The Relationship between Melbourne Grammar School and the Diocesan Grammar School
In 1857, the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School opened on the site that it still occupies. Eight years earlier, in 1849, Richard Hale Budd was appointed the first and only headmaster of the Diocesan Grammar School, which closed at the end of 1854. What relationship did these two schools enjoy?
That there was a direct organic relationship of a parent school to a direct successor was the position adopted by the early Liber Melbourniensis, which listed the pupils enrolled at Budd's Diocesan Grammar School as Melbourne Grammar School's first enrolments. Fourteen boys attended both schools, a figure that amounted to 50% of the boys who had earlier been at the Melbourne Diocesan Grammar School and who were under 16 in 1858 when second school opened. In 1912, a publication that had a vested interest in its claim, the St Peter's Eastern Hill parish paper, also referred to such an organic relationship between the two schools.In 1913, when a new building for an existing school at St Peter's was opened, the Governor-General, Lord Denman, referred to Melbourne Grammar as 'a very vigorous offshoot of the St Peter's parish school' and the Church Standard, reporting on the opening, stated that 'in 1855 the Grammar School was moved to St Kilda Road, and became the Church of England Grammar School'. While the first of these statements in particular is somewhat loose in its wording, the claim being made is expressed clearly enough. After detailed research had been undertaken, this position was upheld in a thesis dated 1 February 1932 by Beacham Kiddle, the honourary secretary of the Old Melbournians; and later that year, a committee made up of members of the Old Melbournians accepted Kiddle's thesis in a report dated 27 July. But by 3 August, Mr WH Moule, a committee member, had dissented: 'I have changed my opinion on considering further evidence'. Despite the support given to Kiddle's claim by others, including Ernest Scott, then professor of history at the University of Melbourne, 1936-7 saw continuing argument over the relationship between the two institutions. Kiddle's proposals were finally rejected by the majority of a committee created by the Old Melbournians' Council, which included the head, school council representatives, and various Old Melbournians.
Since 1936, it has generally been held that the two schools were separate institutions. Is the case still closed? I believe not; neither Moule nor Kiddle had access to a private letterbook of Perry's, which includes correspondence between Perry and Budd which provides further details of the Diocesan Grammar School's history, and some of which reads in favour of Kiddle's conclusion. Further, a careful reading of Moule's arguments shows what appear to be serious flaws, and a general contempt for any contemporary evidence that might tend toward Kiddle's point of view. Kiddle, on the other hand, carefully sifted through and assembled contemporary evidence, interviewing Budd's daughter, and obtaining access to a number of private and other documents handed on to her by her father. But despite his care in researching the past, his own argument did not lack flaws, including a failure to ask some questions of the evidence that might have strengthened his own position.
An important aspect of the function of the first school, as expressed by its founder, Bishop Charles Perry, and which at once invites a parallel with the school of 1857, while at the same time distinguishing it sharply from the schools that later functioned on the St Peter's site, is expressed in the earliest surviving correspondence about it. In a letter addressed to the trustees of St Peter's in September 1848, Perry asked them whether they would agree to the building of a school on the church site to be funded not at their expense, but initially through a grant from the SPCK. It was not simply for children from the local community; its cachment area was, potentially, the whole of Perry's diocese, then co-terminous with the Port Phillip settlement, and later with the colony when separation from New South Wales occurred. Later, when the school was dissolved, Perry earmarked the SPCK grant to be part of the funding for the establishment of Trinity College. In his prize giving day address in 1849, Perry made it clear that his aim was to set up a school modelled on English public schools, because he saw considerable advantages in a policy that allowed the independence of the head of such a school in the day-to-day affairs, along with responsibility for larger issues to a council. This element in Perry's intention was reiterated later his biographer A. de Q. Robin. And Kiddle was perfectly right in asserting that the Diocesan Grammar School 'was not a private school but was a public school as then understood'.
Other details concerning the school are provided by a circular dated 11 April 1849 advertising the opening of school. Fees amounted to fifteen guineas, comprising a five guinea entrance fee and a ten guinea annual fee, payable quarterly. In his speech day address at the end of that year, Perry pointed out that even though Henry Handfield, who by Christmas 1854 had become the vicar of St Peter's, was teaching in the school (as a layman) without receiving any income, the school was nevertheless 30-40 pounds in the red over salaries. As Perry put it, the fees were 'too small in proportion to the education which is afforded'. The staff comprised R. H. Budd as headmaster, H. H. P. Handfield as the chief assistant master; Miss Esther King, assistant in the lower school; George Holland, writing master and Edmund P Gilbert, drawing master. The school was divided into five forms, and the subjects covered in the syllabus were scripture, the classics, French, English, history, natural philosophy, arithmetic and mathematics. Three years later, the mayor of Melbourne, J. T. Smith, funded gold and silver medals for presentation at the school's prize-giving, and this provision continued until the school's demise.
At the school's first prizegiving, Perry spoke further of his aims in founding the school. His intention was to found a public school, because he was convinced that the independence of the head of a public school in most day-to-day matters, along with his accountability concerning major issues to a board of governors was the most desirable mode for a school's government. Although there was no board or committee at the time he spoke he was, as Kiddle pointed out, a body corporate he intended that his current executive position should in future be fulfilled by a body of laymen.
Its lifespan appears remarkably short, the five years from 1849 until the end of 1854. Or was it? In 1853, a series of meetings took place whose purpose can be interpreted in more than one way. One would be to interpret them as part of planning for a new institution; the other, to interpret them as evidence of continuity between the existing Diocesan Grammar School and the future Melbourne Grammar School. The intention of first of these meetings at St Peter's Schoolroom, held of 26 May 1853, which led to the foundation of the Melbourne Grammar School, was described at the time, was to discuss putting the Diocesan Grammar School on 'a more permanent and efficient basis'. This terminology suggests that the meeting and its convenor understood continuity to exist between the existing school and what was being planned for the future. Another significant issue was also raised at the meeting: whether the diocese should establish a college in conjunction with the university whose foundation had recently been proposed. At this meeting Perry claimed that St Peter's trustees would be anxious for the school building to be available to them, and made explicit his desire to surrender his control over school to 'the Church' (ie to a committee of laymen). The meeting closed with the appointment of a committee to consider the appropriateness of founding a collegiate institution which would be linked with a secondary school modelled on English public schools. At the second meeting, on 20 July, the draft constitution of the proposed school and college were discussed by the 45 Anglicans who attended, and at the third meeting on 28 July, the amended draft was adopted. In 1854, a government grant of just over ten thousand pounds to Anglicans for schools meant that an extensive building programme was now a real possibility.
What brought about the seemingly short life of the Diocesan Grammar School? Was it the possibility of a more ambitious complex of buildings? Or was it that the school had in some sense failed? The latter explanation is offered by Geoffrey Serle: 'The Diocesan Grammar School, founded in 1849 . . . had fallen a casualty to gold. In 1851, however, the Free Church Presbyterians founded the Melbourne Academy, which eventually became known as the Scotch College'. Similar explanations were given by A. de Q. Robin in his biography of Perry and by A. M. Badcock and J. L. Blake in their entry on R. H. Budd in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Almost a quarter of a century after the event, Budd himself recalled the school's history so as to explain its closure in terms of the pressure of external events. The account that he gave to the headmaster of Melbourne Grammar School, E. E. Morris, in 1878-9, was the basis for information about the school contained in the Liber Melbourniensis of 1879, and on the surface, provides a first-hand contemporary witness that confirms the soundness of Serle's claim. But, as private correspondence between Budd and Bishop Perry will show, such considerations were no major part of their discussion over the school's future, and later (ie by 1878-9) Budd retold the school's history in terms of a failure in the face of difficult circumstances, and deliberately omitted any mention of other more personal elements, and specifically relations between himself and Perry, which he can hardly have forgotten. Budd's daughter was later to connect the school's closure with a decline in her father's health 'under the strain' of circumstances. In her case, it is unclear as to whether this was simply a received version of events, or whether she was deliberately avoiding any reference to elements that might have reflected on her father.
The earliest evidence concerning the school, when placed alongside contemporary evidence of other schools during this same period, calls into question both Budd's later recollections, and the interpretations of Serle and others. On the surface, the record might appear discouraging. In 1849, 39 boys had enrolled, but of these, only five remained after 1851, that is, 34 had left by the end of that year. For the next five years, the record of new enrolments and of pupils exiting is as follows:
While the specifically Anglican identity of the Diocesan Grammar School meant that Budd lost some of his pupils from his earlier Classical School in Victoria Parade, Perry commented to Budd on 'the gradual increase in the number of boys'.  The record of staff employment is one of some twenty asistant masters, whose terms varied from three months to three years, perhaps in itself an uncommentable one. But the school's accounts certainly tell a more positive story: in 1849, it cost the Bishop's Diocesan Fund ten pounds; profits in 1851 were miserable enough, four pounds two shillings and nine pence in the second quarter and six pounds, eight shillings and a penny in the final quarter; but by in 1853, it had made a profit of 779 pounds two shillings and nine pence, and in 1854, of 687 pounds.
Even Geoffrey Serle himself might have been led by the contemporary sources that he quoted on education in the colony to come to rather different conclusions from the one already quoted . Hugh Childers, the inspector for the Denominational Board, reported in 1851 that at the time of the separation of Victoria from new South Wales, there were 7500 children at school, of whom little more than one quarter attended school regularly; in townships perhaps two-thirds were at school. What was provided in most cases was extremely rudimentary, and rarely went beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. The average age of pupils was seven. There were about one hundred church schools, three quarters of them subsidised by the government, and a similar number of unassisted private schools, nearly all of low quality. 'The colony swarms with petty schools of from ten to thirty children in each, kept by some old man who cannot work, or by a labourer's wife'. Many parents withheld their children from schooling because the high price of labour gave opportunities for the employment of juveniles. Periodically, some schools were deserted during the goldrush. Most closed down or operated sporadically in the first year of gold and nearly all private schools were wiped out. From 1853 there were many thousands of children on the goldfields, but only a minority of these went to school, and by 1861, less than half the colony's children were at school.
In this context, the survival of the Diocesan Grammar School at all was unusual; its educational quality was well above normal; and the whole exercise was atypical of education at the time. 'Failure' is hardly an adequate description. Having referred to the school's accounts and other records, Kiddle can be excused for querying any suggestion that the school was failing and instead claiming that 'the school made good progress in numbers and financially'.
If the school was not, as Serle suggested 'a casualty to gold', a view that Budd also wanted to affirm at some distance from the events, to what was it a casualty? The answer lies in the relationship between Budd and Perry, and particularly, as revealed in private correspondence. At first, all the evidence points to cordiality and confidence. On 12 June 1850, an editorial appeared in the Herald, attacking the Diocesan Grammar School, which was described as an institution 'conducted by a layman, exceedingly limited in its operation, and not rising above the rank of a third-rate commercial school in England'. An implicit comparison was made in favour of the newly established Academy. The attack was hardly an unbiased one; it was revealed that its author was the Revd W. Trollope, who operated a school of his own in Little Brunswick Street, Collingwood (=Fitzroy); its modus operandi seems to have been akin to that of a coaching college. Though Trollope was the son of a head of Christ's Hospital, Perry had refused to license him (as Perry put it, the two men were 'not of one mind in the Lord' despite theological lectures offered by Trollope designed 'to encourage concord and cement union by meekness and brotherly love'). Perry defended Budd in the press; Trollope had disappeared to Tasmania by the end of 1851. Despite this initial confidence in Budd, by 1852, correspondence in Perry's private letter book indicates a radical transformation. Perry now wanted the way open for Budd to move, but at the same time, for the school to outlast him.
In his 1849 prize giving day address at the school, Perry curiously foreshadowed at least one of the elements that is revealed in his subsequent unease over Budd's continuance as head. He spoke of the role of the masters and the interaction between parents and children:
they must punish; but I trust that they do not and will not use any unnecessary severity. And here I must caution parents against too readily listening to complaints of their children. One of the evils of a day school is, that a boy returns home while he is smarting under the consequences of some offence and pours out his grief into his father's, or perhaps, his mother's ear, who too often receives his partial account of the matter, and takes offence at what appears the master's harshness or injustice . . .
The first indication of the changed relationship comes in a lengthy letter from Perry to Budd in May 1852, in which Perry referred to a slightly earlier suggestion by Budd that he needed to increase the school fees (Budd had written on 25/5/1852, two days before Perry's epistle, indicating the financial losses that were being sustained). Perry had replied that Anglicans were sending their children elsewhere, and were not supporting the school as he had hoped. Perry had expressed an intention to close the school and to re-establish it at later date 'upon another footing'. Continuity, despite closure, is clearly understood by Perry in this passage.
Budd had responded to Perry that the school had the confidence of Anglicans, and that closure would put him out of pocket; but Perry reminded Budd that he had himself complained 'of the want of cooperation and assistance from the clergy'. According to Perry, this stemmed 'entirely from their want of confidence in the management'. Perry was aware of two families coming to Melbourne with children, 'have made enquiries respecting it, of all the principal persons here with whom they have become acquainted, and have received, almost without a single exception, an unfavourable testimony'. The real issue was neither the school's syllabus nor its discipline, but 'I am truly grieved to say so, an objection to yourself personally, as a master and teacher of boys'. The bishop warned Budd of the need to take the public's response seriously, and not to dismiss it as evidence of the 'groundless prejudices or . . . the inability of the people to appreciate his merits'.
Perry offered a brutally direct assesment of Budd, hardly likely to improve relations between the two men. He credited Budd's 'conscientious and diligent self-denying labours to promote the efficiency and well-being of the school', but then damned him.
No one else w could have done more: but I doubt whether you possess the talent of imparting knowledge to others, and explaining points of difficulty, with the clearness and sympathy which is required in a teacher; and whether you succeed in exciting in the boys under your charge an interest in the subjects of their studies.
The main problem was the apparent want of sympathy with the feelings both of the boys and their parents. There seems to me to be a certain rigidity and harshness of manner which repels instead of attracting; . . . there is a want of that kindliness, and disposition to make every allowance that the circumstances admit of, which is almost equally essential to procure a cheerful acquiescence in a system of strict discipline. This, and that which is closely connected with it, a habit of depreciating the characters (I mean with reference to education) both of parents and children in the Colony . . . You appear to me to have ruled your school too much by the fear of punishment, and too little by the more generous and far more influential motives of love, the desire of a masters approving smile, and mutual emulation . . .
I proceed now to speak of the future. From what I have said you will understand why I expressed myself in a former letter to be glad of an opportunity of closing the school; and although I am not prepared now in opposition to your wishes, to carry my purpose into effect, yet I am bound to state distinctly, that your resignation of the Mastership at no distant period will be, in my opinion, desirable, and probably necessary.
Perry accepted Budd's proposal that he should continue for the present, but 'in the event of any direct application being made to me by the members of our church, or of circumstances appearing to render it necessary, I shall be at liberty to reconsider the whole matter, and to do what may seem right'.
A letter a month later was equally blunt. Perhaps he should have spoken directly with Budd before now, but the right moment had not been obvious. He referred to 'the faults which I noticed in my former letter, where they exist, especially in middle life, scarcely admit of being corrected'. Budd had obviously replied to the previous letter, asking for the sources of complaints to be revealed, a request that Perry refused. Budd's response, that it was the 'unsatisfactory' footing on which the school presently stood, probably confirmed Perry's view that Budd refused to take public opinion seriously. Budd appears to have indicated an intention to look for alternative employment, as Perry continued: 'with respect of the future, having agreed to your proposal, I would not in any way fetter you in your arrangements . . .' but insisted that Budd give him proper notice of intention to resign 'upon doing so, I propose to call a meeting of the members of our Church to consider what steps it will be desirable to take . . .' Perry was already outlining a path of action that he subsequently followed. Meanwhile, the brutal directness of the communications from Perry are sufficient on their own to explain why years later, Budd, by then a successful public servant, should have explained the school's demise in terms of a negative effect of the goldrush, an explanation that hardly stands under scrutiny. And in the year after this correspondence, the reasons that perry gave in public for moving away from Budd's school embraced maters of management and business, and a desire for the return of the school building that he attributed to the the St Peter's trustees.
Another letter, written a month later, indicates how, at least at the time, Perry understood his intentions for the future, which had obviously been in some state of flux until Budd had decided that he could no longer regard his position at the school as a long-term appointment. Earlier, when they had discussed whether H. H. Handfield would continue to give religious instruction in the school, then it certainly was my intention to "break up the present school" with a view to its subsequent reconstruction; but, as the arrangement has been made that you should continue to carry it on for a time, I hope to be able, upon your resignation, to "reconstruct it" without breaking it up. I would therefore repeat my wish, that you should name a definite time; say eighteen months or two years, when you will be prepared to resign it.
This last passage, in which Perry expresses clearly that he understands his future path not in terms of an abandoning of the first school, but of a reconstruction, is consistent with the intention of the first public meeting of 1853 to discuss putting the Diocesan Grammar School on 'a more permanent and efficient basis'.
Perry's dissatisfaction with Budd may not have been Perry's only motive for acting as he did. The recent difficulties of his fellow bishop Francis Nixon in Hobart over Christ's College and the Hutchins School may well have fuelled an anxiety to give the diocese's educational institutions the soundest possible foundations both in management and finance. And there may also have been a difference of opinion between Budd and Perry over the importance of elements in the school curriculum. While Budd seems to have preferred a traditional weight to be given to the classics in the curriculum, the discussions in 1853 over the proposed new school envisaged a curriculum that would include areas not currently taught in universities, that is, a bent toward the sciences.
Neither Kiddle nor Moule consulted the private correspondence between Perry and Budd, presumably because they did not have access to it. However, Kiddle interpreted the statement of intention of the first of the public meetings as an important element in his argument. Moule, on the other hand, found grounds to be contemptuous of its significance, presumably because of the continuity between the institutions that was clearly suggested at it. It could be ignored since it was 'not a public meeting of a Corporate Body. It was not confined to shareholders or subscribers'. 'Notices were sent at the pleasure or whim of some convener' hardly an argument that impresses one with its honesty, since the identity of the convener was patently obvious. Kiddle riposted: 'everything done would of course be intra vires, but it could not affect the Bishop as proprietor of the Melbourne Diocesan Grammar School except by his consent'. Moule understood the public meetings of 1853 as 'a new scheme for a new school'. My own understanding is that Melbourne Grammar was a 'new' school with a 'well defined constitution', but that functional continuity was intended, at the same time as improvement of the situation, and that Perry's own understanding of his intention at this point is vital. The statements at the first of the three meetings holds the key. His correspondence of 27/5/1852 and of 27/7/1852 simply confirms that he envisaged the situation in terms of continuity. And his statement in his letter of 14/6/1852 concerning his intention to hold a public meeting once Budd had given notice of his intention to resign also indicates that by this time, Perry had a clear plan of action in mind, to which his future acts broadly conformed.
If the general consistency between the letters that treat any reorganisation in terms of continuity and Perry's subsequent actions is not enough, there is also a consistency between Perry's earlier statements concerning the purpose of the Diocesan Grammar School and the purposes which the second school was to fulfil. In his 1849 prize giving day address at Budd's school, he declared: 'It is my purpose . . . my simple desire and prayer is that the Institution may . . . become the means of affording to the people of this community throughout successive generations, a sound scriptural and comprehensive general education.' The next year, following on Trollope's attack on Budd's school in the Herald, Perry wrote to Budd that the Diocesan Grammar School 'constituted as nearly as possible upon the model of our best English schools, with the view of giving the pupils such an education as would fit them afterwards for a University either here or elsewhere'. The same purpose underlay the school whose establishment was discussed at the meetings in 1853. Even Moule was capable of recognising an element of continuity between the schools, though he would not allow that it was a legal one: 'historical continuity might exist through he bishop's actions, but not legally'.
The weakness of Beacham Kiddle's argument, as he presented it, lay in stressing continuity, not in terms of function or the bishop's intention, but on the basis of the existence of a constitution and council. He interpreted correspondence between Perry and Budd in April 1849 in which Perry outlined his intentions for the school, its staff and his own relations with them, as its constitution. He claimed that the Diocesan Grammar School continued to exist after 1854 by virtue of a council elected on 12/12/1854, three days before Budd left. The school was to reopen after summer holidays, but 'before the date arranged for its reopening the School was suspended (not closed) and ceased to function as a teaching institution until its reopening as CEMGS in its own buildings'.
Moule was quick to attack Kiddles interpretation of Perry's April 1849 correspondence as a constitution; in no sense did the first school have a constitution. At the same time, his responses could descend to little more than nitpicking over difficult areas created by failure of early correspondence to survive: 'in what possible way can such a letter form a Constitution . . . no suggestion is made as to any authority to write such a letter. No answer is even quoted'. Kiddle replied that Perry was a Body Corporate, a Perpetual Corporation with perpetual succession; and, taking a swipe at the authority that Moule acknowledged Perry to have when establishing Melbourne Grammar School, reminded him that if Perry had no authority in 1849, he had no more in 1854.
Two other issues raised by Moule deserve reconsideration. One is that it seems that it was envisaged that the Diocesan Grammar School was to continue to function after Budd's resignation, until some point in the future that is not indicated in the surviving documents. Between 9 January 1855 and 9 April 1855, Budd's diary recorded appointments with H. B. McCartney, who was vicar general in Perrry's absence in England that year, the main topic of which was the applicants for his old position. Continuity was intended, despite the current suspension. Was it intended that the first school should run until the second school opened?
Lastly, Kiddle noted that there were two other Anglican schools which had eventually re-opened after a period of closure, with continuity being accepted between the two periods, even though there was no intention of reopening at the time of closure of either school. Geelong Grammar was suspended from 19 June 1860 until 4 February 1863 and Kings School, Parramatta from January 1864 until January 1869. In neither case was there a continuity of either staff or students; at Geelong Grammar, which had only been functioning for two years, continuity was provided through the buildings and the council; for King's, the only continuity lay in one person, Frederick Barker, the bishop of Sydney, as a Body Corporate. If continuity could be accepted in these cases, why could not continuity be accepted in a case like that of the Diocesan Grammar School, where the connection between it and its successor was not only one of intention, but of student intake?
To conclude, a re-examination of the claim accepted since 1936 concerning the relationship between the schools is long overdue. Not only does Kiddle's argument as presented appear to have had much in its favour, but the private correspondence between Perry and Budd, to which neither Kiddle nor Moule had access, indicates that in Perry's mind, his future actions, embracing the creation of Melbourne Grammar, were to be udnerstood in terms of re-establishing the first school, a matter of continuity, not radical discontinuity. And if this is the case, then it is Melbourne Grammar School, and not Scotch College and its predecessor the Melbourne Academy of the Free Church Presbyterians, that is the earliest Melbourne school that has continued to this day.
[Perry in ad clerum of 1854 (text as last document in private lb, p. 182: 'I do not consider that we have at present a good school in Melbourne, but this is a want which may be at any time supplied, and whenever it is supplied, the chief objection to bringing up a family here will be removed . . .']
Though the focus of this paper will thus be the Diocesan Grammar School that functioned on the original St Peter's Eastern Hill land grant between 1849 and 1854, it is appropriate to commence with a short summary of the various schools that functioned on this site for almost a century. After Budd resigned his headmastership at the close of 1854, the parish trustees agreed in 1855 that they should resume it for use as a school under the Direction of the Denominational Schools Board; by 1863, they still owed money to the diocese, but rising attendances made it necessary to create a second building in 1860. In 1874, it was leased to the state government for use as a state school under the provisions of the 1872 Education Act until March 1883, when State Parliament began to consider resuming the land on which it stood.
A new building designed by William Pitt, funded through some of the money paid by parliament in the resumption, was completed in 1886, but this only began to function as a school in 1898 after a campaign to create a parish school, initiated by the then assistant priest, E. S. Hughes, who became the parish's vicar in 1900. His aim was to provide a distinctly Anglican education at extremely low cost to local children, that is, those living in nearby Fitzroy and Collingwood. In 1912, the overcrowding in rooms (in excess of 29 pupils) led to its condemnation by health department under more recent department regulations concerning lighting and ventilation. A new school and hall complex was constructed on Albert Street as result of a five thousand pound gift by Isabell Hughes, whom E. S. Hughes had married in 1904. The Hughes' couple subsidised the school to the value of three hundred to three hundred and fifty pounds each year. The resignation of E. S. Hughes in 1926, followed soon after by the onset of the Great Depression meant the closure of all but infant section in 1930, as the parish was unable to fund a full clerical stipend, let alone fund what amounted to a local exercise in mission.
What, then, of the first school on the site, the main subject of this paper?