A Visit to Queen’s Orphans School New Town (Tasmania) 1853 – In Four Letters

First published in The Courier (Hobart) 31 January 1853.

I had intended giving you a minute description of the Female and Infant Departments of the Queen’s Orphan Schools, but wishing to be most exact in my description, and not feeling quite certain upon some minor particulars, I postpone them till I refresh my recollection, which I shall have an opportunity of doing after the distribution of the prizes to-day, and I will let you have the particulars in my next paper. In this number I give a short history of the original formation of the Queen’s Orphan Schools, with an outline of the principles on which the children are at present received into the school, and the manner in which the establishment is conducted. Though this may be known to some, yet there are so many new arrivals in the colony who take an earnest interest in the educational efforts that have been mode for the children of the indigent and unfortunate, that I shall risk telling “a twice told tale.”

This phitanthropic institution originated under the government of Colonel (now Sir George) Arthur. The first female school was established in Davey-street, Hobart Town, in the year 1828. The first male school was established also in 1828, but was situated on the New Town Rivulet. In December 1833 the female establishment was removed to the north wing of the present building, and consisted of about 45 girls; six months subsequently they were removed to the south wing, and the boys took possession of the north wing of the building (then complete except the Church), vacated by the girls. The number of the boys consisted of about an equal number as the girls.

The original institution appears to have been for the reception of orphans, children deserted by their parents, and some whose parents or friends defrayed their expenses; the latter was done away with, I believe, principally in consequence of the difficulty in collecting the money from the parties or sureties, as also from the reason of the legitimate inmates becoming too numerous for the proper accommodation of others. The establishment is calculated to contain six hundred children, whoso ages must run from three upwards.

Until the year 1837 a committee of ladies and gentlemen, nominated by the Lieutenant-Governor, directed the management of the schools. In 1837 the full management and responsibility were vested in a head master, a clergyman of the Church of England, and the whole body of children were brought up in that religion, irrespective of the creed of their parents. In April 1841 the establishment was transferred from the Colonial to the Convict Department, and the charge placed in the hands of a Lay headmaster (or superintendent); the children were separated, as to their religious denominations, and visiting chaplains appointed, Protestant and Roman Catholic, for religious instruction and the performance of divine worship.

The asylum, according to the new arrangement, is a school of industry for the reception of orphan children, children deserted by their parents, or the offspring of objects of charity who are unable to provide for them: the above classes are paid for by the Colonial Government. The other class, and principally as regards numerical strength, being about six sevenths, are those of convict parents undergoing probation or sentence, or illegitimate children of convict parents unprovided for; those are maintained at the expense of the Government, and may be said on an average to cost £16 2s. 3d. per annum for each child (including all expenses), which charge includes the keeping of the buildings in repair. The parents of the latter class are required to relieve the Government from supporting the children on their obtaining Indulgence (T.L.), or placed by circumstances (by marriage or otherwise), to enable them to protect and provide for their children. The duties of the institution are provided under a Superintendent, who is guided by instructions from the Lieutenant-Governor, through the Comptroller General Governor, and no child is permitted to be discharged from the schools but on the written authority of the Superintendent; and a registry of all admitted, discharged, apprenticed, deaths, or other casualties most be strictly and duly recorded. The establishment consists of a male and female school in separate buildings, — the former under the immediate charge of a master and matron, the latter under the charge of a matron, (for the supervision of nurses and domestic duties), who are responsible to the Superintendent, and from whom they receive all instructions.

The children in each school are divided into — 1st, Upper School; 2nd, or Infant School. The Upper Schools are composed of the elder children, all above six years of age; the infant children are under the care of a schoolmistress and nurses.

Every regard to economy consistent with the comfort of the children is rigidly attended to throughout the establishment, and the expenses, as much as possible, are defrayed by the children themselves by all practicable and useful employment in making and repairing part of their own clothing, baking, washing, &c, and no servant is introduced for any kind of service which can be performed by the children themselves.

The boys are taught various trades or callings, such as shoemaking, tailoring, farm-work, baking, and household work. The children are allowed to select their own trade or calling as far as possible.

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The girls are taught plain needlework, knitting, washing, care of children, and household work in general. The school instruction consists of reading, writing, and arithmetic. One day in the week (Wednesday), in addition to the Sabbath-day, is devoted to religious instruction under the respective clergymen. On the days of secular education doctrinal tenets are not introduced. The whole of the children of sufficient age attend their respective places of worship twice on the Sabbath, and daily morning and evening prayers are performed by proper persons.

When the children have obtained sufficient age (generally 14 years), they are apprenticed out by guardians appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in conformity with an Act of Council passed in 1828.

The Superintendent is also vested with an authority from the Lieutenant-Governor to allow children who have obtained a proper age (at least 14) to be bound by agreement, with the consent of the parents, to industrials of respectable and proper character in the neighbouring colonies, the power of the Act in Council (before alluded to), or amendment thereto, not extending beyond the limits of Van Diemen’s Land. The children are consulted at all times before apprenticed or articled by agreement, and in no instance obliged to leave the establishment compulsorily. I find the numbers of children attending the schools during the year 1837 were 451; in 1838, 439; 1839, 405; 1840, 381; 1841, 402; 1842, 507; 1843, 486; 1844, 494; 1845, 450; 1846, 399; 1847, 448; 1848, 460; 1849, 450; 1850, 507; 1851, 503; and in 1852, 500. During these years the greatest mortality of children was in the year 1843, when 59 deaths occurred; in the year 1845 and in the half-year closing last 31st December, no death occurred. The greatest number of children absconding was in 1841, when 6 ran away from the Institution. In 1850 the Roman Catholics compared with the Protestants stood in the proportion of 3 to 2, the numbers being, Roman Catholics 303, Protestants 204, while during the half-year which has just come to a conclusion the numbers, exclusive of the Infant School, the returns of which I could not obtain, were Catholics 200, Protestants 160, or the Catholics numbered nearly a fourth more than the Protestants.

The strength of the establishment, including officers, servants, and children, was, at the close of the last half-year ending 31st December, 1852, as follows: One superintendent, two chaplains, one physician, one purveyor, one organist, one teacher of singing, one assistant-master, one industrial master, one matron, one beadle, one housemaid, one tailor, one overseer to farm, one gardener, and nine farm servants — making eleven officers and fifteen servants: and one hundred and eighty-seven children make the total number of residents in the male school 211. There were remaining on the 30th June, 1852, 189; admitted since that time, 3 — making 192; apprenticed 0, discharged 6, dead 0, — making 187.

The strength of the female establishment for the closing half-year was as follows:- One matron, two schoolmistresses, one industrial mistress, one cook, one housemaid, one laundrymaid, and one hospital nurse, — making four officers and five servants: and 173 children. — Total, 182. There were remaining on the 30th June, 1852, 182 children, – admitted since 1, making 182. Apprenticed 3, discharged 6, dead 0, total 9; leaves 173.

The strength of the infant establishment during the last half-year ended 31st December, 1852, was one submatron, one schoolmistress, five free nurses, five p.h. nurses, two p.h. housemaids, and one p.h. cook making two officers, thirteen servants; and there are 146 infants. There were remaining at the close of the half-year ending 30th June, 1852, 145 infants; admitted since 5,-total, 150; discharged during last half-year 4, dead 0; leaving 146 on the roll.

I regret that the statistics connected with the schools are not more regularly kept. I had wished to have known if any of the children apprenticed from the establishment, or those who have left it, have ever been convicted of any crime at any of the Courts of the island; but I found no record of the movements of the children are preserved after they leave the establishment. This is rather unfortunate, as it would be very interesting and important to observe the effect in the future career of the virtuous and moral education bestowed upon the children. To Mr. A. B. Jones, the Superintendent, and to Mr. Mackay, the Purveyor, I wish to express my obligations — both these gentlemen gave me every information, and laid open to my view reports and statistics, without which I could not have given to the public through your columns the correct information I may say I have. To-day the prizes will be awarded; I shall take care and send you my promised report of the ceremony.

Source: VISIT TO THE QUEEN’S ORPHAN SCHOOL. (1853, January 31). The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859), p. 3. 

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