Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney was archived in 2021.

The Private Schools of Roseneath Cottage

CC BY-SA 2.0
Cite this

The Private Schools of Roseneath Cottage

Roseneath Cottage [media]is situated on the corner of O'Connell and Ross streets adjacent to the Ross Street entrance of the Our Lady of Mercy College campus, Parramatta. Roseneath is a privately owned, state-heritage listed single-storey sandstock brick cottage of the Colonial Georgian style. The cottage was built between 1835 and 1837 as a private family residence for Janet Templeton (née Forlonge) – a Scottish widow who became a pioneering pastoralist in Australia – and her children.

During the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the property's numerous commodious rooms made it the ideal setting for a number of small denominational private schools, one of which developed into Tara, a major independent school for girls in Parramatta. These private schools included Mr Baly's Boarding Establishment for Young Gentlemen; a 'first-class boarding school for young ladies,' initially run by Mrs Mary W M'Ghie then Mrs and Miss Farmer; and St Ronan's, a 'High Class Day and Boarding School for Girls,'. [1]

Mr Baly's Boarding Establishment for Young Gentlemen

Between August 1854 and June 1855, Roseneath served as 'Mr Baly's Boarding Establishment for Young Gentlemen.' Mr Edward Baly was an Oxford-educated man turned teacher and one-time lecturer on mesmerism with musical, as well as artistic, interests. [2] Baly had previously been Second Master at St James's Grammar School [3] and had also become schoolmaster of his own private school, first at Burdekin's Terrace in Sydney (until he became insolvent in January 1850) and then Crown Street, South Head Road. [4]

Under Baly's tutelage, pupils received instruction in 'Latin, Greek, Algebra, Euclid, Mensuration, Arithmetic, Natural Philosophy, History, Geography, English Grammar and Parsing, Writing &c.' Baly also stipulated in his advertisement that 'Great attention is paid to the study of the Sacred Scriptures. French, Music, Drawing, Dancing, &c., are extras.' [5]

The schoolmaster pitted his individualised teaching philosophy against the usual pedagogical practice of:

…the too prevalent custom of huddling together, in what is erroneously termed a class, an ill-assorted host of students, widely differing in capacity, and without the slightest congeniality of taste or feeling...If, in a few instances, a similarity of taste and ability will admit of classification, care must be taken lest in apparently communicating knowledge to all, it is in reality imparted to none. [6]

He was equally disapproving of awarding prizes and the common practice at the time of 'recording the names of favoured candidates in the public papers,' preferring to promote Christian humility in his pupils. This was apparent in the following advertisement to parents for his school in 1847:

One important use of knowledge is its tendency to promote humility; but how is this object attained, when the newspaper intrudes upon public notice the name of some captain of his class, who very naturally regards himself the principal phenomenon of the day. Being upon the best terms with himself, he commiserates the implied inferiority of his competitors, and indulges in the happy inference that he is to be classed with the wonders of the age...it is hardly necessary to add that Mr Baly strives, and he thinks not without effect, to instil into the minds of his pupils a love of knowledge, not with a view to secure distinction, but as an indispensable medium in the relations of civil and religious intercourse. [7]

Baly's boarders could receive this Christianity-infused education for 60 guineas per annum with 'washing included' or 16 guineas per annum for day students. [8]

In June 1855, Baly's school for young gentleman moved to Reverend Barzillai Quaife's 'extensive premises in George-street,' Parramatta, and Baly continued to teach in Parramatta well into the 1860s. [9]

Mrs Mary W M'Ghie's Educational Establishment

Despite Baly's departure, Roseneath again served as a place of private education in the 1860s when in 1861, then owner – the widow of Reverend HH Bobart – sold the property by auction. Subsequent newspaper advertisements indicate that from January to December 1862, the cottage was occupied by Mrs Mary W M'Ghie's 'Educational Establishment': a 'first-class boarding school for young ladies, [10] which had in the year previous seemingly operated elsewhere in Rose Hill, and was known to advertise for students as far away as Brisbane. [11]

The course of study available to both boarders and day pupils [12] included 'the English, French, Italian, and German languages, music, singing, dancing, and drawing,' [13] with M'Ghie proclaiming herself 'entirely devoted' to the ladies' 'moral and intellectual training, combined with a superior education.' [14]

By 19 January 1863, Mrs M'Ghie had retired from her position as school keeper and her husband 'at the request of Parents and Guardians of her former Pupils' placed an advertisement for a 'thoroughly qualified' governess to become her successor. [15] Mr M'Ghie ensured 'prospects of success exist, provided the matter is taken in hand at once,' and suitable successors were subsequently found in Mrs and Miss Farmer until around July 1864 when Roseneath was again advertised as a rental property. [16] However, it would not be the last time young ladies were educated within Roseneath's walls.

St Ronan's

Mrs Margaret Nelson Mills, née Haxell, conducted classes for her school, St Ronan's, at Roseneath from October 1887 to 1889. It was primarily a 'High Class Day and Boarding School for Girls,' with moderate fees offering 'specialist art and music teachers' as well as French and German evening classes for boys. [17] It is believed that sixteen-year-old Miss Mary Elizabeth (Joan) Waugh, who was educated locally at Miss Bell's Perth House School, began her teaching career in earnest at Roseneath, as it is likely she was the young accomplished governess referred to in a St Ronan's advertisement in March 1888. [18] Waugh would go on to conduct morning classes for St Ronan's young ladies almost a decade later at the school's George Street location before eventually moving her classes in 1912 to her family home, 'Tara,' also in George Street. [19] Thus, Roseneath was very much the bud from which Tara Anglican School for Girls bloomed.


Dunn, Judith. Colonial Ladies: Lovely, Lively, and Lamentably Loose. Winston Hills, NSW: Judith Dunn, 2008.

Hubbard, Bronwyn. Tara: A Telling of the Tapestry. Parramatta: Tara Anglican School for Girls, 1997.

'Roseneath Cottage.' State Heritage Register, Heritage Council of NSW supported by the Heritage Division of the Office of Environment and Heritage. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5045134. Viewed 25 June 2014.

Roxburgh, Rachel. Early Colonial Houses of New South Wales. Sydney: Ure Smith, 1974.


[1] Thanks to Diana Tilley-Winyard, archivist at Tara Anglican School for Girls, and Anne Tsang at the Parramatta Heritage Centre for their assistance with the research for this entry regarding Tara’s origins at Roseneath.

[2] 'Parramatta,' Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 5 July 1858, 3. 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 7 July 1858, 1. 'Parramatta,' Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 13 July 1858, 2

[3] 'Advertising: Tuition,' Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 9 November 1844, 3

[4] 'Domestic Intelligence: Insolvent Court,' Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 15 January 1850, 2; 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 2 April 1850, 1

[5] 'Advertising,' Empire, Saturday 14 April 1860, 1

[6] 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 1 January 1847, 3

[7] 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842–1954), Friday 1 January 1847, 3

[8] A guinea was worth 1 pound and 1 shilling, equivalent to $2.20 as stated in Judith Dunn, Colonial Ladies: Lovely, Lively, and Lamentably Loose (Winston Hills, NSW: Judith Dunn, 2008), 6. Prices as stated in January 1855, see 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842–1954), Tuesday 9 January 1855, 1

[9] 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 8 July 1865, 7

[10] 'Advertising,' Empire, Saturday 13 December 1862, 8

[11] For evidence indicating the school's previous location as 'Home Education, Rose Hill, Parramatta,' see 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 12 January 1861, 4. For the notice of the 'removal' to Roseneath Cottage see 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 6 January 1862, 8. For advertisements in Brisbane, see The Courier, Friday 11 July 1862, 1

[12] 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 25 June 1862, 8

[13] 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 12 January 1861, 4. 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 9 July 1862, 10. 'Advertising,' Empire, Saturday 13 December 1862, 8

[14] 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 12 January 1861, 4

[15] 'Advertising,' Empire, Tuesday 20 January 1863, 1 and 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 21 January 1863, 12

[16] 'Advertising,' Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday 12 February 1863, 2 and Saturday 23 July 1864, 10

[17] Bronwyn Hubbard, Tara: A Telling of the Tapestry (Parramatta: Tara Anglican School for Girls, 1997), 17–18; Cumberland Mercury and Parramatta Gazette, October 19 1887; 4 January 1888; 25 February 1888; March 21 1888; 20 June 1888; 21 July 1888; 26 September, 1888; 24 April, 1889

[18] Bronwyn Hubbard, Tara: A Telling of the Tapestry (Parramatta: Tara Anglican School for Girls, 1997), 26–27

[19] Bronwyn Hubbard, Tara: A Telling of the Tapestry (Parramatta: Tara Anglican School for Girls, 1997), 17, 83, 87