The First Students and Staff at Newington House

This photograph was taken some time — perhaps a month — after the ‘Wesleyan Collegiate Institution’ opened its doors on 16 July 1863. It shows the students and staff, along with members of Rev JA Manton’s family, at the entrance to Newington House, Silverwater, the College’s first home. Who are these people who regard us across 150 years of history? The 1913 ‘Jubilee’ edition of The Newingtonian contains an extensive extract from a set of ‘character sketches’ of students written by Thomas Johnstone, Headmaster from November 1863 to late 1866. The original volume containing Johnstone’s ‘vivacious record’ was later used as ‘a miserable account book’, as the Jubilee Newingtonian described it, and sadly, has not survived.

Back Row

1. Harry H Higman was 12½ years old and came from Yass.
2. Thomas Moore was 15 years old and came from Waverly. Johnstone described his conduct at school as ‘without blemish of any kind’.
3. John George Oakes, 16, from Parramatta, was said by Johnstone to suffer from ‘mental inactivity’. Nonetheless, he won a number of prizes.
4. John Crofton, 15, from Taree, was enrolled four days after the College opened. He left in June 1866 to enter his father’s business.
5. Andrew Houison, 13, from Parramatta, was Dux in 1865 and the first Newington student to gain a degree from the University of Sydney. He subsequently graduated in Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.
6. Robert McKeown, 16, from Lane Cove, was described as a practical joker, though able and generally diligent. In October 1863, he and Andrew Houison saved James Egan Moulton, a poor swimmer, from drowning in a nearby creek.
7. Rev James Egan Moulton, 22, found himself placed in charge of teaching at the College until Johnstone’s arrival in November. In early 1865, he left for missionary work in Tonga, but that’s another story.
8. Frederick Piper, 16, from Sydney, was described as well conducted and diligent.
9. Benjamin Beckett Hebblewhite, 16½, from Randwick, won the College’s first Dux medal in December 1863. Johnstone described him as able, diligent and well-conducted. He died in 1877, but his son came to Newington in the 1880s, and his widow married a Newington teacher, R T ‘Dickie’ Baker in 1890.
10. Mrs Anne Manton (née Green), born in Lancashire, had married John Manton in Sydney in 1833.
11. Miss Annie Gilligan, the young housekeeper, was the daughter of a British Army officer. Later she had a romance with the Headmaster, John Metcalfe. They married after leaving the school in 1869.
12. Benjamin James Owen, 13, came from West Maitland. He was enrolled on 13 August 1863, which means that the photograph must have been taken after that date.
13. Samuel Kendall, 16, came from Sydney. According to Johnstone, his conduct was ‘almost without exception, in the highest degree satisfactory’.
14. Edwin Jennings Manton, John and Anne Manton’s third son, served as a tutor at the new College in 1863.

Front row

15. Frederick Myers, 14, came from Sydney.
16. William Henry Gaud, 14, from Goulburn, was ‘well conducted and intelligent’.
17. Milton Love, 12, from Sydney, was, according to Johnstone: ‘One of the best conducted, most perseveringly diligent, and most thoroughly amiable pupils that I have ever taught.’ He had to leave in September 1866 ‘in consequence of business depression’.
18. Walter L Byrnes, 11, came from Parramatta.
19. Walter Lawry Oakes, 12, was John George Oakes’ brother. He stayed at the College until June 1866, Johnstone reporting that he had improved greatly. A third Oakes brother, Francis Oakes, did not come to the College, but two of his great, great, great grandsons, Zac Scott and Josh Manton, are Year 12 students in the International Baccalaureate Programme this year.
20. Miss L Manton was a daughter of John and Anne Manton.
21. Rev John Allen Manton (1807– 1864) is regarded as the founder of Newington College. He advocated tirelessly for the establishment of such an institution over the previous three years. Appointed principal in January 1863, he spent the next six months working on all the practical tasks required to start a new school. His health was failing, however, and he died in September 1864.
22. Arthur Edward Davies, ‘8¾’ years old, from Goulburn, was entry No. 1 in the admission register. He left ‘on account of bad health’, but returned to the school in 1872.
23. Miss Annie Manton was another daughter of John and Anne Manton.
24. James Dawson, 9, came from Sydney.
25. & 26. Archibald and James Graham, 7 and 9 respectively, were already living on another part of the Newington Estate which their father had leased the previous year. The family lived briefly in Newington House in 1862 while their own house was being built.