Port Elizabeth of Yore: Grey Junior School from Belmont Terrace to College Drive

Among many of unique aspects of Port Elizabeth, is the fact that the location of many schools has varied over the years as many have been relocated. One such school which followed this trend was the Grey Junior School.

Main picture: The first home of the Grey Junior School at the corner of Belmont Terrace and Western Road

The Grey Junior School was founded on the 3rd February 1908. Initially it was located at the corner of Belmont Terrace and Western Road in the building which had previously been the home of the Diocesan Grammar School. This building has subsequently been through many iterations and at one time served as a curry restaurant.

More surprisingly the school started as a separate entity unconnected with the high school on 3rd February 1908.

At the school’s first prize-giving on December 17, 1908, the first woman principal, Alice H Dawes, said: “The school was founded at the beginning of this year; the nucleus consisting of 24 boys, many of whom came from the Grey Institute High School.” In effect what had happened was that the lower grades of the high school became part of the junior school.

Dawes was also responsible for forming the first pack of Wolf Cubs in Port Elizabeth, all of whom came from Grey Junior, in February 1915.

When the Grey High School moved into its new premises in Mill Park in 1915, the junior school moved into the vacated Grey Institute building in Belmont Terrace. Space was a problem for the Grey Junior School since at least 1896, when the Grey Institute started to refuse admission to new pupils.  To accommodate additional pupils, various buildings were used as classrooms. Not as a hyperbole, the Inspector of schools, the Rev D. D. Fraser, once described the original school on the hill as “a mere collection of classrooms“.

There is no waiting-room or ordinary room for teachers, neither is there an office or room in which the rector can receive visitors or transact business. The rooms in the upper storey are separated from each other by wooden partitions which do not prevent the noises of one room from being heard in the others,” he wrote.

A decision was taken by the newly formed board to split the Grey Institute school into high and preparatory schools, the latter to be known as the Grey Institute Preparatory School.

Grey Institute in 1930 when it was used by the Grey Junior School as one of its three premises

By the time that they relocated to Mill Park in 1930, the Grey Junior School was occupying the old Grammar School, the Grey Institute in Belmont Terrace and St. John’s church hall.

On December 9, 1929, Charles Mackay laid the foundation stone for the new school in Mill Park.

Edwin Dracott, a Grey master for 18 years, was appointed principal and a huge crowd was present on July 26, 1930, when the school, which cost £13 456, was officially opened by the mayor, councillor James Scott. Victor Jones, representing the architectural firm of Jones and Mc Williams, handed a silver key to the mayor to unlock the door.

Schoolboys and visitors then entered the large hall to witness the Rev Hector Paterson dedicate it to the memory of William A. Way. School board chairman Lawson Brown thanked the city council for donating the ground.

 

As the incumbent staff at the school were under the misapprehension that they school had commenced operations only in 1930 when the school was built in College Drive in Mill Park, they almost never celebrated its centenary in 2008.

Source

School’s centenary (nearly) slips by unnoticed” by Ivor Markman in the Herald of 24th December 2008


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