Diamond Creek District’s First Schools

January 3, 2023
Phillip Cummings’ farm and barn is to the left side of the road, just off the centre of the photo. The Diamond Creek Gold Mine can be seen on the hill to the left and the township is in the distance to the right.

In the early 1860’s, an increasing number of families were taking up and improving properties across Diamond Creek district. There was an even greater increase following the discovery of gold in Diamond Creek in 1862. Very quickly our first mine, the Diamond Creek Gold Mine, was established attracting a large number of miners and their families.

As 2022 was the 150th anniversary of State education in Victoria, we have taken the opportunity to tell the stories of our first schools and the need to educate our local children.

Before Victoria separated from New South Wales, the education system began under the auspices of various churches by means of grants from the State. In 1848 a Board of National Education was appointed and National Schools in common with existing denominational schools were established. In Victoria, the dual system of National and denominational schools was in force from the time of separation in 1851.




The first services of the Primitive Methodist Church were held in 1851 in the barn on Phillip Cummings’ farm. It was here, in 1862 , in the locality of what is now Phipps Crescent, that a building was constructed adjacent to the barn to house a school for local children. In October the same year an application was made for Government aid to a “Denominational School run by the Primitive Methodists at Cummings’ Corner.”

During 1863, schoolmaster John Dunkerley ran the school as well as a post office that was also setup on Phillip Cummings property. In November of that year, a grant was requested by Rev. Heathershaw to officially open the school.

Finally, after two years of hard work by the church and local families, the Primitive Methodist School No. 752 opened on 1st August, 1864. It was described as having a “paling roof, board sides, and wooden floor.” School fees were charged varying from 6d. to 2s. 6d. weekly. That there were an estimated 80 children on the roll gives an insight into the real need for a school at the time.

The Primitive Methodist School was the first to provide schooling in the district, giving educational opportunities to children from Diamond Creek and north to present day Wattle Glen and Hurstbridge.

A committee of parents was formed consisting of Humphrey Peers, William Ellis, William Wilson, George Gilbert and Phillip Cummings.

The first pupils were: Adeline, William and Caroline Kidd; Henry Turnbull; Eliza Tarr; George, Mary and James Goff; Lewis and Henry Grant; Alfred Tubb; Sarah Jones; George Mills; William Edwards; Ruth, John and Job Wilson; Ellen William; Margaret and Mary Ingles; William Watkins; Henry Kendall; Parrasatus Harding; James, Daniel and Elizabeth Butler; Sarah, George and Anne Triphones; Robert James; Robert McFarlane; Mary Tobin; Mary, Abraham and Elizabeth Gibson; Henry Gibson; Louisa Litchwood; Mary Bull; Agnes, Emma, Anne and Evelyn Peers; John, Martha, Annie and George Herbert; William Austin; Patrick, Daniel and Lawrence Ryan; George and Martha Godber; Fanny and Arthur Rooks; John Patrick, Ellen and Thomas Murray.

The school continued to meet local needs until it was replaced by the Nillumbik School, built in 1870, then Upper Diamond Creek State School in 1876.




As the population of Diamond Creek continued to increase, miners and other newcomers began agitating for a Common School to be opened. Government policy was to support only one school in the district, and the Primitive Methodists strongly opposed its establishment. There were also protests from the “Gullies” – First Water Gully, now Wattle Glen and Second Watery Gully, Yates and Silvan Roads – that the majority of children were nearer the old school.

In a report on the proposed new school location, the School District Inspector stated:

The proposed site of the new school was 3/4 mile west of No. 752 and there was a good bridge over the creek, the site was much more central than 752, many parents would not send their children to No. 752 and the majority preferred a vested to a non-vested school.

The arguments for and against were finally settled and on 11th June, 1869 the site of the new building appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette: The school to be erected on Crown Land of about two acres reserved for School purposes.

The local committee that fought for the new school had raised £72.10.10 towards the new school, and on 12th January, 1870 a Board order granted a matching amount in aid. From the new school’s opening date, aid to the Primitive Methodist School No. 752 would be discontinued.

This photo from about 1905 shows the school building with the extension added in 1877 after the new Department of Education took over the school. The tender of £135 for building the new school was taken up in March 1870 and construction commenced. The substantial building measuring 36 feet by 18 feet was completed and approved by May.

On 1st July, 1870 the Nillumbik School No. 1003 was opened as a Common School with Mr. Edward Bill, who was previously at school No. 752, as head teacher. Enrolments for the first year numbered 96 (40 boys, 56 girls). On the first day there were 53 pupils:

Frances and Lucy Edmonds; May and Joseph Harrington; Joseph, Sarah, Elizabeth, Selina and Martha Critchley; Ellen, Margaret, June, William and George Ingles; Robert, William and Mary Hodges; William, Elfrida and Charles Rufus; William, Margaret and Samuel Fuller; Isaac, Sarah, John, Margaret, Elizabeth, William and Joseph Barrow; William and Susan Donaldson; Richard, Margaret, Thomas, Elizabeth and Edward Wadeson; Edward Brind; George, Sarah and John Archer; John Fraser; Michael Clark; Annie, David and Emily Jacob; William, Caroline and Mary Watkins; William, Thomas and Hannah Drew.

The Education Act of 1872 established a Department of Education and instituted the principle of free, secular, and compulsory education. From 1st January, 1873 the school became known as State School No. 1003 Nillumbik. The department took over the building and later, in 1877 added an extension of 40 feet by 20 feet. It was built at a cost of £289.10.0 by Mr. C.J. Verso.




With the state school at Diamond Creek already open and catering to the needs of the township, a school was still needed for children living further north along the creek as far as Allwood, present day Hurstbridge, and beyond.

A new one room school building with attached residence for the head teacher and his family was built on land at Second Watery Gully, adjacent to present day Yates Road, in 1877, also by Mr. C.J. Verso. Upper Diamond Creek State School No. 2059 was opened to serve the community to the north side of Diamond Creek up to the northern parts of what is now Hurstbridge. We do not have initial enrolment numbers or names.

Upper Diamond Creek State School in the late 1890’s with headmaster John Sebire and his wife and two daughters

The school served the community well until a new school was opened in Anzac Avenue, Hurstbridge in 1916 following the extension of the railway line in 1912. There was a lot of engagement with and support from the community with each teacher and his family being an important part of local events and celebrations.

The one room school building was transported to the site of the new Wattle Glen State School in 1922 and was the main school building there until it was destroyed by fire in 1925.

We are fortunate to have the part of the building that was the head teacher’s residence still standing in its original position on Main Hurstbridge Road. It is located just north of Yates Road and is one of the oldest buildings in the area.

The headteachers residence of Upper Diamond Creek State School as it is today

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