Sovereign Hill to open with costumed school
On Wednesday 25th October at 10.30am, the Honourable James Merlino, Minister for Education will officially open the Wesleyan Day School, the fifth costumed school at Sovereign Hill. The new school has been delivered as part of the Victorian Government’s $8 million investment towards the $12.81 million ‘By Day and By Night’ Project.
Developed to meet the growing demand from schools, the fifth costumed school will allow more students to experience first-hand Victoria’s Gold Rush history, and will add to the four current costumed schools at Sovereign Hill; the Red Hill National School which opened in 1979, followed by St Peter’s Denominational School (1986), the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum Ragged School (2000) and, most recently, St Alipius’ Diggings School in 2007.
Out of a total 100,000 student visits per year, Sovereign Hill’s costumed schools currently host more than 14,000 student visits, and the new school could increase education numbers by 4,000 per year.
In order to widen the outdoor museum’s representation of the kinds of education available on the Ballarat goldfields, and following much research, Sovereign Hill decided to re-create the Wesleyan Day School that operated at nearby Pleasant Mount (now called Mount Pleasant) from 1855.
The Wesleyans were unique on the goldfields. After the 1851 discovery of gold, thousands flocked to Ballarat in search of their fortunes. Most were British, including many Welsh and Cornish miners and their families.
The hilly unspoilt country south of Golden Point (and Sovereign Hill today) appealed to the Cornishmen, in particular. In 1853, they moved there in a group, creating Ballarat’s first residential suburb and forming a strong Wesleyan congregation.
By 1857, the community had built a wooden structure to replace a tent, which had been erected in 1855 to serve as a church, a Sunday school and a day school. Using the 1857 building as an historical reference, it was both practical and historically sound to establish the new costumed school in the existing Wesleyan Church at Sovereign Hill.
The opening of the Wesleyan Day School is part of the Victorian Government’s $8 million investment in the ‘By Day and by Night’ project to help Sovereign Hill reach its full economic and tourism potential, and comes under the $12.81m suite of projects that are planned for development at the outdoor museum.
The $8 million investment has already seen the opening of the Steinfeld’s accommodation complex (in order to house additional students overnight as a result of the new costumed school), and ‘Bright Visions’, a permanent exhibition that uses digital and projection technologies to showcase the stories of people who were enticed from across the world to the Victorian goldfields. Future projects include a redevelopment of internationally acclaimed sound and light show, Blood on the Southern Cross, as well as other new attractions to enhance the visitor experience that is Sovereign Hill.