Under the pen-name of “Lantana”
‘Memories of boyish ambitions and dreams pervade a picturesque old building at Watervale, the old Stanley Grammar School, where many distinguished Australians were educated in the nineteenth century. It still stands, but at the desks the only pupils are the ghosts of little boys starting out on the adventure of life’
The Mail, Adelaide 31 October 1936
Joseph Stear Carlyon Cole (1832-1916) founder and schoolmaster of Stanley Grammar.
Born in Exeter England, Cole migrated to Adelaide in 1857 to join his uncle Corporal John Coles who lived at nearby Penwortham. He married Hannah Peacock and they had one boy Clement, and five girls Florence, Ada, Jessie, Alice and Mable.
Cole became schoolmaster at the near by Auburn school, then accepted a Mastership at Pulteney Grammar in Adelaide. After 3 months his uncle from Penwortham begged his return and promised to help Cole build his own private school – the uncle fearing lack of proper education.
On returning Cole opened a day school at the Watervale Methodist Church in 1857. In 1859 the citizens of Watervale built the Community School across the road from the church and Cole became the schoolmaster. Amazingly the school still operates today as a Junior Primary and Primary School.
In 1863 construction of Stanley Grammar began which was located next door to the Community school. This was and built in 3 stages 1863, 1871 & 1874. The entire building consisted of classrooms, dormitories, kitchen, sitting room, dining room/science laboratory, and the Cole family home.
Stanley Grammar was named after the region previously known as Stanley. This was a private boarding school for boys housing approximately 50 to 70 boarders and day scholars, with only a few girls. Night school was also provided; plus the children’s spitballs well over 120 years old are still on the main classroom ceiling.
“Stanley Grammar was ranked amongst the best educational institutions and Joseph Cole was considered one of the ablest instructors of youth”. So highly respected that many graduates went on to prominent positions in the State and Parliament. To name a few, Sir David Gordon, Dr William Torr, Sir John Duncan, Sir Frederick Young. H C Mengeson, J Harmer, Dr W Jethro Brown and Emile Sobels.
“The school roll contains the names of many men of mark in this community and old boys found in nearly every grade of society in South Australia – universities, parliament, magisterial bench, medicine, laboratory, head of schools, banking and counting houses”.
In 1904 Cole retired at the age of 74 and the school closed. The family continued to live in the old Grammar School. Cole died aged 85 on the 15 October 1916, and his wife died in 1928. They were buried in St Marks’s churchyard, Penwortham. Their daughter Jessie Cole lived there until she died in 1949. After her death almost everything was sold by public auction.
A variety of owners followed. Some treasured the building others showed total disregard. Eventually, the school became totally derelict by the late1960’s. The grounds were overgrown and infested with vermin. Even sheep and chooks were left to roam, junk was stored, and rooms were used for hay storage. The south wall required immense restoration, and white ants devoured wooden floors exposing beams making it dangerous to walk up and downstairs. There came a time when the school was up for public auction and almost went to a potential buyer, a local winemaker, wanting to demolish the building for the beautiful stone, except that person, was running late as fate would have it. Fortunately, the school was saved and later State Heritage-listed in 1978.
Over the years various owners attempted to restore the Grammar school which predominantly became a private residence. Other uses included Girl Guides meeting rooms, temporary classrooms for the school next door. Old wares and antiques were sold from the premises. Another owner sold old farming equipment and disused junk in the front yard with pieces making their way into the house. In the early 70’s three people bought the school for $10,000. They called the huge old classroom the “Grand Room” using it as a studio for jewellery making, pottery, ceramics, art and crafts. Hippies also made their occasional visit just to “hang out” in a derelict building. A highlight was a restaurant in the old grand classroom called “The Three Roses” in the 1980’s which proved to be very popular and still remembered today for the chef’s outstanding cuisine. A Bed and Breakfast was also operating for a few years up to 1993.
Finally, a heart surgeon from Adelaide bought the school. It was in a dreadful and pitiful state needing enormous restoration everywhere. His legacy is very significant as he saved the building undertaking crucial structural work and renovations that must be acknowledged. Thank you Dr John Knight. He owned Stanley Grammar for 14 years then sold to us Frank and Denise Kuss from Adelaide in May 2007. We took up residency and turned the school into a grand country house offering luxury boutique accommodation where many a joyful celebrations and gatherings have taken place. This included brides and wedding ceremonies, tea and coffee moments, luncheons, the Coles family book launch, business functions, dining and so on. Many times descendants or people associated with the building visit sharing useful historic information that is always a joy. For us the restoration started from day one transforming Stanley Grammar and gardens significantly into a stately home and manor which is a definitely a labour of love.
So rich in history, Stanley Grammar is certainly special.
The roll of custodian is an honour.