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The District High School 1923 – 1949


History of Morrinsville College

THE BEGINNINGS  of education in Morrinsville go back to 1877 when a small school building was opened that year on a block of land donated by an early pioneer,  Mr Thomas Morrin. The  roll consisted of 27 pupils.

By 1906 there were moves to establish a District High School but there was insufficient support. However a further two acres was purchased in 1908 next to the original block to prepare for future needs.


The School Roll

The district population was increasing with more settled economic times and the school roll reflected this.

1910 – 110 pupils

1912 – 190 pupils

1915 – 263 pupils

1918 – 321 pupils

1924 – 400 pupils

In 1895 the original small building was replaced by a much larger more up to-date structure and the old building sold for removal two years later.


The Lincoln Street School

It was evident that the few acres on the corner of Studholme Street and Thorpe Street would not fulfil future needs so in 1919 an area of 3 1/2 acres was purchased nearer the centre of the township.

An infant school of three rooms was erected there the following year.


The District High School

The dream of earlier years was finally realised with the establishment of the District High School in 1923 when one of the “Old School ” buildings was set aside for secondary pupils. On April 9, twenty-four eager, sparkling and tidy pupils arrived to settle into their new environment. Some had come from surrounding districts while others left their schools in Hamilton to add to the numbers.

The Government made it clear that the school was “on trial”, for three months. If the roll dropped below 20 during that time the class would be closed down. Everyone was aware of the need to maintain numbers. It is interesting to note a news item in the Morrinsville Star of May 1 1923 the article indicated a need for good attendance and appealed for more students.

At last evening’s annual meeting of Morrinsville householders, the chairman Mr R Chapman stressed the necessity of sending and encouraging others to send all eligible children to the High School. The average was now down to 24 and if the average fell below 20 the High School would be removed. It was a great thing in any district to have education facilities. He hoped that soon they would have a manual training school. Many prominent men recognised that Morrinsville was a natural centre for such establishment.

To the satisfaction of all concerned the average roll for the next three months was 24.5. The school was now properly established as Morrinsville District High School. By the end of 1923, thirty four foundation pupils had been enrolled.


Manual Training Facilities – 1925

The Minister of Education, the Hon.C.J.Parr, visited Morrinsville in 1923. The proposed Manual Technical School for woodwork, cookery and science was discussed and the Minister was reminded that six years before, the sum of 150 pounds was raised and paid into the Education Board for a science room. Another sum of 75 pounds was raised as a contribution towards the cost of a manual school site. Although the science room had been promised, nothing had yet been done and people felt that they had not been dealt with fairly by the Department. A High School equipped  for the teaching of science and manual training, it was said, would practically fulfil the conditions upon which the money was forwarded to the Board. This was a powerful argument  and success was achieved in 1925  when a manual building was erected.

By 1928 the secondary roll stood at 58. One class of students remained in the original large room, the second used a draughty corridor/porch area. This state of affairs was far from satisfactory, and at some later date the Board’s advisory inspector visited the school and recommended “that classes be recognised to allow two rooms for secondary pupils”.


Secondary Pupils Only On The Site

By 1935 the site in Studholme Street was completely occupied by secondary pupils, all primary classes having moved to Lincoln Street. The High School buildings were in a state of disrepair and the site unsuitable for future expansion.

By June 1936 approval was received from the Department of Education to purchase 8 acres. This was achieved by October 1936 at a cost of 497 pounds.

In April  1937 plans for a new High School block of five classrooms, a library, a laboratory and a commercial room were prepared and the Department asked for a grant to cover the costs of construction.

Meanwhile pressure was being put on the Government to speed up the process. At the 60th Jubilee of the Morrinsville Primary School in June 1937 several speakers referred to the new High School. The Star newspaper of June 29th reported as follows:

Morrinsville’s proposed new secondary school building for which a site of 8 acres in Alexandra Avenue was secured a year ago, was mentioned by several speakers at the School Jubilee on Saturday.

It is pleasing, said the Mayor (Mr.W.T.Osborne), that the reunion is being held on the eve, as it were, of the old school building being demolished. The old school built 40 years’ ago was in a dilapidated state, and the school committee had made representations to the Minister of Education through  Mr.R.Coulter, M.P., for a new school. I am sure Mr Coulter  will do all that lies in his power to get a new school for Morrinsville, added the Mayor.


Getting Established On The New Site

The old settlers of  Morrinsville had set a good example 60 years ago when they offered a site and fifty pounds and the new school was opened. Old pupils should respond in the same generous manner as those early settlers did.


Formation Work

The Public Works Department was requested to commence formation work on site so that building work could be undertaken and this work was finalised  at the close of 1938. Tenders for the building were called for immediately and the work started on the foundations in January 1939.


A Delay in Opening

The Star of June 7 1939 noted:

Although the new Morrinsville High School building of seven classrooms in Alexandra Avenue was completed according to contract before the end of June, and the keys handed over to the Headmaster, there has been a delay in moving the secondary pupils from the old school in Studholme Street to the new school. This matter was discussed at the July meeting of the Morrinsville School Committee on Monday when those present were Messrs J.H.Gaddes (Chairman), D.T Davies, P. Petry, R.C Gray, C.A Fergusson, R.B Morton, F. West, L.W Osborne(Secretary) and L.E Pole (Headmaster).

The reason for the delay is that the assembly grounds of about half an acre in front of the school still needs to be surfaced with metal to get rid of the mud. This area will eventually be tar-sealed when it has consolidated. This work is to be done by the Public Works Department, which had a few men leveling the ground recently, but they have not completed the job. The school committee agreed that if the school was used before the assembly area was metaled, the pupils would bring so much mud into the school on their shoes that the condition would be intolerable. It was resolved to get in touch with the Minister of Education asking him to hasten the completion of the assembly ground so that the school could be opened.


July 24, 1939 – First Pupils Move in

The High School moved in and although the assembly area had been metaled, records showed that “the grounds were in a shocking state owing to the continued wet weather. The concrete path was the only part that could be used…..”


Progress made during 1939

On July 24 the secondary department had moved into the new building in Alexandra Avenue. There was no opening ceremony, but it was hoped to hold an official opening the next year when everything in and around the school was finished. The interior of the building had been completed, but much remained to be done to complete the grounds of the school.

At present there is no playground for the girls. However, through the good offices of Mr Goosman (M.P.), tenders have been called for the tar-sealing of the assembly ground in front of the school. If, as the committee hopes, this work is carried out  during the school holidays, there will be tennis and basketball courts for the girls when the school reassembles in 1940.


Books for the Library

“At the new school we particularly need money for books for a library. We could well spend one or two hundred pounds on library books”, added the Headmaster. “We also want a piano for the teaching of singing. We need a duplicator, which is essential for  the use of teachers in making notes and examination papers. We also require a motor mower for keeping the grounds in order. We have a lot of man power but that is not enough considering the great amount of lawns  to be cut.”


Beautifying the Grounds

Mr Pole drew attention to the terrace fronting Alexandra Avenue, which was planted with shrubs a few months’ ago. The shrubs were presented by individual members of the Old Pupils’ Association and even though planted late in the season had become fully established. That was the first step to beautifying the grounds of the new school. More trees would be planted next year and in the beautification of the grounds there was scope for the generosity of parents and the public. They had certainly done so much for the school in the past. Now there was a new school of which everyone was proud. “I am sure I can  count on you to rally round and help the school”, Mr Pole said.

Len Pole continued the work of beautification by planting a number of oak trees along the Alexandra Avenue boundary. This was around 1943 and, after the war, they were dedicated as Memorial Oaks in memory of  former students who had lost their lives during that conflict. They are a magnificent group of trees. A decade or so later a member of staff, Graham Ogilvy, was presented with a young kauri which his father (who worked in Forestry) had acquired. This was planted on the Alexandra Avenue frontage and flourishes today.

In her memoirs  written for the 1989 Jubilee Booklet, Yvonne Maber wrote that “ on moving to the Alexandra Avenue School the seventh form pupils planted a tree each near the front entrance”.  These trees are over 60 years old and are still flourishing.


Further Classrooms

In 1940, two new rooms were added to the building for temporary use by primary pupils on the understanding that eventually alternative accommodation would be provided for the primary department in order to release the rooms for secondary pupils (Note: Forms 1 and 2  were part of Morrinsville College until 1970). By 1949, three further rooms had been added. The staffroom and the office were in the centre.


Additional Land

Additional land was thought desirable by the committee in April 1943. Part of a block owned by Miss B.E.Seales was considered the most suitable. The land had already changed hands before Government approval could be obtained. However, the rumour that the land would be roaded and subdivided prompted early moves for its purchase. By the beginning of 1946 the need for more classrooms became apparent, as the secondary roll had reached 227. Plans were prepared for three new classrooms, and the transfer of eleven and a half acres of the land considered was pressed under the Public Works Act. The land was transferred at the end of 1946, and the old school in Studholme Street was again occupied temporarily for teaching purposes.


Continued Expansion

At the end of 1947, the committee compiled a comprehensive report covering the school needs in the Borough. As a result the following occurred:

1949: Three new classrooms built

1950: The Home Life building was completed


Elevation to College Status

After the consideration of various names, the school was named MORRINSVILLE COLLEGE, the new structure to take effect from the beginning of 1950. An article in the Morrinsville Star of March 10 summarises the report of Mr G.D Dodd Chairman:

“The last two years had seen many improvements to ground and buildings,” said Mr Dodd. “Trees had been planted along the northern boundary, a new motor mower was purchased, shelter sheds were converted to changing rooms for girls and boys, adequate drinking fountains were installed,  the school Roll of Honour was unveiled, a new volleyball area was erected and additional furniture was purchased for the staffroom”.

In February 1949, a new wing of three classrooms was opened, the block containing a sick bay which had been fully furnished, and the new Home Life Block to be ready for use next year. Continuing, Mr Dodd said  that representation had been made for the erection of a Gymnasium and the provision of a second Science Laboratory. Unfortunately, it had not been possible to get the new play areas developed and the new school buildings had seriously encroached on the available playground. Further efforts were being made to get authority to complete the most necessary work. A vehicular entrance to the grounds, formed along the southern boundary, was nearing completion.

Mr Dodd said many changes were necessary in the change-over from a District High School to a College and a great deal of work lay ahead. However, he was confident that with the enthusiasm that the committee had shown in the past for the schools, the development would be continued and that Morrinsville College would maintain the high reputation that had been established in the past from the High School.

Concluding, Mr Dodd thanked the headmaster, Mr A.V Fleet, and the members of staff for their co-operation in promoting the welfare of the children at the school, and the members of his committee for loyal co-operation during his term as chairman.



A Name Change and Expansion

Morrinsville College came into being at the beginning of the decade. The Home Life Block opened in 1950 and the Technical Block in 1952. There was also extensive development of the playing fields to which project members of the Committee of Management contributed many working hours.


P.T.A and Board of Governors formed.

The P.T.A. (Parent Teacher Association) was formed in 1954 with Mr D.J Gray as Chairman and the Board of Governors formalised the following year. Mr I Ball led the Board with Mr H.H Miller as his deputy.

At that time the College was lacking in resources, especially the library. Mr D Gray and Mr I Ball called on the business people of Morrinsville to make donations towards a new library. The support received was generous and permitted a new and valuable amenity to be set up.


A New Assembly Hall – 1959

“On the material side of progress, we can report the full use of the Assembly Hall which was officially opened by the Minister of Education, the Hon P.O. Skoglund, on Thursday June 11th. Assemblies, physical education, concerts, dances and other social functions, dramatic, musical and band activities are some events that have been made possible by the provision of this essential amenity. Our successful concert which saw the hall full to capacity on each of the two nights was the culmination.”


Our Own Swimming Baths

To raise funds for the establishment of the swimming pool, the P.T.A. committee organised a gala day at which 650 pounds was forthcoming. A 3:1 subsidy from the Department on that money gave sufficient funds to start the project. The excavated material filled in a rough corner of the grounds and later the changing sheds were built there.

In time with the assistance of canteen profits, terraced seating was built and a filtration plant built. Mr Gray, Chairman of the P.T.A, paid special tribute to the help given by Mr A Macormish, Mr G Budd and Mr F Norton in solving some of the early problems connected with the operation of the pool. “The use of our own swimming baths was appreciated by both pupils and teachers and we look forward to terraced stands and dressing sheds as soon as funds allow”, he said.


Tennis Courts 

“A caretaker’s residence has been built on the grounds and in front of it a sealed area large enough for five tennis courts is in the process of formation”, (quote from the College magazine.)


1960 – 1969 School Farm

In 1961 an area comprising of just over 6 acres was purchased in North Street for use as a school farm. Mr D Gray wrote: “At that time, as Chairman of the Sub-Providence of Federated Farmers, I approached the farming fraternity of the district for help. The Department offered to supply the material and the farming community would supply the labour on a voluntary basis. That is  how the sub-division was done and water put in on the property. The work was completed in early 1962.”


A New Classroom Block 

A new classroom block was opened in 1962 together with an administration block called B Block, consisting of  an office and storage accommodation, a staffroom, careers and prefects’ room and a sick bay. The official party consisted  of the Governors General Lord and Lady Cobham, Mr and Mrs W Rushton (Mayor and Mayoress), Mr D J Gray (Chairman of the Board of Governors) and Mrs Gray.


The Gymnasium Opens

The Gymnasium was officially opened on 3rd May 1966. A contribution of $2,000.00 from the Canteen Committee towards this cost was greatly appreciated.


New Library

The outstanding event of 1972 was the occupation of the new Library building. It was the pride and joy of the two library assistants, Lyn Johnstone and Moya Badham.


A Proud Record of Musical Productions

Many wonderful productions took place over almost twenty five years from 1964. Sell-out audiences came to enjoy the shows and much talent emerged from the budding student actors. Many staff helped in production, choreography, costuming and backdrop stage construction. The list is as follows:

1964 – “The Mikado”

1965 – “H.M.S. Pinafore”

1966 – “Pirates of Penzance”

1967 – “Tom Sawyer”

1971  – “The Gondaliers”

1972- “Scenes from Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet”

1973 – “Half a Sixpence”

1974 – “Oklahoma”

1975 – “Salad Days”

1977 – “The Boyfriend”

1978 – “Oliver”

1979 – “Music Hall”

1980 – “Calamity Jane”

1981 – “West Side Story”

1982 – “Star Blaze”

1983 – “Man of Steel”

1984 – “Annie Get Your Gun”

1985 – “Sheerluck Holmes”

1986 – “College Capers”

1987 – “The Match Girls”

1988 – “Grease”

Morrinsville College owes a debt of gratitude to those who did so much in the production of these shows.

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