July 13, 2020
The history of St Peter's is a unique story of 175 years of education. Over that time the school has continually changed and adapted to meet the ever-changing educational needs of children in the Maitland area.
St Peter's traces its foundation back to humble beginnings in a cottage in Hunter Street in 1838. At the time, a group of lay teachers established a school to educate Catholic primary school boys in the Maitland area. Known as St John's Boys school, the school remained in Hunter Street until a new building was constructed in Free Church Street in 1874.
In 1898, at the invitation of Bishop Murray, seven Marist Brothers arrived at Campbell's Hill from Sydney and three, including Principal Brother Anthony Rodgers, travelled to Maitland to teach at the school. Once students completed their sixth class studies they had to go to the state school at East Maitland. The Marist Brothers were concerned about this and in 1917 started to educate boys to the Intermediate Certificate level.
The eight students who first sat the Intermediate Certificate were: A. Bambach, J. Hourigan, T. Kane, J. McLean, J. Nicholls, J. Saidey, D. Stanton and L. Unwin. The school was registered as the Marist Brothers’ High School, West Maitland, and four boys graduated as the first Leaving Certificate class – T. Kane, L. Unwin, B. Stanton and J Hourigan. At this time it was the only fully registered Catholic high school between Strathfield and Armidale. By June 1919 enrolment was at 166 primary students and 64 high school students.
The brothers lived at Campbell’s Hill until the end of 1904 and then in an old cottage opposite the old Cathedral until 1923, when they moved into the newly constructed monastery, which was blessed and opened on Sunday 30 September, 1923. The school was staffed solely by brothers and this tradition continued until the early sixties when the first lay teacher was employed.
Early in the 1930s, the St John’s Boys’ school buildings were demolished and a new building was constructed in 1936 to cater for the growing needs of the school. This building now forms the northern half of B block. In the 1950s, continuing enrolment pressure led to remodelling of the old Cathedral to become the Cathedral hall with four classrooms.
The 1955 flood saw water reach a height of 5’6” in the classrooms and in the ground floor of the Brother's house. Once the floodwaters subsided, everything was covered in slimy mud inches thick. A major loss was the school records.
The Old Boys Union was very active at this time and through fetes, barbeques and raffles raised 8,000 pounds. This enabled two technical drawing rooms to be built opposite the Bishop’s house.
The introduction of the Wyndham scheme placed great pressure on school facilities. The brothers investigated three possible new school sites in East Maitland but nothing came of it. Extensions were made on the existing site and the classroom block parallel to Free Church Street was opened in 1964. Soon after, the two wings extending into the main yard were built.
Around this time it became evident there was a pressing need for school football and cricket fields. The Parents and Friends Association (formed October 14, 1963) purchased 18 acres of land at Lorn for 1800 pounds. These fields are known as Marcellin Park.
During the late sixties, the primary school was closed and senior co-education was introduced from 1971, with girls from St Mary’s Dominican Convent School coming to the school to complete their education. The school enrolment was around 580 students with 15 brothers and two Dominican sisters on staff. The science and library wings were built to link the school with the old Cathedral. In 1972, the area under these wings was completed to provide five new classrooms, a study room, an art room and sport room.
In 1975, four cottages were purchased in Free Church Street for school use. They were used to provide space for remedial teaching and for staff accommodation.
In 1984 when the Marist Brothers decided to withdraw from the Maitland area, Maitland Marist Brothers High School became known as St Peter’s High School. A few years later, Bishop Leo Clarke proposed a restructure of secondary schooling in the Maitland area. In September 1990, he announced the formation of All Saints' College. St Peter’s, Maitland and St Joseph’s, Lochinvar would become co-educational schools for Years 7 to 10. Students from these schools would feed into St Mary’s, Maitland for Years 11 and 12.
In 1867, Bishop James Murray, then the Bishop of Maitland, invited the Sisters from St Mary’s Dominican Convent, Kensington in Ireland to establish a convent and school in Maitland.
Eight sisters arrived on September 10, 1867 and in that same week began teaching primary school students. They then began a day school for young ladies later that year and in the following year boarders were enrolled. Both these groups were small as teaching and boarding were restricted to the convent building.
The school grew as the surrounding area grew and provided Catholic education for girls with an enrolment in the 1990s of over 400 students. St Mary’s remained a boarding school for girls until December 1975 and a girls Catholic secondary school until 1991. The Newcastle earthquake in 1989 caused considerable damage to the buildings and it took some time for the buildings to be reconstructed.
In 1992, with the amalgamation of secondary schools in the All Saints region, St Mary’s became the senior co-educational campus for Years 11 and 12 students. St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar (7-10) and St Peter’s Campus, Maitland (7-10) were the sister feeder schools for St Mary’s Campus.