Lambton Public School is a landmark for many in Newcastle, having stood on the same site for almost 150 years. With the anniversary approaching, principal Jan Partridge and teacher Kerrie Beavan are keen to preserve the memory of the Lambton Colliery, which first gifted the school with the land on which it stands.
“The colliery was a big producer of coal in the area and as such Lambton grew up around it. The miners came and settled in Lambton and worked at the colliery, and so it was the children of those miners that actually needed the education in the first place.
“It was put forward that instead of the children running around the streets, they needed to be formally educated, so they needed land to be donated - hopefully by the colliery - and as such that’s what they did. They donated some land that was spare that is the site that this school is on now, so for 150 years it’s been on this site,” said Kerrie.
The school has an idea for a very unique way of celebrating the occasion.
“I think it’s a huge milestone for not only the school but for the community of Lambton, so we want to make it special for the school and community in large. We’re in the process of hoping to secure a coal hopper.
“What we’re hoping to do is have it redeveloped and put down on our land on the front of the school here as part of our 150th anniversary and for future generations to know that the school started by granting the land from a mining company.
“It’s part of our history, not only of the school, but of the community itself so when we’re all moved on people can look back and say “I see this is where we started, this is how the school began this is how Lambton itself began on the back of the mining community”,” said Kerrie.
Jan Partridge says that the process of securing the hopper may be a long one, and is asking for the support of the local community.
“The hopper is our dream. Whether it comes to a reality, we don’t know. There’s lots of red tape we need to get through and then if we actually do get it then we have to fundraise money so that we can actually maintain it over the years.
“It is what we would like to do because we would like to acknowledge, amongst other things, the history of Lambton and their links with the colliery so we can actually tell the story of Lambton through our playground.
“It’s going to take big machinery to move it so hence why we have to fundraise the money to be able to pay to have it moved. It’s a long and drawn out process we have to get through. It will be a community resource, not only a school resource, so we’ll need to have the funds there to cover any costs,” said Jan.
The school has plans to get the process in motion and aim to secure as much money as possible to preserve this valuable piece of Lambton.
“In the pipeline at the moment is our market-day concert which is coming up in November, so hopefully we’ll make money there. We have a school cookbook coming out so there are lots of different fundraising ideas that we’re trying to come up with at this point just to hopefully raise the money,” said Kerrie.
“We’re naive at doing this and we’re just finding our way and anyone who can help us we’d greatly appreciate it,” said Jan.
With its establishment in 1865, many local residents have an attachment to the site and their own experiences at the school.
“I think it’s very much a central part of Lambton itself. You will find a great majority of the community are second, third generation people. They haven’t left the area they’ve come back, so I think it’s very special to a lot of people in the Lambton community.
“I think in most communities these days the schools and the churches are still the focal points of the area and whoever you talk to when you say Lambton School and you tell them Croudace Street, they know exactly where it is. So, it is a major landmark and I think a lot of our parents are ones who came here and they do have fond memories of it,” said Jan.
Kerrie Beavan is not only kindergarten teacher at Lambton Public School but her children also became the fourth generation of her family to attend.
“My grandfather [came here] then my mother then myself and then my children. So, he was born in 1904 and had his schooling here. My mother came here during the war and then I started here in 1966 and it’s progressed from there. I’ve come full circle and now I’m back here teaching.
“I am currently teaching in what was my year one room so I have the kindergarten class down there and yes, it was my year one class when I was here. Every corner of this site has a memory for me though wherever I walk my childhood is here so it’s an amazing opportunity to come back here now as an adult and walk around the same site and teach the next generation.
“This school holds a lot of memories for myself, for my mother and even for my children now. We all have this wonderful connection to this school and we all have nothing but fond memories of being here,”
Jan and Kerrie are dedicated to attaining the coal hopper for the school grounds, as they say it will act as a permanent reminder of Lambton's history.
“I wanted something for the 150th to be able to recognise where this school originated from, where the Lambton suburb originated from and this will just be a small part of saying “this is where we’ve come from guys”, and the school, what we do in general, is where we’re heading in the future.
“There’s a future here and hopefully it’ll be here for a long time after we’ve all gone this little piece here is where we came from and I think the community - I’m hoping that they feel the same way, that this is something that they can look back on and say this is where our school came from this small beginning from the colliery the granting of our land to build our school now let’s look to the future,” said Kerrie.
"I think acknowledging our history is a really important part. We can’t forget our past. We’ve got to remember our past that’s what has made us where we are today but we’ve got a future to go to too, so it will be a melding of the old and the new,” said Jan.
Interview by 1233's Gemma Wolk
Photograph courtesy of University of Newcastle's Cultural Collections
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