History of the Helena School, Darlington
The beginnings of Helena School go back into England with the couple Rev. John Robert Jones who married Jessy Load in June 1858 at Hove, Sussex, John was 8 years older than Jessy who was 19. Jessy had been born in Camberwell, Surrey (to parents Charles Gee Load, a Merchant, and mother Janet Sarah Mair who was a Teacher) John and Jessy appear to have had 4 children before John died in 1876 at Sussex. Jessy was a trained teacher before her marriage, the 1881 census records her as the Principal at a boys’ school in Hove, Brighton, Sussex while daughter Jessy Margaret, born in 1861, was a Governess as was Laura Oliver.
Mrs Jessy Jones arrived in Western Australia in late 1887 along with her son John, daughter Jessy Margaret and Miss Laura Oliver (she had been trained by Mrs Jessy Jones as a teacher in England) on the Barque “Miako” from London to Fremantle.
Sons Robert and Charles had already migrated to Australia on a windjammer to Queensland in 1885. Robert worked for the Colonial Sugar Refinery as a foreman and then travelled to the Gympie goldfield. Charles worked in a coal mine at Georgetown. When Robert heard his family were arriving in Fremantle he went over to meet them and assist with accommodation. A few weeks after the family's arrival, the tragic news came of Charles' death in a mining accident (15th December 1887). He was 25yrs. old
19th Dec 1887 Morning Bulletin Queensland
Mrs. Jones had 20 years teaching experience and had a letter of introduction to Bishop Parry. In 1888 she was asked to set up a “Preparatory School for Boys” at Hale House Cottage, 3 Cemetery Rd. to prepare the junior pupils for entry into high school. It took both day and resident students and taught the usual branches of an English Education with Latin and French.
Mrs Jessy Jones (nee Load) photo courtesy of Helena School Archives
By 1889 she advertised for pupils under the name of “Hale Cottage School”. The local press reported on the Annual Athletic Sports day held in August 1890 at the school grounds and gave details of the various sporting activities undertaken by the boys. They included foot races of various distances, long jumps, high jumps, and hurdles. The surnames of the boys competing included those from a number of the early settlers to the Swan River Colony such as Leake, Shenton, Sherwood, Cockshott and Lefroy. The Bishop and Mrs Parry presented the prizes to the boys.
The school shifted in 1891/2 to St George’s Tce, still retaining the name of “Hale Cottage School”. The school advertised in 1899 that it was taking girls in separate classes and the address was now Mount Street, Perth. In 1903 there was a name change to “Hale House School”. According to one time Darlington resident Dudley Clive Napier who attended this school, it also boarded adults.
In 1909 the “Hale House School”, now including girls, moved to a larger property called “Earnslaw” in Devon Rd, Osbourne (now Swanbourne) where mother Jessy Jones was the Principal and daughter Jessy Margaret a teacher (Laura Oliver had gone to New Guinea as a missionary in 1899) They worked here from 1909 until 1917 and also offered holiday accommodation which they advertised heavily in the Kalgoorlie Miner- appealing to country clientele. The property was ideally placed for outside activities as it had a tennis court and was close to the beach. There was a Darlington connection to Earnslaw as the Darlington Vineyard partner and Manager Thomas Gaze sent his boys to be educated here since there was no school in Darlington during the time he worked at the Vineyard.
West Australian Newspaper 1909
Letter to his father Thomas Owen Gaze, the Darlington Vineyard Manager, from his son also called Thomas Owen Gaze 1910. Courtesy Jocelyn Bath
When in 1916 Mr. Archibald Sanderson, of Kalamunda, decided to build a boarding house on his property, he invited Mrs Jones and her daughter to relocate their students here. Consequently, in early 1917, they transferred to this new school named St Andrews (later named St Brigids) with Miss Jessy Margaret Jones now the Principal. This new school took in a limited number of girls to age 12 and boys to age 10. It was here after a short illness that Mrs Jessy Jones died in 1918 aged 79.
Miss Jessy Margaret Jones appears to have taken a short break from all teaching after the death of her mother and in 1920 had moved back to the city where she was living at Richmond (later named East Fremantle). The next year - 1921, she restarted a private school in Alexandra Road, Richmond. Then in 1922 she moved her school to the property “Craig Royston” in McNeil St, Cottesloe owned by General Wisdom and settled on the name “Helena School” (This location was 24 McNeil Street which later became Peppermint Grove). The name “Helena School” came from the “Princess Helena College” in Horsham, England (a school Miss Jessy Margaret had attended). Miss Jones put on annual concerts whilst at McNeil St and one such concert was written up in the West Australian Newspaper in 1930
West Australian 16 Dec. 1930
“The pupils of Helena School, Cottesloe, gave an enjoyable entertainment in the spacious school grounds on the evening of December 9. Miss J. M. Jones, the
Principal, received a large, gathering of parents and friends, who were interested spectators of the two plays, “The 'Princess and the Woodcutter” and scenes from
“The Midsummer Night's Dream”. The scholars played their parts with credit to their Teachers. Songs, pianoforte solos, duets, Drill, and rhythmic dancing added variety to the programme”.
Craig Royston building later named “Summers House” Miss Jane Ashbury standing on the left. Courtesy Helena School Archives
West Australian March 1942
This was the school she relocated to Darlington in March 1942 because of the perceived threat to the urban population during WW2. After Miss Jones left, PLC then purchased the “Craig Royston” property from General Wisdom and the building was later renamed “Summers House”, becoming a kindergarten for many years.
When Miss Jones moved her school to Darlington she was aged 81 and she had taken with her a former pupil, Miss Jane Ashbury. There was a house on the property located at the corner of Ryecroft and Leithdale Roads built in 1927 for Mrs Lindsay and this became the first “Helena School” building.
Standing Miss Jane Ashbury and seated Miss Jessy Margaret Jones Courtesy Helena School Archives
The school colours and motto. The colours come from light blue for Cambridge University and dark blue for Oxford University. Courtesy Helena School Archives
Miss Jane Ashbury had been born in 1904 at Lawlers, a gold mining town between Sandstone and Laverton. The family moved to a farm at Ardath (south of Bruce Rock). When her mother died a few days after the birth of her sister Amy in 1912, Jane aged around 8 became a boarder with Miss Jessy Margaret Jones. This was the school at Earnslaw in Claremont. Jane was an excellent student and when she completed her schooling she remained as a monitor then stayed on to train as a teacher. Soon after arriving at Darlington Miss Jones and Miss Ashbury had a separate classroom built which is the only original building that has survived to the present day. The main house had the verandahs enclosed and the school took in both day students and boarders.
When her aunt, Miss Jessy Margaret Jones, passed away in mid-1944, aged 83, Mary Louisa Jones (born 1897) who had been a student with Jane Ashbury, came from the family’s station property at Bulong near Kalgoorlie to help Jane run the school. She became the business manager, house keeper and cook as well as running the boarding section while Miss Jane Ashbury was the Principal Mistress and did the teaching.
Miss Jessy Margaret Jones was buried with her mother in the Anglican section of Karrakatta Cemetery.
Helena School 1950’s. Courtesy Helena School Archives
Helena School house shortly before demolition. Photo by A. Collings 2008.
Note the memorial rose gardens at the front done in 1997 to Miss Jessy Margaret Jones, Miss Mary Jones and Miss Jane Ashbury.
Floor plan for the Helena House courtesy S. Herzfeld
During the war and post war years the boarding section became very crowded. As well as the small 2 roomed structure they had built, they had purchased the Log Cabin building on the block close to the school to provide some extra accommodation. This cabin is still in Ryecroft Rd and was supposedly built by a Canadian in the 1930s.
Boarders at the school numbered around 25-30 and were mostly from country towns, outback stations or from Malaysia.
In 1948 several boarders joined the new Girl Guide Co.in Darlington. On Sundays the children walked to St. Cuthbert’s Church for services and were all beautifully dressed by the efforts of Mary. She also had a vegie garden, a flower garden, fruit trees and kept chickens for eggs; which supplied the school.
In the lounge room of the house, (which had been used as the 1st classroom) end of year concerts were held.
By the 1960s there were 35 boarders so Miss Jane Ashbury used the Log Cabin as accommodation for the senior girls and she slept there as well. It was a known fact she wasn’t that fond of the boys who left and went to Guildford Grammar School after the age of 8 - she preferred teaching the girls who remained until they turned 12. However Mary loved them all.
In 1970 the boarders’ numbers had decreased and both ladies were elderly -needing to retire. Rather than sell to developers, as the parents wished the school to continue, the teachers took a more active role in the running of it. No more new boarders were taken in and Miss Ashbury was still the Principal. By this time Sally Herzfeld was relief teaching there and in 1972 Tom and Sally Herzfeld purchased the block which had the library, leased the property that had the small classroom plus ancillary buildings and Miss Ashbury retired fully. Sally now became Principal Mistress and at last had her own school. This school now consisted of the library, classroom and laundry- converted to a staffroom with pottery facility. The existing toilets catered for the more numerous female students and the boys used the Helena House toilet.
In 1973 Helena School Council Incorp bought the school from the Herzfelds and built more classrooms and a kindergarten.
New Kindergarten building 1970’s photo courtesy of R. Woldendorp
Miss Jones and Miss Ashbury were both retired to the old school house and since the old classroom now was no longer needed, Miss Ashbury and Miss Jones let it be used by several groups for meetings etc.
In 1983 there were further extensions consisting of 3 classrooms and an administration block taking its capacity closer to the 200 student limit set by the school council.
On the 16th April 1985 Miss Ashbury passed away at the Concord Nursing home.
Because Miss Ashbury didn’t have a will, it did take some time to sort out the remaining property with the school house and original classroom. When the property became available, the Helena College Council bought this original property, whereby the house was then used for meetings, music, sewing lessons and out of school hours’ care. The old classroom became the music room and the verandah became the uniform shop.
Then in 1988 a Senior Campus was opened on Bilgoman Rd, Glen Forrest and the schools renamed Helena College Junior School, Darlington and Helena College Senior School, Glen Forrest catering for students to year 12.
Sally’s recollections of her roles at Helena College;
“My title was Co-ordinator. I was actually cleaner, gardener, relief teacher, Teacher of special students, canteen and uniform shop organiser for a while etc – I didn’t have the university qualification to become a High School teacher! We employed John Allen-Williams as the foundation Principal in 1990. I stayed on as his secretary, relief teacher for several years. I was deputy Chair of the Helena College Council from 1973 until about three years ago when they made me a Life Member. For most of my years since 1972, a lot of what I did has been voluntary, so it’s hard to say when I retired. For many years I did ‘real life’ Aboriginal experiences with yr 7s in the bush and I still get invited back to talk with Pre primary and Yr 2s about the Olden Days, so I can’t really say when I retired. I guess it has just gradually happened as staff and student numbers have grown”
Sally Herzfeld photo courtesy of Helena College Archives
L-R Miss Jane Ashbury and Miss Mary Jones with dog Sandy photo courtesy Helena College archives
Miss Mary Louisa Cecil Jones died in 1992 aged 94; her residence still being at Darlington. She was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta Cemetery.
In 1997 the Herzfelds built a stone walled rose garden in front of the old house and dedicated it on 22.6.1997 to the memory of Miss Jessy Margaret Jones, Miss Mary Louisa Jones and Miss Jane Ashbury.
In 2008 when there were new classrooms and administration buildings added to the school, the original school house that first served as the “Helena School” was demolished leaving just the purpose built classroom from the 1940s as the only remaining original part of Helena School.
A small number of the roses from the 1997 memorial rose garden have been planted on the other side of the old classroom and the original plaque to the Miss Jones’ and Ashby placed there.
1997 Memorial Plaque
Relocated Memorial Rose Garden and Plaque photo taken June 2019
Recent additions to Helena College Junior School with the remaining 1940’s Classroom photo taken 2017
[The DHG are indebted to Arlene Collings who first wrote the history of Helena School and kindly allowed us the use of her detailed research that included stories, articles and photos. We are also indebted to Sally Herzfeld who supplied information to assist us with the Helena School story. We thank both these knowledgeable ladies.]