Early St Marys Schools

Eugenie Stapleton in her book Old Times, Old Tales reported ” that a Mrs Woodland, who was a reasonably well educated woman had opened a “dame school” in her home where she taught boys and girls to read and write. Her husband William Woodland was the second postmaster at South Creek in 1844. There is more research needed to be done in this area as some of the details given about the family do not agree with the family history or the Baptismal records of St Marys Magdalene Church, St Marys. (1) The book relates that the family arrived in 1826 where the family history tells of them arriving in 1836 on the ship the “Cornwall.”

In 1938 when St Marys School was celebrating its’ 60th birthday Mr Ross Thomas, the Director of Education gave an “account of the very early history of education in South Creek”. A school was opened at “Dunheved” in 1839 for the children of the workers on that property. Some writers have attributed this to being the first school. The Headmaster was Abraham Liddiard who received the sum of ten pounds a year. The school was reported as having 18 males and 11 females in attendance. Thirteen could read and write fairly well and knew the first four rules of arithmetic, four could read a little and had learnt the alphabet. The records seem to indicate that the students received elementary education according to the principles of the Church of England. (2)

Later on the school moved into the disused residence at Samuel Thompson’s tannery, on the east bank of South Creek, This was where many members of old St Marys’ families received their early education. (3) Abraham Liddiard and his wife Rebecca are buried in St Marys Magdalene graveyard, she in 1860 aged 56 and he in 1874 aged 72. Abraham Liddiard was the uncle of the first Mayor of St Marys, William Garner who had been sent from Wellington, NSW to be educated as they was no school in that district at the time.

Mr Charker in the Nepean Times on 8 November 1924 remembering what it was like in the 1850s in St Marys recalls that on the eastern side of where Mr John Hackett’s present place was a little private school. Mr Charker was assistant postmaster in the late 1860s. “The schoolmaster was a Mr Freer- a middle age man at the time of which I speak, and a fine fellow. It was a very small building of three or four rooms. About 20 scholars attended.” (4)

In 1861 a private school opened on “Hopes Farm” near the Bound Creek Bridge on the Werrington Road. On 16 May 1861 the residents of St Marys sent a formal “Application for the establishment of a Non-Vested School at St Marys” to the Commissioners of the National Board of Education (established in 1848) The Board must have approved it as they provided a slab building (owned by the Synod of Eastern Australia) which had ” a good boarded floor and shingled roof” and measured 30 feet by 18 feet. Only three desks and ten forms and no apparatus at all were placed in the room. It appears that the small private school became the National school. The first teacher was Thomas Shore, a Londoner, aged 47 years but he resigned in 1861. Mr James Wainwright was his successor but he resigned in 1863 declaring that the schoolroom was unfit for a National School. In 1863 Peter D McCormick, composer of “Advance Australia Fair” taught at the school. In 1864 Robert McCormack also taught for a while. (5)


  1. In “Old Times, Old Tales the author has the Woodlands leaving England with their four children, one of whom died at sea, and arriving in Sydney in 1826. The Woodland family history has the family arriving on the ship “Cornwall” with three sons, John, William and Thomas, in 1836. The family history tells of Mrs Woodland bearing a further four children, James, Elizabeth, Harriet and Ann. The book tells of Mrs Woodland having three more children. The Baptismal records of St Marys Magdalene Church, St Marys give the dates of four children being baptised and their dates of birth as, Thomas Ralph (5/11/1842), Mary Elizabeth (02/07/1845), Harriet (4/11/1846), James Richard (16/3/1849). Ann Margaret Woodland was shown as being born on the family tree in 1840. The church did not open until that year and so Ann may not have been baptised there. Thomas Ralph was born in St Marys in 1842 and was always known as Thomas R so maybe a son did die on the ship that was also called Thomas. The shipping records need to be checked.
  2. Eugenie Stapleton, Other Days, Other Ways. St Marys Historical Society, August 1985.
  3. A Evans – History of St Marys, LCVF St Marys, Penrith Library
  4. Nepean Times 22 November 1924, p 4.
  5. A Evans.History of St Marys, LCVF St Marys, Penrith Library