteria E1 and F1)
Socially, the school is significant for its strong associations with the development of Williamstown during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. (AHC criterion G1)
Note: Building and associated land are also included on the Victorian Heritage Register as VHR H1639.