Objects of Substance: Our Cottage Industry—or Not so ‘Industrious’?

When I started at Brisbane Girls Grammar School as a Year 9 student in 1964, my form room was known as the ‘first cottage’. This building was not a quaint English cottage with roses growing over the door but a timber and tin duplex of ‘temporary’ classrooms situated very close to the front fence, near the location of the current gate to the Elizabeth Jameson Research Learning Centre.

A view of the Cottages from the front of the Western Wing in 1975

This building was originally situated at Brisbane Grammar School, but in 1921 it was brought over to the Girls Grammar campus. Here it was repainted and fitted out as two large classrooms. They were traditionally the classrooms given to Form 3 classes—the youngest students until 1964—and, even as early as 1927, students complained about the noise from the street.

These two classrooms were a little isolated, even a little out of the way, and ‘some students’ were known to throw orange segments at Grammar boys who sped past on their training runs; indeed, they were so close to the footpath that girls could dangle their legs out the window, with their feet almost touching passers-by, as pictured below.

1975 School Magazine

Lesley Stephenson (1971) at the western gate next to the Cottages in 1971

The classrooms had wooden desks and benches for two—like the ones in the current library spaces—and a set of small, square wooden lockers. Today the only remnants of these solid pieces of furniture are three square, graffitied doors kept in the School Archive.

The Cottages had wooden desks and benches for two

Three salvaged lockers doors from the Cottages

In 1964, I was not, like most 13-year-olds, interested in the history of this small building with its rooftop finial. However, it did have one main advantage: it was on the margins of the campus at that time, and a lookout ensconced at the back windows could alert the class when the teacher was coming as, in those days, the classes stayed in place and the teacher roamed.

The other clear memory I have is that, in that year on the final day for the Seniors, a couple of carloads of Grammar boys drove in the car park gate just past the building, made a quick and dusty circle, and then exited, yelling gleefully.

Merle Weaver on the Cottages’ steps in 1924

Looking back to the Cottages with W Block on the left.

Today, these Cottages are no more and classroom spaces have been replaced with the necessary, but entirely different, superstructures that are the Cherrell Hirst Creative Learning Centre and the Science Learning Centre.

Mrs Kristine Cooke (1967)
Director of Information Services

VIB outside the Cottages in 1956