In 1872, Mr. Thomas Ritchie was appointed as Cleveland’s first official school master for the primary school. It seemed that a person of Mr. Ritchie’s standing entitled him and his family to an official residence. A deal was struck between the worthy citizens of Cleveland and the Board of Education of the Colony of Queensland. The local citizenry raised funds for half the cost of the schoolmaster’s house – 107 pounds ($197). The Board of Education allocated the other half from, presumably colonial funds.
The House the Board Built
The first four-room cottage for the school-master was built in the Cleveland Point precinct between pulpit and pub. More precisely, between St Paul’s Church and Francis Bigge’s Grand View Hotel. The actual primary school was a converted shop in the same area. It still exists, but it is now in private hands. A school inspector of the time remarked of the scholars at the Cleveland school: “The manners of the children are frivolous and uncouth. The girls show an unseemly tendency to giggle.” Probably all that sea air. It affects us still today! The first house was built as four roomed cottage with a verandah on the street frontage. There was a smaller verandah to the rear to provide access to the kitchen and a small servant’s room. At one stage, in 1876, a petition was sent to the Board of Education requesting two extra rooms to the cottage. The school-master at the time was trying to provide accommodation for his family of ten persons on a salary of $100 a year?
More Family Problems in 1900
In 1899/1900, the then school-master, Mr. Henry Palmer was finding the Board of Education’s original four rooms a little tight for his family. In fairness, Mr. Palmer does not appear to be the prolific gentleman with the family of ten That was 25 years prior to his 1900 predicament. Mr Palmer petitioned the Under Secretary of the Department of Public Instruction to increase the size of the cottage. It is interesting to note that the 1870s Board of Education was now known under the grander title of Department of Public Instruction. Mr Palmer wrote: As, however the two (extra) rooms will not make the house large enough for my family, would the Department build a third room if I pay for one-fifth myself. A room 11ft by 15ft (3.4m x 4.6m) would make a comfortable dining and sitting apartment. The only room, at present, that could be used for that purpose is a small apartment 12ft by 12ft (3.7m x 3.7m) with three doors, a chimney and two windows. There is no space to bestow any\r\n furniture and leave the room large enough to dine or sit in with any degree of comfort. In requesting the Department to grant this third room, I am only asking for the expenditure of the sum which the late Minister originally granted, ie, 120 pounds. ($240). I can see no other way by which I can be released from my present unfortunate position. I have the honour to be,\r\n Sir, Your obedient servant, H. B. Palmer. It would seem from the evidence and the present structure of the building, that Mr Palmer’s plaintive cry was heard. There are six distinct rooms in the cottage. The construction of the extra rooms date from the early 1900s. From our 1990s viewpoint, it is difficult to visualise a couple and their family setting up house in such closed quarters. The first cry we would hear is: Where is the family room?
Onwards to 1915
The house remained as the official School-master’s residence until 1915. The Department of Public Instruction then sold the house to private individuals. From 1915 to the 1970s, the house was occupied by various owners and tenants. The last family to occupy the house was the Rodgers family. They took many photographs of their family home. Copies of these are available at the gallery if you wish to see them.
During the late 1980s, the School-master’s house was under the threat of demolition. To avert this, the site developers donated the building to the Redland Shire Council. The Council, with the support of some local service clubs and the developers of the site, relocated the building from Cleveland Point to William Ross Park, adjacent to the Cleveland Primary School. With funding from the 1988 Australian Bicentennial Authority, the Redland Council restored the house to Henry Palmer’s standard. It would seem that Mr Palmer got his third room. At the same time, during the late 1980s, the Council also relocated an historic railway siding building adjacent to the School-master’s house. The siding dates from the steam train days of the Cleveland railway in the 1890s.
We are proud to be able to display some furniture from a bygone era. There are some pieces from the old council chambers. And some school desks with carved initials. Other pieces were bought by Council to enhance the ambience of the gallery. Come and enjoy these pieces with us.
In 1998, the Redland Council decided to move the School-Master’s house and the railway siding building back to Cleveland Point. This move was motivated by historical considerations. Both buildings had their origins near to Cleveland Point, and they have great significance on the Cleveland Point historical trail. Funds for the move came from the Gaming Machine Benefit Fund and from Council allocations.