11 October, 2013

Branching out - Woodbourne No. 2: you learn something every day

In many parts of Victoria, the 1860s and 70s saw a significant change in the way land was distributed and used. On the heels of the departing squatters came the small selectors. Not everyone had struck it rich during the gold rush, most of the "easy" to find alluvial gold had been found and people were now looking for other ways to support themselves. Many had come from farming stock in their native countries, so it was natural that they would look to the land in their new country. What they saw however, was a large amount of land in the hands of a very few wealthy squatters, so pressure was brought to bear on the government for changes to the laws which would allow for smaller settlers to own their little piece of land, plant their crops, breed their livestock and raise their families.
And this was a plan that suited the government who were keen to establish a class of what they saw as "yeomen farmers" such as they had in the Old Country. Of course, smaller farms meant more intensive cultivation which meant higher productivity which meant a growing economy and more money for the government. The only people who didn't see things quite the same way were the squatters whose runs were being carved up by selectors.
Farm land on the Woodbourne Creek at Bamganie
The end result was the passing of laws in the early 1860s which allowed prospective farmers to purchase a few hundred acres of land from the crown, either outright or on easy terms which could be paid off over time. And if I read the parish maps correctly, this is exactly what happened on the Woodbourne No. 2 run.
This then was the backdrop to the land acquisitions which occurred in the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century as smaller landholders moved in, fences were erected, crops were planted and families put down roots. Naturally enough, with the increase in population, the demand for education arose and eventually two schools were established on the old Woodbourne run.
The Woodburn Creek Primary School No. 1748 which first opened its doors on 3rd August, 1876 after three years of wrangling with the education department, was situated on land just west of the creek and north of the Meredith-Mt Mercer Road. Not surprisingly its roll read like a list of the local selectors.
The original Woodburn Creek school site. A post from the school grounds can
just be seen in the middle of the photograph
The school operated on this site until its closure in 1906. That building was eventually removed to Sheoaks where it was later destroyed by fire. The school reopened a second time in 1935, about a mile to the west at the intersection of the Meredith-Mt Mercer and Bamganie Roads in a building provided by Mr AG McNaughton on whose land it was built. This time it operated until 1946 when falling numbers again saw it close. In 1953 it reopened for the final time, taking in students (myself included) from properties in the surrounding district.

Woodburn Creek Primary School No. 1748. The second building on the new
site at the cross-roads c1978
In 1971, the old school building was replaced by a portable classroom (pictured above) which remained until the school's final closure which occurred in 1983 when enrolments fell to three students.
Geelong Advertiser article at the time of Woodburn
Creek's closure
As on previous occasions when the school closed, the local community were keen to make use of the building, however the Department of Education would not agree to such a scheme and the main building was moved to Tate Street Primary School in East Geelong. The small annex which had been built from funds raised by parents was moved to the Meredith Primary School and later demolished.
The second site of the Woodburn Creek Primary School today with memorial plaque
There were several reasons why the Woodburn school almost didn't eventuate, with disputes over where to locate the school, questions raised about student numbers and over funding, however one of the main reasons the education department questioned the need for a school on the Woodbourne Creek site was the recent opening in September, 1872 of Cargerie State School No. 1151, on land previously belonging to the Larundel Estate (originally Narmbool). It was argued that students could walk across country to Cargerie instead.
Map showing the sites (in green) of the Woodburn Creek Primary School. The
earlier site near the creek is on the right and the later site at the crossroads to the left
Then, in August, 1875 whilst negotiations over the Woodburn school were still in progress, a second school was opened, which would make Woodburn Creek Primary the second school on the old Woodbourne Creek run. This was Bamganie State School No. 1590.
The school was initially located on what became known as School Point, in the V of land formed by the confluence of the Woodbourne and Wilson Creeks. Like Woodburn Creek Primary, the school at Bamganie was moved from its original site and was plagued over the years by fluctuating student numbers.
Map showing the two sites (marked green) occupied by the Bamganie
State School. The lower site between the creeks was the original site
The original location overlooking the creeks, suited no-one as all students had to cross a creek to get to the school, making access difficult. The solution came in 1883 when it was decided to relocated to a new site on the west side of Bamganie Road about 2km from the southern end of Bamganie Road. Fulltime teaching commenced in that year and continued until 1890 when - with falling numbers at both schools - Bamganie operated together with Woodburn Creek, some 9km distant by road, on a half and half basis until the closure of Woodburn Creek in 1906. From this time, Bamganie and Cargerie (about 14km away by road) were operated together.
In 1923, to commemorate those students from the school who fought in the First World War, a pine tree was planted around the perimeter of the school for each of the servicemen and was accompanied by a plaque. Each of the fourteen current students planted a tree with the fifteenth planted by two students who were to start at the school the following year.

Some of the commemorative pines can be seen behind the more recent eucalypts
Like the Woodburn school, the Bamganie Primary School was the focus of many district activities being used for divine service by both the Presbyterians and the Methodists as well as for community events. The final closure for Bamganie State School No. 1590 came in 1933. The building remained on the site until being offered for auction as a hall in 1943.
In 1967 fire swept through the area, damaging some of the trees and, it was reported, burning four houses. I can attest that this was nearly five houses as the fire closely approached the property recently purchased by my parents, some 5.5km up the road. Through the efforts of my grandfather, it was stopped at the plantation which surrounds the house.

Bamganie World War 1 soldiers' memorial at the Bamganie State School site
Today, the school no longer stands however some of the pine trees which survived the fire do. The location is marked by the above sign which was erected in 2011 and was accompanied by a book about the servicemen and the school by local author Margaret Cooper. Her 2007 publication commemorates the Woodburn Creek Primary School.

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