The White Picket Fence

In recent years, it has almost become cliché to talk about Girls Grammar’s front white picket fence in metaphorical terms. In Year 7, new students walk through the gates on Gregory Terrace to an unknown, but special world. Six years later, the Year 12s walk up Gehrmann Lane and out of the Main Campus to a world ‘beyond the picket fence’.

Is it a border, a barrier, or a symbol of our presence? While it does provide a sense of security and stability, most Grammar girls would say that its expanse from Kalinga Avenue (or what previous generations of students called ’no man’s land’) to Victoria Park announces our sense of place on Gregory Terrace. It is a place we have inhabited since 1884 because the original picket fence was constructed at the same time as the Gailey-designed Main Building. It stood for more than 60 years.

Over the years, the Board of Trustees regularly consulted architect, Colin Trapp, about repairs or renovations to facilities at Girls Grammar. In May 1957, Mr Trapp reported to the Board that the front fence was in a dilapidated state and in need of repair. The Board asked him to investigate the repair or replacement of the fence and, at the July Board meeting, Mr Trapp supplied the Board with suggestions for a number of different suitable fences and their estimated costs. Although a new picket fence had been costed to replace the old one, Mr Trapp, in his wisdom, considered a galvanised tubular frame with chain wire infill as the best proposition.

It is obvious from this 1955 photograph that the fence was definitely in need of repair.

The Board finally approved the plans in June the following year and also decided to seek the advice of a civil engineer and surveyor. Tenders were received in September but, by April 1959, plans for the front fence had still not been finished because neither the architect, civil engineer, nor surveyor had pointed out that a low concrete wall was also required on one side of the main gate to hold it up. After two and a half years, the costing was finalised and the front fence was finally built. It took less time to build the School’s new Science Learning Centre!

The front gate in 1990 with the wrought iron gate echoing the iron work on the building behind it.

1985 - The brass plaque announcing 'Girls Grammar School' now adorns the front door of the Main Building.

A 1990 image of the brass plaque.

The galvanised iron and chain front fence in 1978. Note the student wearing a smaller, straw hat and long socks. These items of uniform were both very short-lived.

However, this second fence also began to show signs of wear and tear and people began to think it was not especially attractive. More than that, did it make the appropriate statement about the School and did it do full justice to the heritage buildings behind it? The Principal at the time, Judith Hancock, believed the School needed to show a more fitting ‘face’ to the street and the Fathers Group was always keen to undertake projects that would add to their daughters’ experience at the School—so they decided to construct a new fence. This was a major 1991 project for the Group, which they tackled with enthusiasm, hard work, and heavy machinery.

1991 Fathers Group at work.

The efforts of this group of fathers certainly created the face the School now shows to the world. To outsiders, it may seem just a fence, but it is the one each student walks past every school day, the one that says ‘we are here’. It is where thousands of girls have proudly tied balloons and ribbons to celebrate and share our special place with the wider community.

Mrs Kristine Cooke (Harvey 1967)
Director of Information Services

The Front Fence, Open Day, 2019.