Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Officer College, Hobart

In the early nineteenth century basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills were imparted to children by their mothers or women in private homes. By the middle of the nineteenth century, teaching was evolving into a largely male profession with female assistants and pupil teachers supervised by educated men. Education was done in small private schools, often with subsidies from the colonial government, paid to the operators for each pupil. Denominational schools also had staff from religious orders. Affluent homes may have afforded a governess. In the middle of the nineteenth century a number of denominational and some non-denominational private schools also commenced. By the turn of the century the Tasmanian Government was active in establishing State schools for all denominations.

The Officer College for higher learning was founded in 1888 by the Presbyterian Church of Tasmania. It was named in memory of Sir Robert Officer, a medical officer and politician who was known for his benevolence for the poor and his piety. Officer was a Presbyterian who supported other Protestant denominations. He was active in supporting chapel funds in remote districts and as a lay office holder in many parishes. He was public in his praise for the Wesleyan missionaries for their work with convicts. Reflecting Officer's participation and worship in a range of Protestant churches, the school was non-denominational.

It was well located for residential students because it was in close proximity to the Queens Domain, the University, a cricket and football ground, swimming baths, rowing sheds, yacht moorings, railway station and tram terminus. Promotional material boasted that the building was situated on one of the "highest and healthiest" parts of Hobart. Elevated locations were considered healthier and being cleaner, more likely to uphold civic virtue. Such areas were usually the domain of the wealthier classes and the location of Officer College, as a church school can be understood within this context.

The College accommodated boarders but did not have a dormitory. Boarders were limited to fifteen and were accommodated within adjacent student accommodation. All teachers were resident and fully qualified. The College's curriculum was to prepare boys for senior and junior public examinations. The College also included a preparatory school based on a kindergarten model.

When the Tasmanian University was founded, the college undertook the University's teaching until lecturers and professors were selected. At the College's peak in the mid 1890s, it was ranked as the largest private secondary school in the State with over 150 pupils registered. The College was part of a complex that included a principal's residence and student accommodation. These buildings still exist on the corner of Scott and Bayley Streets, providing the College with its original context. The buildings are now two co-joined residences. The principal's residence is listed in the Register of the National Estate separately.

The Hobart City Council has described Officer College as a local landmark and it is located within the Council's Glebe Conservation Area. The college was renovated c1920 and c1950 and converted into a guest house. It was restored and further adapted by 1995 for use as a private residence.

Information & Text - Australian Heritage Database