School days

Frank­ley School was one of the first schools to be es­tab­lished in New Ply­mouth, trac­ing its roots to 1853.

Taranaki Daily News - - Fea­tures - VICKI PRICE Our Sto­ries

YOU MAY have won­dered why Frank­ley Road in New Ply­mouth and Fran­kleigh Park are so close to each other and yet spelt dif­fer­ently. The sec­ond one was a pop­u­lar gar­dens fea­tured in an ear­lier col­umn and the first was a farm named by its owner, John New­land.

He bought the 100 acres for £10 per acre in 1853.

In the same year, in the same area, a school was formed on a neigh­bour’s farm. The road be­came known as Frank­ley Road and, in time, so did the school.

A news­pa­per re­port in the Taranaki Her­ald, one Wed­nes­day in Au­gust 1853 stated that a ‘‘a school has been es­tab­lished in con­nec­tion with the chapel re­cently erected at the corner of Mr Peter El­liot’s land.

A few months later, an­other re­port noted that ‘‘school was held in Mr Peter El­liot’s large barn’’.

The school was one of the first for the New Ply­mouth area and it has un­der­gone sev­eral in­car­na­tions over the years. In the first few years af­ter it was formed, the Land Wars erupted and, in 1860, forced the school to close.

The res­i­dents of the Frank­ley area left their homes and headed into town to take refuge while the threat to their homes re­mained.

It was seven years be­fore the res­i­dents were able to start re­turn­ing to their homes in the out­ly­ing ar­eas of the town­ship, in­clud­ing that of Frank­ley. Life restarted in earnest in the re­claimed sub­urb and it was pro­posed in 1878 that a new school be built.

A Mr Small won the ten­der to build an up­right board­ing school house for £133/10. The school­house opened with four pupils, but grew to 11 in the first week.

The fa­thers of the day – Okey, Cole, Grif­fin, Ducker, Marett, Davies and Hooper – formed the first com­mit­tee and no doubt shared great en­thu­si­asm for the cause. They would have needed it, be­cause sup­plies were short and a jour­nal en­try in 1902 notes that there were no easels and no wa­ter sup­ply.

De­spite the lack, the school con­tin­ued to grow as more and more fam­i­lies moved to the area and at one stage there was one brave teacher to 99 pupils. The teacher was lucky enough to have two as­sis­tants, but a de­ci­sion was made to alert the Ed­u­ca­tion Board to the un­san­i­tary and over­crowded state of Frank­ley Road school. The com­mu­nity wanted a new school built.

To help en­sure this hap­pened when the school in­spec­tor came, lo­cal leg­end has it that the par­ents crawled un­der the build­ing to re­move enough of the piles to war­rant a new build­ing. You would think that 99 kids to one teacher would have been rea­son enough.

The par­ents got their wish and the school was moved to an ad­ja­cent site by horse­drawn wag­ons, where it be­came a gym and con­cert hall. The fol­low­ing year, the new school was built. This build­ing is still stand­ing and can be seen on the corner of Tukapa St and Frank­ley Rd. It is now a pri­vate res­i­dence.

This was at the be­gin­ning of the 1900s and while the school was be­com­ing es­tab­lished, the com­mu­nity was dogged by health scares. In 1916, it was closed be­cause of diph­the­ria; in 1920, it closed be­cause of in­fluenza; in 1925 and 1937, it closed be­cause of an out­break of in­fan­tile paral­y­sis; 1938 brought the measles epi­demic; then in 1947-48, it was again po­liomyeli­tis that closed the school down. Other events, too, caused the tem­po­rary clo­sure of the school, such as the out­break of war, the win­ning of the war and the death of the prime min­is­ter Wil­liam Fer­gu­son Massey. A visit by the Prince of Wales to New Ply­mouth gave the kids a day off, as did the King’s ju­bilee in 1935.

By 1969, the school was need­ing more room. The sit­u­a­tion was tight with 103 chil­dren, four staff mem­bers and just three class­rooms. One group was be­ing housed in a porch. The school res­i­dence was ap­proved by the board to be used as a tem­po­rary class­room and the chil­dren were later given the day off to help move ma­te­ri­als and equip­ment into the new school. A jour­nal en­try says: ‘‘This is our first day in the new Frank­ley School. Staff and chil­dren are more than de­lighted with its spa­cious­ness, con­ve­nience and warmth.’’

The new school was built on Dun­can and Davies nurs­ery land at the bot­tom of the Frank­ley Road hill. Much of the planting and land­scap­ing is at­trib­uted to the nurs­ery and in par­tic­u­lar Sir Vic­tor Davies, who was ac­tive in con­tribut­ing many na­tive trees to Taranaki schools.

The school grew, the Queen came and went and a li­brary was added.

The av­enue of liq­uid am­bers was planted as well as a se­lec­tion of na­tive trees in the wilder­ness area to the south of the school. Then, in 1980, floods ru­ined the rel­a­tively new car­pet in the rel­a­tively new li­brary.

It hap­pened again two years later, then again in 1986.

Other build­ings have ar­rived as the school has grown; the Haw­era Rail­way Hall was added in 1990 for use as a school hall and an old laboratory was shifted from the Waitara Freez­ing Works to be used as a mul­ti­pur­pose build­ing.

The school’s web­site states that like ev­ery school, it is not ‘‘sim­ply a mat­ter of grounds and build­ings’’.

‘‘It takes com­mit­ment from peo­ple to give a school its heart and per­son­al­ity. The dona­tions of prop­erty, time and hard work by mem­bers of Frank­ley’s com­mu­nity are doc­u­mented through­out the musty old log books dat­ing back to the days of the pi­o­neers and on through the records of suc­ces­sive school com­mit­tees.’’ ■ Ref­er­ence: www.frank­ley.school.nz

They never seemed to smile in old pho­tos. These girls were snapped while pre­sent­ing crafts for sale at Frank­ley School in 1895. Photo: PUKE ARIKI

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