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Scotch’s foresight in 1914

ABOVE: Scotch’s future site as it was in 1914: a rundown farm, as viewed from the bottom of the Hill looking south east to the Gardiner’s Creek Bridge on Glenferrie Road.

Scotch’s first land grant was of two roods in East Melbourne – half an acre, or 2,023 square metres – and it opened its first buildings there in 1854. Over time the property increased to the grand total of two acres, or 8,093 square metres. More boys meant more buildings, and – by 1914 – 579 boys filled the buildings that filled the site. Ground not covered by buildings was covered in bitumen.

During Scotch’s 1911 Diamond Jubilee celebrations, William Henry Melville (SC 1870-79) offered £500 for the erection of a school hall. No. 1, Scotch’s famous old classroom, had doubled as an assembly hall, but Old Boys at Diamond Jubilee celebrations now noticed its lack of space. No. 1 measured 50’ x 30’ (15.24m x 9.14m) and at 139 square metres was now packed to bursting point. In May 1912 architects Inskip & Kemp designed an assembly hall, a view of which was published in the August 1912 Scotch Collegian. However, even in 1911 many (but far from all) Old Boys favoured moving to a new site. The difficulty was that ‘the cost of so doing would be enormous, but the Council is giving the matter every consideration’.

Deciding that moving would be necessary, but in the distant future, fundraising began in earnest for an assembly hall in 1912. Morning assembly in No. 1 ceased by the start of 1913 due to lack of space. Meanwhile, Scotch built more classrooms, the Council deciding any move would be ‘impossible for many years to come’.

By 1914 a brave decision was made. A multipronged appeal was made by the Principal, William Still Littlejohn, President of the Old Scotch Collegians’ Club, George Allen Moir (SC 1890-94), chairman of the Old Scotch Collegians’ Association, Edwin Hamilton Serle (SC 1887-90), and OSCA President and beloved Old Boy and teacher Frank Shew (SC 1860-66) to the Scotch community for money for a new site.

Said to be nearly 52 acres (210,437 square metres) of land, the Glen Estate in Hawthorn was promoted as Scotch’s Promised Land. Confidential terms were agreed, giving Scotch the option to purchase until May 1915 – if at least £5,000 were raised by then. That sum would encourage the Presbyterian Church to advance the balance of the purchase price.

Why the change of policy? Littlejohn wrote that many Old Boys approached for money for a new hall said that they would give instead to a new site. Overcrowding, of course, was mentioned. The accessibility of Hawthorn to public transport and ample space were also selling points.

Champion athlete Moir pointed out the benefits to sport. Serle referred to potential boarders being turned away due to lack of space, to educational thinkers promoting moving schools from crowded centres, and to the likelihood of Scotch losing its only playing field. He pointed out that Geelong Grammar School had already moved after successful fundraising. The mere fact that Shew – a loyal Old Boy and teacher who had been at Scotch since 1860 with the exception of four years – promoted the move, spoke volumes.

The Presbyterian Church’s Commission of Assembly conditionally approved the purchase on 10 November 1914, and Council purchased Hawthorn Glen for about £12,500.

Hawthorn Glen’s origins go back to the arrival of pastoralist John Gardiner (1798-1878) who was the first man to drive cattle from Sydney to Melbourne. Arriving in December 1836, he identified suitable grazing land near what is now Gardiners Creek and started Melbourne’s first cattle station, building a house and moving there on 11 April 1837. Aborigines of the Wurundjeri-Baluk group were numerous in the area.

The low-lying future Scotch land was swamp, and ducks and fish abounded. Cattle grazed on the future Scotch side of Gardiner’s Creek, while potatoes were grown on the future St Kevin’s College side. After Gardiner’s men shot at Aborigines taking potatoes in 1838 the Aborigines left the region, and Gardiner moved to the city, fearing retribution.

In 1875 music seller William Henderson Glen (c. 1825-1892) completed building the magnificent mansion, Glen House. Its style was prophetically described as Scotch baronial. After his death the property passed to his sister Mrs Robina Currie. It eventually lay empty for several years before financier William Lawrence Baillieu (1859-1936) and his brothers (almost certainly Scotch boys Maurice Howard Lawrence Baillieu (SC 1894-99) and Norman Horace Baillieu (SC 1894-96) bought Hawthorn Glen for £7,000 in 1907.

In 1908 the land was prepared for subdivision, with ‘an army of men clearing away many of the pines’ which covered the Hill. In October 1910 the property was sold to Hawthorn Glen Pty Ltd for £8,580 and from 8 March 1911 it was advertised for auction on 29 April 1911 at 3pm. However, huge rains flooded the low areas, and as they would detract from the sale of the higher land the sale was postponed indefinitely.

On 29 May 1914 the Hawthorn, Kew, Camberwell Citizen reported that negotiations were underway for the purchase by Scotch of the Hawthorn Glen estate. However, in September 1914, Muntz and Muntz, civil engineers and surveyors, were writing to the Hawthorn City Council in relation to subdividing the land. On 29 April 1915 Punch reported that Scotch’s acquisition of Hawthorn Glen ‘hangs fire’ and that Scotch had £2,000 to go with the £1,600 subscribed to the Jubilee Hall fund. By May 1915 the deal was done. All who love Scotch should be forever grateful for the foresight of those who brought it here.

Updated: 31 December 2014