Review Blog

Dec 01 2014

Adelaide's Dissenting Headmaster: John Lorenzo Young and his Premier Private School by Diana Chessell

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2014. ISBN 9781743052402
The discovery of signatures of the last students of Young's private school under layers of wallpaper when the former school house at Parkside was being renovated, provided the impetus for Diana Chessell to methodically and comprehensively research their origin.
In doing so she details the life and work John Lorenzo Young from his arrival in Adelaide in 1850 through to his establishment of the increasingly highly regarded 'premier' private 'Adelaide Educational Institution'. The school was sited on various Adelaide sites until its move to Parkside where it finally closed in 1880.
Young was a dissenter in the sense of being not Church of England and in his views that the government and church should have no control over schools. In addition he used a practical approach to education rather than the standard rote learning methods of the time. The emphasis on science subjects Chessell also attributes to his non-conformist/dissenting views and traditions. Citing enrolment statistics and newspaper reports of the time Chessell makes a case for Young's school being the premier private school in Adelaide - until this was handed to PAC.
What I find particularly interesting are the details of early Adelaide people (now famous names) who peopled his school - as parents, students or non conformist church leaders.
Men such as Verco, Edmund Wright, Angus, Goyder, Kingston, Simpson, Tolmer, Gosse Scammel, to name just a few.
Did you know Frewville was named after Mr Frew and Auldana after the Aulds and of course Young Street after John Lorenzo Young. His school house still exists at 51 Young Street - I went to look at it.
For anyone interested in Adelaide history, this book is a must for its detail of life at the beginning of its economic, cultural and social development.
The text is supplemented by photos of original documents - which annoyingly at times are too small to read adequately.
Diana Chessell is to be commended for the comprehensiveness with which she pursued creditable sources to put together John Young's educational achievements. She postulates that by educating the generation of the builders of the foundations of Adelaide, his influence is benefiting the city today.
Ann Griffin

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