Between 18 September 2015 and the end of 2019, Prince Alfred College will hold a series of events to mark the 150th anniversaries of the landmark occasions in the beginning of the school. These include: the purchase of the College land (18 September 1865), the laying of the Foundation Stone by Prince Alfred (5 November 1867), the opening of the school (January 1869) and the opening of the main building (June 1869).
Headmaster, Mr Bradley Fenner said, “These events will provide opportunities for celebrating our rich heritage and history and the contribution of so many individuals over the last 150 years to the prosperity and growth of Prince Alfred College. At the same time, this is a time for planning for our future directions.”
The whole school came together on Friday 18 September to celebrate the first of these occasions – 150 years to the day that the college land was purchased.
On 8 September 1865, advertisements began to appear for the sale of a large piece of land, part of section 255, not far from Kent Town Wesleyan Church. Auctioneers Townsend, Botting and Kay appealed to capitalists, speculators and others, calling special attention to the property:
“It is the largest block so near to Town now on the market. It is admirably situated on a commanding situation, with a magnificent view over the East Park Lands. The soil is first class, the water is good, and the locality is unquestionably the best near Adelaide. The land adjoins the property so well known as the residence of the late Dr Kent, and if divided into villa sites would ensure a speedy and advantageous sale.”
The auction for the land was set down for midday, 18 September, 1865. At a meeting only two hours prior to the auction, called by John Watsford (the first Australian born Wesleyan Minister) at the Wesleyan Book Depot, with two fellow ministers and eight laymen – it was decided to bid for the land. They would determine the best site for a school on the land and then sell the remainder when they thought best.
Thomas Waterhouse promised a loan to purchase the land. He would advance the purchase money and hold the land as security for payment of principal and interest. This enabled Watford and his supporters to begin to realise the dream of planning and building a College.
Thomas Waterhouse had become a successful businessman. Upon moving from Yorkshire to South Australia in 1840, Waterhouse became a merchant grocer (on the list of ‘shop-keeping nobodies’). He invested successfully in the Burra mine, which was sufficient enough to make him very wealthy on its own. He went on to make extensive property holdings in Adelaide and became a promoter and director of the Bank of Adelaide
Land agent George Cotton had suggested a maximum bid of £3050. In the event, the land was bought for £2750. Waterhouse advancing the money at eight percent interest and the title in his name.
The group that purchased the land continued to meet in the months following the sale. At first the ‘College Committee’ as this group had become named, intended to go ahead with the original decision to retain only five of the thirteen acres. An offer by Waterhouse to forgo a quarter of the interest if all the land was retained changed the Committee’s thinking.
And thank goodness Waterhouse made this offer, for now the College sits on a prime section of land on the edge of the Parklands but also in close proximity to the city centre.
To mark the 150th anniversary event of this event the College was addressed outdoors (on the land) in front of the iconic Main College Building by Headmaster Bradley Fenner, who gave a marvellous narrative of events leading up the land purchase and School Captain, Tim Hobbs, who outlined the beginning of a modern day time capsule project, that would conclude following final anniversary celebrations in 2019. Kaurna elder, Ivan Copley O.A.M., gave a ‘Welcome to Country’ and spoke of the significance of the Sheoak and other native tree’s, prolific in the area at the time the land was purchased.
A special area is being developed for a planting of significant trees to commemorate the 150 year anniversary of the land purchase. Perhaps one of the greatest memories from the boys’ point of view, would be partaking in one of the specially made 1300 donuts with red and white icing, at the conclusion of event.