Rockleigh School

From newspaper reports –

A report in 1901 of the examination of Rockleigh School resulted in the school having satisfactory results, with an 80% success rate.

In 1904 Rockleigh School was examined and all but two of the children passed into the next grade, with discipline considered excellent.

Mention is made of the transfer from New Residence in 1907 of teacher, Miss M. E. Hood to Rockleigh, however she received a promotion to Mundalla School, near Bordertown before she arrived and Miss M. White was appointed in her place.

The school was closed in November 1907, but with several children beginning school in the new year, which would bring the numbers up to 12 or 13, it was considered that if a teacher could be found, then the school would reopen.  However, as there was a deputation in 1909 to the Minister of Education regarding the reopening of the School, it appears that the school remained closed. This 1909 deputation must have been successful as there is a report of the Rockleigh School combining with local schools for a picnic in 1910, with overall total numbers of 100 attendees – Native Valley School (Miss Yeates, teacher) 21 students; Harrogate (Miss Mann, teacher) 12 students; Rockleigh (Miss Wilson, teacher) 11 students.

Year       Teacher Name
  1900 MILTON, Isabella Dowdella
  1901 MILTON, Isabella Dowdella
  1902 LINDSAY, Jane Stewart
  1902 LINDSAY, Jane Stewart
  1902 MILTON, Isabella Dowdella
  1903 MILTON, Isabella Dowdella
  1904 DOWLAND, Eva Alma Josephine
  1905 DOWLAND, Eva Alma Josephine
  1906 HOOD, Mary Ellard
  1906 LAWSON, May Percival
  1906 WHITE, Mabel Louise
  1907 WHITE, Mabel Louise
  1914 TAMBLYN, Pamela
  1915 TAMBLYN, Pamela
  1916 TAMBLYN, Pamela
  1917 SMITH, Agnes Florence
  1930 ROBERTSON, Catherine
  1930 ROBERTSON, Catherine
  1931 ROBERTSON, Catherine

Miss D. H. Dean was teacher in 1923. Miss M. McBeath was transferred to Rockleigh School in 1926. The teachers found board with local families, whilst teaching at the one-roomed school.


The Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser (SA : 1880 – 1954) Friday 4 January 1935 p 4 Article


Mr. H. G. Pym, chairman of the Rockleigh School committee, presided over the annual break-up concert which was given by the scholars, assisted by a few friends.

Streamers and bowls of flowers were used for decorations, and a well assorted programme was presented to an appreciative audience, and the school items reflected credit on the teacher. Others who assisted in the programme were Mrs. W. J. Pym, Mrs. Phillips, Misses Watts, Parbs, and Paech, Misses Watts and Lands acting as accompanists. Master Brian Pym also recited.

Father Christmas arrived after the concert and toys were distributed to the children. Cool drinks and ice cream were also provided, while the parents supplied supper.

Mr. H. Paech proposed a vote of thanks to the teacher (Miss Lands)) for the way she had trained the children and to others who helped in any way, including Mr. Pym and Mrs. J. Pym. Mr. R. S. Talbot seconded the vote which was carried by acclamation.

The following was submitted to the Mid-Murray Council, when discussion regarding the possible demolition of the school was considered… the local councillor and some residents were keen to see the school preserved rather than replaced with a shed… 

Rockleigh School was built in the early 1900s, after a previous classroom was conducted from 1881 to 1904 in the Gum Gully area.  The Rockleigh School closed 1908-1909 but the community, with the dogged support of the local parliamentarian, Mr Jamieson, applied pressure to the government to reopen the school, and in 1910 there is evidence that this occurred.  However the school finally closed permanently in 1942.

There are few community buildings remaining in the district of Rockleigh. As the School is situated on the Kidman Trail, and with yards and toilets already in the vicinity, this would be an ideal building for an overnight stay.

The following report has been compiled by Chris Payne, heritage conservator.

Rockleigh School

A good example of a one room, one teacher rural school.

The building measures approximately 7m x 5m, walls about 3.5m high, with stone gable ends.  It has an internal chimney breast on the western gable end and an integral stone enclosure on the northern end of the front verandah (eastern end) protecting the entrance door.  In the eastern gable there is a circular louvered vent with a hand rubbed brick surround – a very attractive feature.

There are two narrow weighted sash windows on either side.  The floor is of hardwood.

Clearly the building has been built to Government specifications.  High quality materials have been used throughout, neither the stone nor the brick used in the quoins show any appreciable deterioration and as far as can be ascertained the wood framing is still sound.  Damp damage is minimal and confined to mortar and plaster.


The building is in very original condition.  There is evidence of only one episode of intervention.  This is the insertion of 3 railway irons against the northern wall, connected by threaded iron rods passing through the building to an horizontal iron plate about 50cm below the top of the southern wall.

This clamping action has successfully arrested a bow in the northern wall.  The maximum displacement of the top of the wall is about 7cm and not considered unreasonable.

It appears that since this treatment the north west corner has moved outwards throwing it 6-7cm out of plumb.  Again this is not considered unsafe.

However, the cause of this movement is immediately apparent as this side of the building receives the worst weather and the most driving rain.  The gutters, while still intact are choked with pine needles and the downpipes on the western end have failed.

Large amounts of water are cascading against the northern wall and eroding the ground beneath both western corners.  Rabbits are also burrowing here under the footings which are quite shallow.


The only areas of the building which are considered structurally unsound are the masonry above both northern windows and the movement in the verandah return.

It is fairly straight forward to dismantle the area above the windows and rebuild them.

The verandah return could be treated with jacks and underpinning [thus bringing the wall in line with the rest of the building]. The small return verandah wall opposite the door need not be rebuilt, simply squared up to about 1.2m and the verandah reinstated.

As a security feature this allows the door to be visible from the road.

With the exception of the loss of barge boards and flashing on the western gable the roof appears to be sound and good for another 10 years or more.

Unless extensive public use is envisaged the northern windows could simply be boarded up with a timber frame covered in a wet area flooring sheet.

I estimate this stabilization work would take 30-40 man days (240-320 hours) and about $1,500 in materials.

Reinstatement of the verandah is about $1,500 plus 10 man days (80 hours).

Future life of the building needs to be formulated.  Could Kidman Trail users camp in it?  A deposit key system might work especially if a local was prepared to be involved.  [Similar scenarios are currently used on the Heysen Trail, with coded entry to buildings.]

Obviously future use will determine the level of renovation.

Any work done should be done to conservation standards especially with regard to lime mortars. Existing cement (used when iron work was installed) should be removed.

Report by Chris Payne, 8 Feb 2014.


For further detail regarding the preservation, check here