Werribee Primary School No. 649,
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Werribee Primary School comprises a number of buildings. The earliest appears to be the building facing Deutgam Street, a single storey brick building dating from 1919, and extended to the east in 1922. The building has a consistent style across the two sections, but some minor architectural differences, particular in the window detailing.
The school grounds contain a large number of large trees of a wide variety – pines, eucalypts and cypresses.
The official opening of a new State School in Werribee, an important event in the history of the town, was reported in the district press on 18 September 1919.
By the turn of the century the old school buildings, the earliest of which dated from the early 1860s, were in disrepair and had been condemned by the district Health Officer. In 1906 the original 1861 timber single-room classroom was demolished, two bluestone classrooms added in 1869 and 1874 were renovated, and new brick rooms were added.
The increase in the township population following the opening up of the Werribee area to soldier settlement at the end of the First World War led to a need for greater school accommodation. In 1917, G. T. Chirnside had donated five acres of land for the establishment of a new school. This land, bounded by Werribee, Pyke, Wedge and Deutgam Streets, (Town Allotment 10, Parish of Deutgam) became the current school site.
The first public buildings on the new site were opened by G. T. Chirnside on 12 September 1919. Constructed by the Public Works Department, the designing architects were Brittingham and Kerr. S. C. Brittingham was Chief Architect from 1914 to 1922. In their design, these architects made provision for later extensions to the buildings. Press articles described the 1919 structures in some detail. There were four classrooms, a stationery room, a master’s room and “a room for cloaks and wash basins”. There was a verandah on the western side.
“The two largest rooms are divided by glass doors, built so they can be folded up, and the two rooms be made up into a fine assembly hall”. The walls were brick, the roof was iron, and “the woodwork, entirely Australian hardwood”. It was pointed out, in support of the popular health theories of the time, that children in the school “would be taught under the best conditions as regards air space, ventilation and light”.
Contemporary photographs show Chirnside at the official opening, and the large crowd which attended the ceremony. Beside his gift of land, Chirnside gave £1000 for a memorial fund. This followed the unveiling of a State School 649 Honour Roll at a school function in the Mechanic’s Hall in December 1917. Chirnside’s gift was one of a number of memorials to soldiers from Werribee who died in the First World War. The interest from the Chirnside money was to provide a Chirnside scholarship.
The later history of the Werribee Primary School is told in an article in the official Education Department publication Vision and realisation : a centenary history of state education in Victoria / general editor: L.J. Blake (1973). Secondary classes began in 1921 and were housed in extensions donated by Chirnside and opened by Sir Alexander Peacock on 3 May 1923. Several extra classrooms were added over the years, including a brick sloyd-craft room in 1938. More rooms were added after the Second World War; two aluminium classrooms in 1953 and a domestic arts section in 1954. Earlier, in 1950, an Army hut was obtained to house the Carter Library. This library commenced with £500 donated by Carter Bros., prosperous district poultry farmers.
A Werribee High School was gazetted in 1956. Both the primary and high schools remained in the same building until September 1959, when the separate High School at Duncans Road was opened.
The Primary School was upgraded in 1983, following a grant of $1.5 million. The new buildings were officially opened on 9 December 1983 by the Hon. Robert Fordham, Minister of Education.
Werribee,” Wyndham History, accessed September 25, 2021, https://wyndhamhistory.net.au/items/show/1030.