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Paterson River history

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Iona Public School

The first site

Site of the first Iona Public School

The site of the first Iona Public School.

Iona Public School began as Woodville national school. It opened in September 1850 on Paterson Road just outside the northern boundary of Albion Farm and closed the following year. In August 1853 it reopened on the same site, but named Iona Public School to distinguish it from a Woodville school in southwestern New South Wales.[1]

The new name stemmed from the 1850s and 1860s when the surrounding block of land was named "Iona estate". From 1829 the school site was part of a block of 1,140 acres owned by the Church and School Corporation that reverted to government land in 1833 when the Corporation was dissolved. At various times in the 1840s the 1,140 acres was leased by Benjamin Lee and at other times in that period by WP Coleman of nearby Tressingfield.[2]

When the school opened in 1850, the 1,140 block was apparently leased by a Mr McPhee, probably Neil McPhee, who had named his lease "Iona estate".[3] The 1,140 acres, minus the five acres of school ground, was subdivided and sold in 1872. Benjamin Lee senior purchased the 102 acre lot surrounding the school and incorporated it into his Leeholme estate.[4]

Despite the brief life of "Iona estate", the name "Iona" survives today as the name of the locality and the school.

Iona Public School ceased operation on this site in December 1872 and re-opened in November 1877, using the Woodville School of Arts as temporary premises while the school was being built on the new site nearby.

In September 1879 the Council of Education sold the old school site of five acres to Thomas Carter of Woodville who owned a small block on the nearby Woodville estate.[5]

The two school sites

The two school sites – the top one was the first site, from 1850 and the lower one the current site, from 1879. Both are on Paterson Road in the Woodville district, less than a kilometre apart.

The second (present-day) site

With the closure of Iona Public School at the old site in 1872, a new site was needed and John Pearse agreed to provide it. By the 1870s Pearse owned Tressingfield and parts of Albion Farm. In December 1877 he sold 1.5 acres, part of lot 8 of Albion Farm, to the Council of Education for £60 for the new site.[6] The school block adjoined the eastern boundary of a small block Pearse had sold to "Peter Pumphrett" a few months earlier[7] (on which the tumbledown Pomfrett's Cottage still stands).

Iona Public School opened on the new site in June 1879. There were 35 boys and 21 girls enrolled at the school in 1879 although the average attendance was just over 40.

Iona Public School in 1883

Iona Public School in 1883 (photo: Paterson Historical Society).

In the 1890s more land was needed to expand the playground so two acres were purchased and added to the school grounds on the eastern side.[8]

Iona Public School in 1946

Iona Public School in 1946 (photo: Paterson Historical Society).

For further details about the history of Iona Public School see the online version of the 150 year school booklet (courtesy of Paterson Historical Society).


1. NSW Government – schools history database. Also – Iona Public School Celebrating 150 Years of Education 1850-2000, by the Iona School Sesqui-Centenary Committee.

2. NSW Government Gazette, various issues.

3. The 150 year history book for Iona School says it was "John McPhie" but there is no evidence of that in the NSW Government Gazettes or newspapers. Neal McPhee of Iona, however, appears several times in the Maitland Mercury in the 1860s.

4. NSW land title, Old Form Torrens Register, vol. 145 fol. 73.

5. NSW land title, Old Form Torrens Register, vol. 149 fol. 76.

6. NSW land title, Old Systems Title, book 176, number 93.

7. NSW land title, Old Systems Title, book 171, number 995.

8. The 150 year history book for Iona School says the two acres were purchased from John Scharkie but this requires confirmation as John Pearse owned this land (lot 8 of Albion Farm) in the late 1870s – perhaps by 1891 it had changed hands?