Local Farming Families’ Legacy: The History of Aspley State School

Did you know that Aspley State School was the first school established in Brisbane’s outer northern suburbs? Built in 1890 with funds raised by local farming families, the timber and tin school building known as ‘A’ Block stands today as the oldest surviving school building in the area.

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From its earliest days, the school served as a community hub, hosting not just classes but dances, picnics, teacher training sessions and more. Its grounds evolved over the decades, gaining trees, gardens, sport facilities and even air raid trenches during World War II. But the heart of the campus remained the A Block, which has been considered a local heritage place since July 2002.

The ‘A’ block in 1895 (Photo credit: Aspley State School P&C Association/Facebook)

In March 1889, John Morris, William Brown, and William Wallin contacted the Queensland colonial government’s Department of Public Instruction to request a school for their district. As a result, a local committee comprising Morris, Brown, Wallin with Robert Graham and Thomas Ridley, was formed. 

Aspley State School
Matthews’ settlement, Aspley, on the site of the Aspley State School ca 1887 (Photo credit: Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

They issued a formal, written request that detailed four possible school sites on 20 March. John Shirley, a school inspector, visited these sites and presented his official report on 15 April. Shirley rejected all four sites, as they were too close to existing schools. He recommended that a more central location be found for the proposed school before the matter could be reconsidered. 

Whilst the Department of Public Instruction had already selected a site on Portion 454 along Maundrell Terrace on 13 July 1889, for the proposed school, they chose not to proceed until the local residents resolved their disagreements. 

Following a prolonged dispute, the government ultimately accepted the proposal from William Brown to build the school on Maundrell Terrace, and the institution came to be called the Little Cabbage Tree Creek School.

The school commenced operations in 1890 with an initial enrollment of 40 students. Archibald Robert Wing assumed the role of the inaugural head teacher and continued to lead the institution until 1901.

As the suburb transitioned from its agricultural roots to a residential area after World War II, Aspley State School expanded rapidly to accommodate the growing population. New classrooms, libraries, amenities and other buildings were constructed, even as other local schools like Aspley East and Craigslea relieved some of the pressure on student enrolments.

Through it all, that iconic 1890 school house has endured – a link to Aspley’s past as Soldier’s Flat and Little Cabbage Tree Creek.

Aspley State School
Photo credit: Aspley State School P&C Association/Facebook

The name of the school was changed when the area received its official designation as Aspley in the year 1897. The name Aspley is thought to originate from the Aspley Orangery and Aspley Vineyard, which were owned by Morris during the 1860s. Morris had arrived from Nottinghamshire in England, where there existed an estate called Aspley Hall.

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Today, the school remains a source of pride for the community that raised the funds for its construction over 130 years ago. Named after the orchard that gave the area its current moniker, Aspley State School’s humble beginnings echo the story of the suburb itself.

From farming families to modern residents, generation after generation has passed through its doors. As the school celebrates more milestones ahead, the heritage-listed ‘A’ Block will continue standing as an enduring symbol of Aspley’s evolution – and its pioneering vision for education.

Published 28-May-2024