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Bexley Jack and Jill Preschool
History

The Building – A History

Bexley became part of Municipality of Hurstville in March 1887. This however was never a happy arrangement with many requests from the residents of Bexley to establish their own council. Finally on 28th June 1900 the Borough of Bexley was proclaimed, covering an area of 3½ square miles and with a population of 3080.

In 1901 the newly founded Bexley Council purchased two blocks of land on the corner of Queen Victoria and Northbrook Streets on which to build their council chambers. Two plans for the building were submitted– one by Alderman W.E Paine, who was a well known local builder, and one by the architect, William Kenwood. The deliberations were long and tedious, and at last it was decided to select Alderman Paine’s floor plan and Mr Kenwood’s front elevation. The fact that the two did not match up, in no way inhibited the decision.

Alderman Paine was appointed Clerk of Works to supervise the erection of the building. The original tenderer, Mr G H Stone, defaulted, and in July 1901 the Council accepted the tender of Mr G James for ₤310. At the same meeting Alderman Larbalestier resigned as Mayor because of ill health and Alderman Paine was elected to replace him.

By November in the same year the Council Chambers were ready for occupation. The aldermen were justly proud of the result, their only reservation being that the Mayor had had W.E. PAINE, MAYOR, painted across the front of the building in letters a foot high. The first Council meeting was held in this venue on 4th November 1901.

During the Second World War a solid concrete structure was built on the side of the building (now our current shed) as a National Emergency Services Control Room.

By the end of the Second World War the State Labour government planned to abolish local municipalities and set up one Council to administer the whole of Sydney. While this plan never fully eventuated a Select Committee visited Bexley in March 1948 and decided that it should amalgamate with the much larger Municipality of Rockdale. At midnight on 31st December 1948, the Municipality of Bexley ceased to exist and the Council Chambers became vacant.

Bexley Jack and Jill Preschool - The Beginning

In 1947 a local grandmother, Mrs Warhurst, advertised in the local paper for interested parents to work together to open a kindergarten for 3 to 5 year olds. A group of local parents formed the Bexley Child Care Association and met regularly at Mrs Warhurst’s home in Harrow Rd. Here they made plans for the establishment of Jack and Jill Kindergarten.

The group began fund raising with stalls, dances and carnivals and in 1948 began with a small number of children in a hall attached to Bexley Congregational Church on Forest Rd Bexley.

In October 1948 Mrs Warhurst addressed the Bexley Council requesting larger premises. The Kindergarten catered for only 24 children and had a very large waiting list. Initially the request was for a “prefabricated building 39 feet by 20 feet” so that they could cater for the 60 children on the waiting list. With the closure of Bexley Council in 1948 the Bexley Child Care Association approached Rockdale Council about the now vacant premises at 131 Queen Victoria St Bexley.

While there was opposition to the opening of a Kindergarten from some councillors, the Mayor lent his support and the preschool was given it’s current home in Queen Victoria St.Further funds were raised to make alterations to the building and the Kindergarten was officially opened by Mrs Clive Evatt and the building presented to the Bexley Child Care Association by the Mayor of Rockdale, Ald. E Jones, on 10th June 1950.

The first Director was 21 year old Verna O’Hara who, with an assistant, supervised the 40 young children.

The 3 to 5 year olds attended five days each week at a cost of 5 shillings/week. The children were provided with a hot meal each day with a typical meal being minced steak, vegetables and jelly for dessert. As private transport was not as accessible during the 1950s a taxi was hired each day to transport some of the children to and from the preschool.

Initially the Kindergarten received no government funding and relied solely on fees and fundraising. Thus begun a long history of parent involvement and support so that children in the Bexley area could receive affordable and quality care and education. Parents were rostered to assist Miss O’Hara in the playroom, cook the hot midday meals, transport the children to and from preschool and continue with ongoing fundraising to provide the equipment needed.

Gradually more staff members were employed but parents continued to be involved, managing the preschool and raising the funds. Over sixty years later the preschool continues to be a community–based, non-profit centre providing quality early childhood education.

Bibliography

A History Bexley by R. W. Rathbone (1980)

Rockdale—It’s Beginnings and Development by P Geeves and J. Jervis (1986)

Bexley Council Minutes—1948

Many thanks to two of our founders, Mrs C Carter and Mrs P Mills who have provided some of the information on the establishment of Bexley Jack and Jill Preschool.

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