'First School' Chair

'First School' Chair

Our records show that this ‘primitive’ school chair was used in the first school in Oamaru. It is made of Kauri and though in original condition, it is clear that is has been stored outside for some time. It is difficult to give a precise date of construction, but the chair would have been made at some point from the early 1860s onwards.

The chair is of an unusual design. It is simply built, with feet that stick out at the front and a seat that can flip back and hang vertically. It may have been attached to a desk.

The provincial Inspector of Schools, John Hislop, visited Oamaru in October 1861, and approved the request for a school. In 1862 the school, a stone building, was erected on the east side of Greta Street, between Wansbeck Street and Severn Street.

It could be difficult to attract experienced teachers to country schools, but in September of that year John Paradise was appointed teacher. Sir Robert Stout, who was to become Premier of New Zealand and Chief Justice of New Zealand also applied unsuccessfully for the role. Perhaps Stout would have been the better choice, as it was written of Paradise that “to say that he could read, write and cipher would not be underrating his attainments.” An assistant to Paradise, Miss EK Hay, began in 1865.

In 1863 the total roll was 69, with an average attendance of 45. Pupils of different ages were taught together in one room. The expectation was that they would learn basic reading, writing and arithmetic to enable them to learn trades.

Have you seen a school chair like this one before?

NOM 78/305

Morgan Bennet