Clifton Hill Primary School

Clifton Hill Primary School


Gold Street Primary School, Clifton Hill;

No.1360183-185 Gold Street Clifton Hill

The Education Act of 1872 established free, compulsory and secular education in Victoria.

Primary School No.1360, in Gold Street, Clifton Hill, was opened in 1874. Built to a design of WH Ellerker, the two storey school was constructed of load bearing brick with a bluestone base.

Heritage Victoria has registered Primary School No.1360 as of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria.

It is of architectural significance as one of a group of schools designed by leading Melbourne architects as a result of a competition held by the newly formed Education Department in 1873, and erected in the period 1874-81. The design of these early schools tells us something about the philosophy of education at the time, the large classroom spaces indicating the size of classes, and the rather limited fenestration revealing the priority given to the isolation of children during the education process over the provision of natural light.

The school’s historical significance includes its substantial size which gives some indication of the growth of Melbourne in the latter decades of the 19th century, as well as the effect of the free and compulsory aspects of the legislation in increasing the enrolments at state schools. Ellerker’s design for a school of 500 pupils was originally intended for Gold Street.

Clifton-Hill-PS_smallWhen it became clear that a much bigger school was needed, his second-place design for a 1000-pupil school on two floors was used instead. The large schools of the inner suburbs are an indication of the expansion of Melbourne at the time, and a tribute to the infrastructural spending of the colonial government at a time of economic vitality and social development.

Each of the large classrooms contained five blocks of fixed wooden desks, arranged in three tiers on raised platforms. Children sat at the desks on hard wooden backless forms. These allowed classrooms each to accommodate 150 to 160 children although as many as 200 were squeezed in.

The book A school for one thousand scholars provides a detailed account of the school’s history.

Heritage Register number H1621


Vincent, Alison, 2001, A school for one thousand scholars, Clifton Hill Primary School, Clifton Hill.

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