Brightwater's School for Boys - 1888-1889


The brick school 

In 1887 Spring Grove School was overcrowded and run down, it was also the only school in the area that educated senior boys. Instead of just upgrading the existing school, the decision was made to build a new boys’ school on Main Street (today’s Ellis Street.).1 A parcel of land was purchased off Mr Max, and this land is still the site of Brightwater School today.2

BrightwaterSchool1890s9 3

The brick Brightwater School. Palmer Family Collection on Tasman Heritage.

In October 1887 builders were asked to submit tenders for building a new school in brick. Less than a year later the school was finished, furniture for 30 boys had been delivered, a water pump and outdoor toilet had been built, and fences had been put up. A journalist visiting the new school was ‘greatly pleased with the view of the exterior… Its great size, solidity, and the beautiful and costly belfry surmounting the whole structure’. And reported that the building was ‘finished throughout in really first class style… beautifully lighted and airy. 3,4

In October 1888, the Boys’ School formally opened with a roll of 46 boys, most transferring from Spring Grove, River Terrace, Waimea West and Hope Schools. The first Principal was Thomas Warnock.


Brightwater School class, 1914. Waimea South Collection on Tasman Heritage.

There had been problems finding qualified teachers for Brightwater Girls’ School, and in September 1889, the decision was made to ‘mix’ the Boy’s School. ‘Under a really good master, who shall have the house next to the Girls' School for a residence’…and that the Girls' School be postponed (closed) and the pupils moved to Brightwater’. An advertisement was placed in local newspapers for ‘A Certificated Master’ for Brightwater School and in October William Bryant was employed.5

In November 1889, just over a year after the Boys’ School was opened, Charlotte Silcock was the first girl enrolled at the new mixed Brightwater School.

In June 1929 the brick school building was damaged in the Murchison Earthquake and a new wooden building was constructed on the same site. This opened on June 6 1931.

Story from the Brightwater Heritage Boards 2020

Updated August 16, 2022.

Sources used in this story

  1. Education Board. (1887, April 7). The Colonist. p.3.
  2. Brightwater School. (2013). 125th Reunion of Brightwater School 1888-2013:  Brightwater History & District Schools. Brightwater School. p.104.
  3. The new brick school at Brightwater. (1888, July 19). The Colonist. p.3.
  4. Nelson Education Board. (1888, September 6). The Colonist. p. 3.
  5. The Education Board. (1889, September 5). The Colonist. p.3.
  6. Brightwater School. p.104.

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  • I attended Brightwater School from 1947 to 1952 and need online sources for a memoir as the first female full professor in an Economics Faculty in Australia. I also studied and was an assistant lecturer in the Political Science Department at the University of Canterbury.

    Posted by Patricia Mary Springborg, 26/11/2023 12:30pm (8 months ago)

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