Vogeltown School Established 1915
Compiled by G. H. Davey.
The establishment of a school at Vogeltown followed the general pattern of suburban schools in New Zealand at the beginning of the century. As the population of the town grew, surrounding farmlands were subdivided with the result that new houses were built in closer proximity to each other, the occupants generally being of young families. Citizens too with families moved to the outskirts of the town to take advantage of the cheaper living and greater freedom. By 1910, the Vogeltown area, which had been served by the Central, Frankley Road and Carrington Schools, was ready for a school of its own.
The first move towards this end came in 1912 when, after discussions among the residents of the area, Mr G. W. Browne was chosen to approach the Taranaki Education Board. The community was mostly a farming one, but about this time larger holdings were being subdivided into sections ranging from a half acre to 10 and 20 acres. The next step was to choose a site for the school and the first proposed was at the junction of Carrington and Brooklands Roads. This was considered by the Board to be rather far out and although ideal level sites appear to us at the present time to have been available, the Smith Road site was preferred. Smith Road – later Smith Street and now Huatoki Street – then ran from Carrington Street to the edge of the Huatoki Valley but was formed only as far as the present school gates and the area adjacent to it was marked on the maps as Saxton Township.
After two years of indefinite haggling, the residents with an estimated 60 pupils, now pushed the authorities into a decision. In July 1915 a school was temporarily established at the Methodist Sunday School in Hori Street as a “Side School” under the control of the Headmaster of the Central School. Miss M. Wilson and Mrs Wilkes opened the school with 33 pupils up to Standard 4. Senior pupils still attended Central School. Meanwhile land was purchased from Mr Tippens on the south side of Smith Road beyond the present school gates with only one acre of semi-flat land and the rest sloping steeply to the Huatoki Stream.
The First World War intervened and all building was postponed until 1918 when the Education Department finally gave the ‘go ahead’ to the building of the first school of two rooms. Because of the poor conditions at the Hori Street School, the roll had dropped to 40 pupils, parents preferring to send their children-to Central or Frankley Schools.
On May 29th 1919, The Hon. R. Masters, as Minister of Education, opened the new school with Orlando Allen as Headmaster. Of interest today is the cost of the two rooms and outbuildings which amounted to the princely sum of 2,039 pounds.
By 1921 the school was already overcrowded with Mr Allen and an assistant struggling with 75 pupils in a classroom of 580 sq. feet. So back to Hori Street went a class until two new rooms were built in 1924 an 1925. Meanwhile an area of 2 acres originally owned by General Meldrum on the opposite side of the unformed portion of Smith Road was offered by the late W. H. Broome and purchased in 1923 to make a much needed addition to the grounds.
The roll rose to 170 in the next few years, but then any natural increase was offset with the withdrawal of all five year olds during the depression. Work was found for many unemployed locally on the levelling of the school grounds. In 1933 the school residence was purchased from Mrs Martin of Stratford for 708 pounds.
It was not until the middle 30’s that the next upward trend began. At the end of 1935 the whole staff moved to other positions so that in 1936 a new staff of S teachers arrived on the job together, a most unusual situation. A rising roll the next year saw the arrival of the first movable classroom, a weird contraption of four walls with a roof bolted together by long steel rods. In a southerly wind the walls were inclined to concertina dangerously, so that Miss Todd, the teacher at the time, made several hurried exits to safer, if less comfortable spots in the playground.
Meanwhile improvements were being added to grounds and classrooms through the efforts of good committees and co-operation of the parents. The Huatoki pool had catered for the district swimmers for the past 25 years: But despite many efforts to improve it, as a teaching pool it was a poor affair, although hundreds of children did learn to swim there.
As the roll had now passed the 200 mark, a decision was then made to build a swimming pool in the grounds. With the willing help of numerous working bees, a Government subsidy, and the full co-operation of the Education Board, the pool was completed after a few months ready for the 1940-41 swimming season and opened by Mr Frost, M.P. The first swimmer was Gladys Franklin, who had been recommended for a Humane Society Medal for the rescue of Bobby Russell at the Huatoki Pool.
As the playing area covered only 2 1/4 acres at this stage, another 3 3/4 acres was purchased from the Saxton Estate on the southern boundary. The hilly nature of the land prevented its use until several years later, when less than half was made available by bulldozing.
The first two rooms of the new classroom and office block in 1943 made the extension of the playing area still more important. The end of the war saw the beginning of a boom period when the roll rose from under 300 to 450 within seven years. Housing projects in all surroundings areas kept the classrooms bursting at the seams. The Hori Street Sunday School was again requisitioned and even the Domain buildings were used as classrooms. More classrooms still had to be built, although zoning syphoned off some children to Welbourn.
Growing schools need money and Vogeltown has always been fortunate in its parents. All kinds of money raising projects continually brought in large sums of money. The Home and School Association and the School Committees were (and are) most active bodies working in close cooperation for the good of the school. The building of the school hall was a splendid example with a Queen Carnival in 1944 raising 1,558 pounds. It was eventually opened in April 1949 with a social and dance.
In 1948 an area of 4 3/4 acres behind the street frontage in Huatoki Street was purchased from W. W. Thomson Estate for a new Infant Block, so that by 1950 the pressure on the main school was relieved by the withdrawal of infant classes. Then again in 1955 the Highlands Intermediate School drained off approximately 110 pupils in Forms 1 and 2. This provided a breathing space with accommodation to spare, but six or seven years of housing expansion, especially in the Frankleigh Park area, once again built up the school roll to crowding proportions. As a result the Woodleigh School was established in Brois Street. This meant that Vogeltown is now surrounded by well established schools, and will be free from the fluctuations of the past for a long period.