Camberwell Grammar School

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Camberwell Grammar School
Camberwell Grammar School crest. Source: (Camberwell Grammar School website)
55 Mont Albert Road
Canterbury, Victoria 3126
Coordinates 37°48′55″S 145°4′2″E / 37.81528°S 145.06722°E / -37.81528; 145.06722Coordinates: 37°48′55″S 145°4′2″E / 37.81528°S 145.06722°E / -37.81528; 145.06722
Type Independent, Single-sex
Motto Latin: Spectemur Agendo
("By our deeds may we be known")
Denomination Anglican
Established 1886
Founder A. B. Taylor
Headmaster Dr Paul Hicks
Enrolment 1,286 (P-12)
Houses Bridgeland, Clifford, Derham, Macneil, Robinson, Schofield, Steven, Summons
Colour(s) Gold, Navy Blue & Pale Blue             

Camberwell Grammar School is an independent, Anglican, day school for boys, located in Canterbury, an eastern suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Camberwell Church of England Grammar School was founded in 1886. In its early years, the school was housed at a number of sites in and around the suburb of Camberwell, Victoria. It has occupied its present site on Mont Albert Road on Canterbury's Golden Mile, since 1935. In 2016, it celebrated the 130th year anniversary of its establishment in 1886.

The school currently has around 1600 students. The school is divided into three sections; Junior School (pre Prep – Year 5), Middle School (Year 6 – Year 8) and Senior School (Year 9 – Year 12).

The school has eight houses, named Derham, Macneil, Robinson, Summons, Bridgland, Schofield, Clifford and Steven. The house colours are red, yellow, emerald green, blue, sky blue, magenta, orange and royal blue respectively.


The Camberwell Grammar School opened its doors on Tuesday, 2 February 1886, at Burke Road, Camberwell, in the grounds of St. John’s Church, near Camberwell Junction. The first headmaster and owner of this modest, private institution (modelled on an English Public School) was Arthur B. Taylor, a twenty-eight-year-old scholar and entrepreneur. The initial enrolment was also modest, but promising, at 66 boys, who were promised a modern environment and a course of instruction embracing ‘all the subjects necessary for a boy’s education, including his successful entry into the University of Melbourne’. This was the age of the land boom in “Marvellous Melbourne” and the fees of three Guineas per quarter were not considered excessive. Taylor soon acquired considerable property in what would become Fermanagh Road further to the east and the fledgling School was moved there to a more impressive building in 1887. This fine mansion is still standing and Heritage protected.

In July 1891, Taylor was ready for further business ventures elsewhere and he sold the School to two partners, Alfred Hall and Will Gosman, as joint proprietors. Enrolments declined once the Victorian land bubble unexpectedly burst in the early 1890s; by 1896-97 numbers had fallen to a meagre thirty-three boys and Mr Gosman had moved on, leaving Hall (affectionately known as the ‘Boss”, later the “Old Boss’) as the sole proprietor and headmaster for the next three decades, a school record. The straitened School was forced back to St. John’s in 1897, where in the following year nostalgic old boys met to form a club – there were only 363 potential members, but the formation of this social group was a testament to the affection that the School had already nurtured amongst its alumni. Affairs improved sufficiently by 1908 for another shift (the third in twenty-two years) to a more substantial Burke Road property just south of Rathmines Road and close to St Mark’s, a church that would become the School’s spiritual rock, destined to play a significant part in the life of the Camberwell Grammar to the present day. The Hall years laid the foundation of the modern Camberwell Grammar, a confident, friendly but focused institution that gradually grew in public estimation whilst many of its rival schools fell away. An Old Camberwell Grammarians’ Association was formed in 1910 to formalise that earlier club and by 1915 the School also had its own magazine, eventually known as the Grammarian, and Hall continued to guide his boys through the Great War (which claimed the lives of around forty of them) and into the 1920s, retiring in 1926, having sold his interest in the School to the Church of England. The School was now governed by a Council from 1 January 1926 and accordingly, Camberwell Grammar was declared to be an Anglican “Public School” at St Mark’s in May 1927, by which time it had a new headmaster, Dr M.A. Buntine and a new ‘mitre’ badge. The numbers were healthy, just short of 300 boys, but there was no avoiding the Great Depression and Buntine soon left for greener pastures in WA, disconsolate at the deteriorating physical condition of the Burke Road facilities. By 1933 the School was in danger of a rapid decline with many parents refusing to guarantee the return of their sons to these increasingly cramped and decrepit buildings. It was either move or perish, but the School was strapped for funds. A saviour appeared in the form of William Angliss, brother-in-law of a prominent Council member. In April 1934, Angliss, the ‘white knight’ of CGS, provided the funds for the purchase of the “Roystead” property of 7.5 acres, 52 Mont Albert Road as it then was, where the School now stands.

This shifting of the school in February 1935, under Headmaster (since 1932) H.L. Tonkin, ensured that Camberwell Grammar would now go from strength to strength and the School celebrated its 50th Jubilee in 1936 confident of a solid future, despite a period of continuing austerity. It was only fitting that the first purpose-built structure on the Mont Albert Road site was the “William Angliss Building”, opened in February 1935 following further generous financial assistance from Angliss himself. A preparatory school block (later ‘H Block’) soon followed in 1936 at the front of the property, built in a similar architectural style to the Angliss structure and largely funded by the same man. Both buildings survived into the following century. Henry Tonkin would be remembered by Old Boys as a considerate gentleman, steering the School through tenuous economic recovery and a second global war that took the lives of a further forty or so Old Boys. The Council was ready for a post-war experiment by 1949 and appointed Mr Michael Searle as Tonkin’s successor. Searle was a young, cultured Englishman with a distinguished scholarly and military history, but he had never set foot in Australia prior to his appointment. He was somewhat reserved in nature and was soon considered aloof. Mr Searle was ambitious on the School’s behalf rather than on his own and unveiled extensive plans for expansion to include other sites, something that disturbed a financially astute Council, many of whose members were still haunted by recent memories of the austere 1930s. The now unviable Boarding School was closed in 1950 and Searle himself soon departed, succeeded by the School’s first Old Boy headmaster, Reverend T.H. Timpson in 1955.

Searle was a cultivated man of broad vision, but the circumstances of the time had not suited his particular approach and outlook. The new headmaster was a steadier force, also focused on the need for expansion, but at a more financially viable pace. Many an eyesore, like the dilapidated tin fence along Mont Albert Road, was removed in accordance with an air of renovation and modernity. Timpson’s greatest constructive achievement was the completion of the new Memorial Hall in 1958, replacing ‘an old galvanised iron army mess-shed’ as the School’s assembly point and theatre. A state-of-the-art science block (graciously named after H.L. Tonkin) soon followed the Memorial Hall, as did a new E.D. Romke Memorial Library, named after a prominent Councillor. Timpson also presided over the acquisition of land adjoining Blackburn Lake, a plot earmarked for a future off-campus, Junior School expansion which never came – “Norge” would admirably serve this function from 1984. However, at much the same time, the School did manage to acquire access to “Bambara” (“place of trees”) near Broadford in 1963, a site that well served the cadet unit and other school groups from this time onwards. The Timpson years also led to significant changes in the curriculum, including the pioneering introduction of Asian Studies/Chinese language in 1960 and a broadening of outdoor activities, including the Cadet Unit, according to the vision of the Outward Bound movement. The students were permitted their own voice through their own journal, Spectemur, under the guidance of English master Ian Mason (who would eventually become the School’s longest serving member of staff following a career that covered more than half-a-century). By 1966, when Timpson retired in favour of David Dyer, the school population had surpassed 800 and Camberwell Grammar had solidified its reputation as one of Victoria’s leading schools for the education of boys.

The Dyer years, 1966–87, were those of continued expansion and enhancing reputation. Mr Dyer proved to be a demanding taskmaster for both staff and students, but his rigour produced results in a period that was soon marked by great social disruption beyond the boundaries of the campus. Growing academic rigour was matched by an ever-expanding range of activities that boys were encouraged to undertake – archery, archives, astronomy, book-binding, bridge, cadets, canoeing, chess, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, fencing, film appreciation, first aid, judo, karate, military history, photography, yachting, amongst others, and most of the team sports that engage Australian youth. Music and drama (an ongoing activity since 1917) also consolidated their prominent positions and strong reputations in these years that they enjoy today. “Highton”, now having been acquired, became the centre of the Music School – music itself soon became an indispensable, even primary, part of the School’s focus for many students, staff and parents. The Searle focus on excellence, including cultural aspirations of a high order that had daunted many two decades earlier, had now been awarded its due recognition and belated acknowledgement. Camberwell boys were hereafter reminded with greater intensity that they ought to be judged by their achievements in the many diverse fields that their school offered them - Spectemur Agendo. The 90th anniversary year, 1976, was marked by a notable Old Boys function in the Memorial Hall and by a Dinner for Parents and Friends at the prestigious Hilton Hotel. The Headmaster listed the inauguration of the recently acquired neighbouring property “Kingussie”, earmarked as the ‘Asian Studies Centre’, as the most notable event of this anniversary year. The building now serves as the Staff Common Room.

Construction and renovation of the Mont Albert Road campus continued throughout the 1970s and early-1980s as the School headed towards its centenary. A new resource centre, the L.W. Weickhardt Library, a ‘David Dyer’ Physical Education Centre (replacing a decrepit, portable “Old Gym” from Burke Road), the Canon W. Holt Wing for Grade 6 students and the inauguration of the Junior School at “Norge” were amongst them, as the School continued to obtain possession of neighbouring properties in a steady process of physical consolidation as an alternative to any suggestion of expansion elsewhere. The present organisation of the School into Junior, Middle and Senior sections was formalised in 1983/84, in time for the much anticipated centenary of 1986, during which the school community reflected on its first century. There was much to reflect upon, as was made clear in the commissioned, centennial history By Their Deeds written by the scholarly educator Dr Ian Hansen and launched with appropriate ceremony by the Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen at the Camberwell Civic Centre. Centenary commemorations began with a service at St Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a Centenary Family Day in April. A spectacular Centenary Revue at St. Kilda, a Centenary School Concert at the Melbourne Concert Hall and a Centenary Old Boy’s Dinner all marked the strengths and diversity of school life throughout the year. The School now contained over 1100 students and over 9200 had passed through its various portals in the previous 100 years.

The year following the centenary, 1987, saw a transition of leadership to Mr Colin Black, formerly Vice Principal of Scotch College. Black was keen for change and he began by reiterating the place for traditional, liberal education in a world obsessed by a transient relevance. Soon the Headmaster and Council were busy formulating a Master Plan through which the School would face the challenges of its second century. An immediate task was the recognition that an expanding Camberwell Grammar needed a further physical upgrade. Accordingly, whilst the School continued its practice of marginal property acquisition, the following years saw the construction of a Science, Art and Design Centre, new classrooms on the north side of the iconic Angliss building (enclosing the Memorial Quadrangle), a new Music School near “Highton” in February 1997 and by March in the same year a spectacular new Performing Arts Centre, the most striking edifice constructed on the Mont Albert Road campus for over sixty years. Governor-General Sir William Dean presided over the opening of this landmark building and it would soon become the working and collective centre of the modern school, the assembly point of an ever enlarging community. A year-long program of special events was held in an acknowledgement that the School was entering into a new phase of its life; there were notable art shows, drama productions and a wine and food festival in which the Old Camberwell Grammarians’ Association played a prominent part. The Black years were not, however, purely concerned with the merits of physical construction given the Headmaster’s professed drive for academic excellence. Camberwell Grammar came into its own academically with full force despite the reservations that some had held about the new system of certification in Victoria ‘aboard the good ship VCE’, as one student leader described it in 1994. From this period onwards, Camberwell students achieved academic results unsurpassed elsewhere, a trend that has now become entrenched, reflecting the concentrated and happy environment that the School provides for those throughout their primary and secondary educations. At the same time, the School’s marked sporting record also continued to impress, a further instance of the long held view that academic achievement can, and must, be balanced by those of the sporting world, as well as by those of other activities such as cadets, drama and music.

The new century brought new challenges, not the least of which was an incendiary one, as the historical centre of the School, “Roystead”, faced a further crisis on Christmas Day, 2002, when its interior was gutted by fire. This mansion, coincidentally constructed for tea merchant Oliver Vial in the year of the School’s foundation in 1886, had served many school functions since its occupation in 1935 – administration, classrooms, residence, staff accommodation, boarding house, art studio, dark room, cadet ‘Q’ store, pottery room, music room, library and chapel, amongst other things – puerile rumour suggested an underground colonial-era escape tunnel in the basement. Had this fine building been destroyed, then something of the spirit of the School would also have been dissipated. It had survived threatened demolition in 1964; now it survived an inferno. Subsequent restoration left “Roystead” in a better condition than it had enjoyed for decades and ready for the twenty-first century. It remains a focal point for the whole school community and generations of students have been photographed on its steps, with the iconic “Roystead Awards” for Middle School excellence ongoing. Colin Black retired with an enhanced reputation soon after, at the end of 2004, but not before he had set in place a further physical landmark of his vision for the School with the completion of the new humanities building named in honour of the late, long-serving Latin teacher H.R. McDonald (‘Mac’), who had devoted his estate to the institution he cherished.

Dr Paul Hicks subsequently took up the mantle of the headship in 2005. He was the first headmaster to have previously taught at the School and this afforded him a greater initial understanding of and feeling for the institution he now led than had been held by any of his predecessors, with the possible exception of Timpson. Colin Black had brought an appreciation of centuries of British grammar school education; as an historian, Dr Hicks also appreciated the rich local foundation on which the modern school was constructed and following his inauguration as the ninth of Camberwell’s headmasters, he declared his intention to build on a 120-year inheritance. The completion of a new Middle School building in 2007 (the ‘new’ William Angliss Building) followed the demolition of H, J Blocks and the L.W. Weickhardt Library, all from earlier eras and now tired, fulfilling a Master Plan that had enhanced the school environment for the previous twenty years. In late 2008, the School Council approved another major step forward with the promise of a new Senior School block, chapel and sports centre over the coming years. The 125th anniversary in 2011 accordingly came at a time of continued development and was celebrated as one of “125 Years Young” with the publication of an enhanced pictorial history, Our Camberwell, a Gala Concert, a Gala Parents’ Association Dinner and the recital of a spectacular, new Pipe Organ for the PAC. A new School Hymn was commissioned from two Old Boys, an acrostic hymn appropriately based on the motto Spectemur Agendo.

The new Senior School Wheelton Centre would offer from 2013 different opportunities for teaching and learning, including the use of a grand lecture theatre named after Lindsay Quinn, who was amongst those boys gathered and photographed in February 1935 before the new Angliss building at the first Mont Albert Road campus assembly. The Centre hosts new science laboratories, general learning areas, a Year 12 Common Room and Study Centre, the Ron Wooton Art Studio, Archives and the Matthew Wheelton ICT Centre. The Wheelton Centre was opened by the Governor of Victoria, Alex Chernov, in March 2013 and on this occasion the Headmaster noted that a dream had been turned into a ‘spectacular reality’ with the intention of providing the best possible facilities for our students, building on the legacy of those who had come before. Headmaster Tonkin had said much the same thing in February 1935 when opening the first Angliss building, evidence that Camberwell both builds on and values its own heritage whilst simultaneously adopting the new with enthusiasm. The naming of the PAC Auditorium after Colin Black in 2013 further indicated these qualities, as well as recognising his long standing patronage of the performing arts at the School. The year closed with an October Open Day made the more impressive by the observation of the CGS Cadet Unit’s 125th Anniversary through a commemorative Twilight Tattoo.

2014 was a year of further promise as it saw the unveiling of the next stage of the School’s development, a planned Sports Complex and Functions Centre and a new Chapel to be constructed to the south of the renovated Keith Anderson Oval, now to be above an extensive underground carpark. Two years of bustling construction followed, but by the close of 2016, the end was in sight. The new Sports Centre will open in early-2017 - it includes the Ngaere Wilson swimming pool and the David Dyer Fitness Centre, fronted by the architecturally distinctive All Souls’ Chapel, providing this important and indispensable aspect of school life a settled home after some years of readjustment. The Old Angliss building was demolished in favour of the new, but the portal of this iconic structure has been reconstructed alongside the new complex, allowing future generations a glimpse into that day in February 1935 when the School moved to its present site. From 2017, the newest part of the campus (the Sports Centre/Chapel) will front the oldest (“Roystead”), a fitting sign that the School continues to respect its past whilst preparing for the future. The latest Master Plan has now been completed.

The distant 1886 Prospectus had promised much, including ‘firm but cautious discipline’ intended for a boy’s ‘complete education’. In 1914, Headmaster Hall had refined this to an assurance that ‘Pupils are prepared for the University, for Business Pursuits, or for a Country Life’. In 1934, when laying the first foundation stone on the Mont Albert Road campus, William Angliss had urged the boys to ‘resolve that you will give your best thought and your best work, not only to the furthering of your individual interests, but also to the community of which each of us is but a unit’. He hoped that his foundation stone would remain for centuries and ‘mark the progress of what may prove one day to be one of the finest schools in Australia’. This stone has now been shifted elsewhere on the campus, but Angliss’s aspirations have been realised. So too have the aspirations of the early headmasters like Taylor and Hall, as well as those of their successors. Over 16,000 boys have been able to testify to this over the course of 130 years; some of them have achieved public prominence; others have led less prominent, but industrious lives that have fulfilled them individually and contributed to the broader community – few have failed to heed the promise of the 1917 School Song: “And we’ll never forget the happy days at school.” Over fifty years ago the School issued a “Camberwell Grammar School Handbook” to new arrivals in which Headmaster Timpson welcomed them as members of the School: “This means a great deal more than the simple fact that you attend each day and then go home again. You are in fact, a member of a community made up of a large number of different people. The more you put into your life here the more you will receive from it.” Those words still ring true.


  • The Bishop's Mitre
symbol of the Church of England
  • The Laurel Wreath
symbol of victory

Past Headmasters[edit]

A.B. Taylor: 1886-91

A.S. Hall: 1891-1926

M.A. Buntine: 1927-31

H.L. Tonkin: 1931-49

M. Searle: 1950-54

T.H. Timpson: 1955-65

A.D.P. Dyer: 1966-1987

C.F. Black: 1987-2004

P.G. Hicks: 2005-

Extra-curricular activities[edit]

The Camberwell Grammar School Army Cadet Unit (CGSACU) was established in 1888 and celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2013. The Cadet Unit conducts military training including weekend bivouacs and annual camps. The cadets participate in weekly trainings and activities within and outside of school. They have had a friendly rivalry with the Melbourne High School Cadet Unit over the years, operating in exercises against each other at annual camps. Additionally, the cadet unit participate on the annual marches to the Shrine of Remembrance on ANZAC Day. They also participate in the Remembrance Day service at the Shrine of Remembrance.
  • Interschool Debating
Camberwell Grammar is a part of the Debaters Association of Victoria (DAV) and holds interschool debates with other schools in the region with school grounds.
Camberwell Grammar has one of only a few Interact clubs in Victoria. The club participates in many community service and fundraising events.

Notable Old Camberwell Grammarians[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2012. 
  2. ^ OCGA Gallery of Achievement
  3. ^ "Professor David de Kretser". Victoria's Governor: Governors of Victoria. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Aiten, Doug (29 Oct 1989). "The weatherman who wants more". Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  5. ^ Pender, Anne (13 September 2010). "Barry Humphries: Man of many funny masks". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Fynes-Clinton, Matthew (10 November 2007). "Hamish Blake, boy wonder". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  7. ^ "Gallery of Achievement". Camberwell Grammar School. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "Noted Business Man – Death of Mr F. G. Murdoch". The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933–1954). 27 December 1933. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  9. ^ Stephens, F. Douglas. "Stephens, Henry Douglas (1877–1952)". Australian Dictionary of Biograph. National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  10. ^ Barr, Andrew (19 March 1985). "Consistent 'Strachan' looks to 'cubs' to lift Tigers". The Age. Retrieved 16 November 2009. 

External links[edit]