100 Years On: Laying of the Foundation Stone

This year, we marked a momentous period in the Launceston Grammar calendar – 100 years since the laying of the foundation stone at our now Senior Campus.

The centenary event holds a lot of meaning to our school community, with many students, past and present, having direct family ties to those students of 1923. One of them is the class of 1957 alumnus, Mr Christopher ‘Gus’ Green OAM. An active member of the school community, both Gus’s father and uncle attended the original laying of the foundation stone, with his uncle playing a vital role in the fundraising committee at the time.

The laying of the foundation stone comes with a lot of history before its becoming. 1923 was a very different place to the Launceston we see today. Tasmania was going through a period of post-war growth, with migration and population recovery at an all-time high. Launceston was a thriving agricultural and industrial city with a population of approx. 26,500 people – the hub of the north. A new woollen mill and spinning mill were built, reflecting the connection between agriculture, the river and global trade. The finance and medical sectors were also booming, and the city had a strong reputation in these sectors in Australia and abroad.

With all this growth, the bold decision was made to relocate the Elizabeth Street school site, to a 25-acre farm, known at the time as Stephenson’s Farm at Mowbray.

Supervised by the 9th Headmaster, the Reverend John Walter Bethune, this was a plan three years in the making, spending the princely sum of £2,700 or $5,517.49 today to secure the new location.

The laying of the foundation stone was an important milestone for the state, as it not only commemorated the construction of this important structure for the school but also doubled as a fitting memorial for the 100 Old Scholars that gave their life for King and Country in The Great War.

Over 2,000 people attended the event back in 1923, as the first schoolhouse was completed and plans for the new school buildings were marked out across the site. The Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon S.M. Bruce also attended the official opening, reflecting on the school’s traditions and the impact of the fine young men that had been educated here. He spoke of the great sacrifice of the Grammar students who had served in the war and those who had made the ultimate sacrifice noting that each of these boys had brought honour to their school.

After the Prime Minister spoke, a detailed account of the school’s finances was then given by the Trustees. Fundraising had raised £16,000 with the line of sight sitting at £22,000. A mortgage was raised for £8,500 and an appeal on that day was for the remaining building and endowments totalling just over £37,000.

The crowd applauded.

What an amazing day it must have been.

Fast forward to today, approximately 50 of our community members, past and present students, local members of parliament and more, braved the weather to attend our centenary event at Café 1846 to mark the occasion. A variety of speakers shared their stories and history of the school, including Gus, expressing his love for the school, the importance of celebrating this centenary and prompting those attending to think about what the next 100 years may look like.

We are grateful for the foresight and courage to envision a new school campus all those years ago, enabling us to dream big for the next 100 years and to see what this campus may look like in the many years to come.