Grote Street Model School & Front Boundary Wall

Grote Street Model School & Front Boundary Wall

The annual report of the Education Board in 1873 stated that “the primary object of these [model] schools, as their name implies, is to furnish a standard of method and organisation for the public schools generally”.

The building of the Model School in 1873-4 and the Training School in 1875-6 reflected a new educational philosophy. In 1859, part of Town Acre 329 was bought but there were no funds to build a school. In 1872 the Education Board suggested that models schools would better meet the colony’s needs than would a teacher training institution. The board believed there would be a greater benefit from a structure that “should be a pattern for every public school in the colony”.

A design competition held in 1872 was won by Edward John Woods. The school was designed for utility rather than as an imposing exterior. The South Australian Register commenting that it was extremely plain, presenting a “solid though not heavy appearance”.

It was built in 1873-74 by T. Martin and Son in the Gothic style, with gables and gablets. It was of one storey with its main frontage to Grote Street, and constructed of bluestone masonry with brick quoins.

Inside, the school was divided into three separate sections for boys, girls and infants. The main schoolrooms – those for boys and girls – were 70 feet by 24 feet and the infant classroom was 40 feet by 20 feet. Between the two large schoolrooms was an arcade paved with slate. This was meant to keep the classrooms cool and to provide a sheltered walk. A turret in the centre of the roof held a bronze bell with a sonorous tone. There was increasing concern for public health at the time and much attention was paid to ventilation. This was reported as “very complete. Shafts for the exit of impure air pass from the ceiling up through the roof, while a good supply of fresh air is admitted by apertures below the wall plate.”

The school could hold 600 pupils, with boys in the western wing and girls in the eastern wing. A substantial stone wall with brick coping and piers surrounded it.

There were minor alterations in 1892 and 1908. The two main classrooms were divided into three smaller ones, and new classrooms were added to each wing at the rear. By 1908 when it had become Adelaide High School, there were 13 classrooms.

The building was severely damaged by fire in mid-1987 and major repairs were needed.

Despite the replacement of the tall narrow double windows on the eastern and western walls, the Model School is a fine example of an early school built by the government.

The school and its neighbour, the former Training School, are a record of the earliest attempts to standardise education methods and principles before 1875, when the Education Act (compulsory primary school education) was passed and the government began a school building program in earnest.

Alongside these two is another historically significant school building, the Advanced School for Girls. This was the first secondary school built by the government for girls.


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These three buildings, each with a specific function, reflect South Australia’s education system before, during, and shortly after the implementation of the Compulsory Education Act.

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Images of Grote Street Model School & Front Boundary Wall

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Edward Woods
T Martin and Sons
Building materials
Stone, Bluestone
Architectural styles
2 Victorian Period (c. 1840–c. 1890), 2.11 Academic Gothic
1873 -  

Additional Works

Minor Alterations to Classrooms

Construction commenced
Construction completed

Minor Alterations to Classrooms

Construction commenced
Construction completed
Architecture and design features
turret, paved slate arcade, bell
Engineering features
West End
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
Government of South Australia
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Education, School
AS2482 classification
18100 - Historic Sites (unclassified)
Public Access
Opening hours only
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5881/474 D59864 A3
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
5.2 State Government
5.2.1 Creating State Government Institutions and Facilities
7.1 Schools
7.1.3 Primary and secondary schools
J A Hartley
Australian Curriculum references
Year 5: The Australian Colonies


  • ACA, Smith Survey 1880; Burchell, L., Victorian schools, 1980; Burgess, H.T., Cyclopedia of South Australia, Vol. 1, 1909, pp. 404-7; Department of Housing and Construction Plan Room, HD 815-44; Jones, H., 'Pinnacle of the state school system: the Advanced School for Girls, Adelaide', in Australian and New Zealand History of Education Society, (ANZHES) journal, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1975, pp. 1-13; MLSA Historical photographs (Town Acres 329-330); Morgan, E.J.R., & Gilbert, S.H., Early Adelaide architecture 1836 to 1886, 1969, pp. 56-7; PRO, GRG 24, Records of Colonial Secretary’s Office 1873-76, GRG 18, Records of the Education Department, GRG 50, Central Board of Education and Council of Education; SAPP, No. 24, 1873, Report of Education Board, pp. 7-8; South Australian Register,
  • 26 January 1874, 27 January 1874, 31 January 1874.

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