There has always been some uncertainty as to when Hutt Central School started.
According to the School’s 90th anniversary booklet, “The date of commencement of the Lower Hutt Public School has been open to conjecture but the year 1866 now appears justifiable. Prior to that time there were two or three schools apparently run by private persons who collected fees from parents …” One of these schools was housed in the Lower Hutt Stockade.
In 1866 the Lower Hutt School District was proclaimed “and one of the effects of such a proclamation was that parents could elect a Committee to undertake the management of the school. And so the old Stockade Private School became the Lower Hutt Public School”.
However while the School District was indeed proclaimed in 1866, newspaper reports indicate that the Stockade school was a public or government school with an elected committee before 1866. This means that Hutt Central School possibly began in 1862.
The Stockade School
The school was first housed in the blockhouse of the Lower Hutt Stockade. The stockade was built in 1860 as “a refuge and rallying place for settlers of the district in case of a Maori raid”. It was never used for this purpose and was converted to a school in 1862.
The Blockhouse is probably the building on the left with the flag. The Alexander Turnbull Library identifies this as Fort Richmond but newspaper reports indicate that Fort Richmond was destroyed by floods in 1855. The building looks very similar to the blockhouse in Upper Hutt which was constructed at the same time and to a similar design.
The blockhouse was moved, and the school with it, in 1868 to a site near the start of what is now Laings Road.
The school moved out of the blockhouse in 1876 and no trace now remains of this building. However we can get a good idea of what it was like because a very similar blockhouse built at the same time in Upper Hutt still remains.
In 1876 the school moved across the river to a building on the corner of Victoria and Tama Streets.
The early sites of the Hutt Central School are identified on the map. The blockhouse is shown as being on the same site as Fort Richmond. Other sources place it closer to Plowman Street. The second site is identified as Redoubt School.
Hutt District High School
In 1903 the school moved again, this time across the road to the corner of Railway Avenue.
Hutt City Libraries Heritage Collection
The School changed its name to the Hutt District High School in 1905 after it was opened to secondary school pupils. The School reverted to its former name when Hutt Valley High School opened in 1926.
By 1909 the school was struggling to accommodate a growing roll. Pressure was relieved with the opening of a “side school” in King’s Crescent and in 1911 the addition of a new building for infants.
The “side school” became Eastern Hutt School in 1915.
The present school building opened in 1939 and most of the classes moved there. However the school continued to use the old site until the 1960s despite it being condemned. The main building was demolished in 1969 and the Infant School building was relocated to Wainuiomata in 1997.
In the 1930s the pupils at the school published a magazine called the Comet.
School logbooks survive back to 1874. These provide a record of happenings at the school.
Some entries make for humorous reading:
“Hutt Races – this day and tomorrow – ascertained from parents it would be useless to open school on these days – and that there were five in attendance last year who were dismissed. So gave holiday on both days” (29 September 1874)
“Could not warm the room. Attempted to do so during the week by lighting a fire, but smoke was unbearable, so much so, that I had to dismiss for 1/4 an hour and put out fire” (13 July, 1876)
“Nothing to record. The All-England cricket match will take place next week. I presume I shall have to give a holiday. (2 February, 1877)
“V.J. Celebrations 1 1/2 days” (15 and 16 August 1945), followed by this entry for the next day, “School resumed with 55% attendance”
Some entries were more serious:
“Came to school this morning but found no one there. The school is saturated with wet, and has a deposit of mud about 2 inches deep which the flood has left” (29 September, 1874)
“Drenching rain all morning – Boys latrines with four inches of water in them. Ran over dinner times and closed the school at one o’clock” (20 September, 1912)
“Worst storm and flood for 12 years. Children could not cross Melling Bridge as river was in flood” (1 May, 1913)
“Since school was hurriedly closed on the morning of 11th November, I have been busy assisting the local authorities to fight the influenza epidemic and have not attended to school returns. Mr D. Robertson, First Assistant and Miss A.C.A. McCaw, Probationer, died on 15th and 16th November” (3 December, 1918)
The Logbooks also record the School closing because of epidemics of infantile paralysis or polio in 1925, 1937 and 1948.
“Great want of room – roll number in Std. 5 – 82” (13 February, 1914)
“This morning formed a class of 29 children – no room for them in the building so they had to work in open using forms and trestle table” (3 March, 1919)