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