"On 17th May 1858 a State subsidised, combined Denominational School was opened by HT Stokes, with an attendance of about 30 children. This school was conducted in the wooden Melton Combined Protestant Church, situated on ‘a creek flat’ thought to be on the north side of Sherwin Street between Pyke and Byran Streets. It is likely that the Church had been established by 1855 and that the first minister was the Rev. Hampshire, who lived in Cambridge House on the Exford Estate. Ministers of the Protestant denominations were invited to hold services there. As there was only one resident Minister in the town (Presbyterian Mr J Lambie), laymen of the various denominations often spoke on Sundays.
In 1863 this building was declared a Common School with the number 430. One of its first and most prominent headmasters was John Corr, who served from 1860 to 1864. Most of Mr Corr’s children also became teachers, including Joseph Corr, at the Rockbank school, and J Reford Corr and WS Corr, headmasters and teachers at numerous prestigious private secondary schools around Australia. John Corr purchased land alongside the school and elsewhere in and near Melton, became secretary and treasurer of the new Cemetery Trust, and by July 1861 was deputy registrar of births, deaths and marriages. He walked three miles every Sunday to teach at the Weslyan Sunday School he had established.
Despite good reports from the Education Department Inspector, and burgeoning enrolments, the local school committee recommended the dismissal of, firstly, his wife (from the work mistress position), and then him from the headmaster position. Corr saw his dismissal as an attempt to redirect state aid for education from the Combined Protestant school to the support of the Free Presbyterian Minister Rev James Lambie (by one account the owner of the land on which the Common School was erected), whose son-in-law James Scott subsequently assumed responsibility for the school.
Rev Lambie failed in his efforts to keep the existing school, which the Education Department Inspector and the majority of Melton citizens regarded as badly situated and badly built. Following a conditional promise of state aid, local contributors in 1868-69 raised ₤72.10.6 towards the cost of an iron-roofed bluestone rubble building 43 ft x 12 ft. This was erected on a new site of 1.5 acres (the present site). The State contributed ₤120 to the new school, which opened in 1870.
A very early (c.1874) photograph of the school shows its headmaster and work mistress / assistant teacher (probably James Scott and his wife Jessie) and its (very young) scholars. Similar photos show pupils in front of the school in c.1903, and 1933.
In 1877 a second bluestone room costing ₤297 was added and further land acquired from the Agricultural Society (who only needed it two days a year) to enlarge the schoolground to 3 acres. In the early 1880s an underground tank augmented the school water supply and in 1919 a five-roomed wooden residence was added. During this period the school correspondents often compained that the walls of the bluestone buildings were damp, affecting the plaster.
In 1923 a brick room 26 ft 6 in by 24 ft with a fireplace and four rooms facing south, was added, and a corridor built to link the three buildings. This served adequately for the next 40 years.
The school bell probably dates to 1883. The school also has a memorial gate (1951) to World War One ex-students, and an honour board to the 64 ex-students who served in the First World War.
The school roll fell to 42 in the early post war-years, but was boosted by an influx of migrants, mainly from the UK, from the late 1960s. This presaged the boom in Melton’s development, and the corresponding growth of the school, with timber and temporary classrooms added to the previous masonry ones.
An endowment pine plantation established in 1930 augmented the school’s fundraising activities when it was harvested in 1968. Part of the site was planted with eucalyptus trees in 1959.
Famous ex-students of the early twentieth century included Hector Fraser (internationally successful shooter) and cyclist Sir Hubert Opperman".
Photo of Edna and Margaret Barrie with Miles Baunders taken for the Telegraph