Origins of the South Australian Colony, the Evangelicals and Froebel

Origins of the South Australian Colony, the Evangelicals and Froebel








1 December 2021

Note : we first published the following paper in 2010 as such some links may be broken or source material removed from the internet.

South Australia described as ‘Paradise of Dissent’ :

South Australia’s original diversity in religious beliefs was the key factor to South Australia’s Label ‘Paradise of Dissent’. When South Australia was first settled in the 1830s, one of the largest factors that attracted immigrants was the absence of a State Church. Immigrants could migrate to South Australia, without having a particular religious body to influence government and their own daily lives. The Church had been a huge factor in England, and other major nations around the globe for past centuries. (1)

The South Australian Association located in John Adam St, London :

After the historic meeting at Exeter Hall on the 30th June 1834, where the principles, objects, plan and prospects of the New Colony of South Australia were explained to the public, hundreds of enquiries from prospective immigrants started to arrive at the South Australian Association’s rooms at 7 John Street Adelphi. (2)

The above takes into the centre of all things corporate and into the hands of the John Adam Street Gang.

(Exeter Hall, located on The Strand, now demolished, was the Freemasons Hall, London, where anniversaries of the Bible Society and Church Missionary Society, for example, were held.) (3)
The South Australian Lodge of Friendship also had its first meeting at 7 John St, Adelphi. (4)
‘Paradise of Dissenters’ by Douglas Pike, Chapter V, is titled ‘The Adelphi Planners’. (5)

George Fife Angas associated with the ‘South Australian Association’, establishes the South Australian Company :

Angas had become relatively wealthy and was concerned with putting his money to the best use. He became interested in a proposed settlement in South Australia and formed the South Australian Company. His own views on systematic colonisation dealt with the exclusion of convicts, concentration of settlers, sending out (preferably religious) intelligent people with capital, the emigration of young couples of good character, free trade, free government, and freedom of religion.

Angas was discouraged by the company’s failure to get government support, but continued his involvement with the South Australian Association which was formed in 1834, with Robert Gouger as secretary. During debates on the price of land, Angas held the opposite view to Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s wanting the price to be low. Difficulties arose in raising money and Angas eventually formed the South Australian Company. The company purchased land from the South Australian Association (6)

The South Australian Company buys land next to its farm in South Australia, called the Village of Mitcham, a village separate from Adelaide :

Created as a village separate from Adelaide (“Mitcham Village”), it was ancillary to a sheep station at Brown Hill Creek belonging to the South Australia Company (7)

George Fife Angus, non-conformist, and the South Australian colony, influential in education, establishes the South Australian School Society in England :

In 1832 he joined the committee of the South Australian Land Co., claiming less interest in systematic colonisation than in founding a colony where, with no established church and no convicts, his fellow dissenters might enjoy civil and religious liberty

The company was not the only part of Angas’s work for the foundation of South Australia. He lobbied the Colonial Office, subsidised authors and published magazines and pamphlets. He recruited pious Dissenters, helped to provide the colony with Nonconformist ministers and chapels, sent out missionaries to the Aboriginals, founded the South Australian School Society and hoped to plant an advanced college and even a university like Oxford….

In 1848 Angas decided to go to South Australia, where his German tenants were at last paying their rents and the South Australian Co. was again paying a dividend. He resigned as its chairman and director, and with renewed vigour planned a score of colonial ventures ranging from the export of tallow to drain pipes made by machine. Again he lectured and wrote and lobbied, this time for the Australian colonies’ government bill. When it was passed in August 1850 (13 & 14 Vic. c. 59) and all his English property was sold he sailed with his wife and youngest son in the Ascendant and arrived in Adelaide in January 1851.

Angas was greeted by his children and old friends, and praised at a public dinner for his years of energetic promotion of the colony’s welfare in London. At Lindsay Park near Angaston he made a spacious home, improving the property and building a chapel, roads and bridges. As his health recovered he travelled through the settled areas, attending many public functions and often preaching. Later he acquired Prospect Hall as his town house.

Soon after arrival he had been made a justice of the peace and member of the Board of Education
On the select committee for education in 1851 he pressed successfully for Bible reading in schools (8)

George Fife Angas and Sunday Schools :

Soon after his arrival in South Australia, Angas was elected member for Barossa in the Legislative Council and served the Colony in that capacity until his retirement on 28 August 1866. Angas was very interested in the education of the young. He was a firm believer in Sunday Schools and organised a school society for South Australia. He was closely involved with the establishment of free schools in the outer districts of the settlement. In 1865 one school was opened at Bowden and another at Norwood. He brought up his own children with regular morning and evening family worship. (9)

The Evangelical’s and Froebel 
The German Friedrich Froebel founded the Froebelian theory of pre-school education and founded kindergartens :

Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852), the great German educator, is famous pre-eminently for his radical insight that the first learning experiences of the very young are of crucial importance in influencing not only their later educational achievements but also the health and development of society as a whole. He devised a set of principles and practices which would form part of an interactive educational process to take place in institutions which in 1840 he named ‘kindergarten’. (10)

The Empress Friedrich, daughter of Queen Victoria, wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, mother of Kaiser Wilhelm.
Her Imperial Majesty the Dowager Empress Frederick was patroness of the Froebel Educational Institute in London, when it commenced in 1892. (11)

The National Froebel Foundation in the UK was housed at the Royal Society of the Arts’ Tavern Room, 2-8 John Adam St London, from 1923-1939. (12)
‘The lack of dogmatism and religious orthodoxy in Froebel’s kindergarten appealed to Nonconformists and especially Unitarians’ from ‘Early Years Education: Some Froebelian Contributions’, by Kevin J. Brehony (13)

Froebel in the United Kingdom :

The theories of Froebel and Pestalozzi on the teaching of little children, for example, expressed themselves in the kindergarten movement, which became an important field for private enterprise. An early Middlesex kindergarten was housed in the ‘Iron Room School’ opened in 1863 by the vicar of Christ Church, Hampstead. Its headmistress was Mrs. Coghlan, wife of the Principal of the Home and Colonial College. Sir Robert Morant was one of its pupils. (fn. 82) By 1884 there were a number of kindergartens, many with a particular social emphasis. The Royal English Kindergarten College in Berners Street, for example, taught ‘the children of families of position’ and their governesses and head-nurses. (fn. 83) Of a more middle-class character was the Maida Vale Kindergarten where little boys and girls of from three to eight were ‘thoroughly grounded’ in a ‘perfectly symmetrical education’, utilising the Froebelian apparatus and tasks designed to develop the child’s inherent powers and provided according to a careful system of ‘the Gifts, the Games, the Occupations, and the Object Lessons’, under Frälein Steinweg, a pupil of Madame Froebel. (fn. 84) The high-schools of the Girls’ Public Day School Company had their own kindergartens and at its Maida Vale School students were trained for the examination of the National Froebel Union. (fn. 85) (14)

(Interesting to note that the Girls’ Day School Company is a prominent supporter of the current Academy schools agenda in the UK.)

Frobelian theories in South Australia
George Fife Angas impressed by Froebel, From ‘Founding a Utopia’, by Douglas Pike :

Angas was also impressed by Friedrich Froebel’s principle of awakening the child to a sense of unity with nature and his fellows. (15)

Also :

It was George Fife Angas whose ideas were to be embodied in the South Australian School Society. (16)

Lydia Longmore :

LONGMORE, LYDIA (1874-1967), infant-teacher, was born on 15 July 1874 at Little Chilton Colliery, Durham, England, daughter of Rev. Isaiah Longmore, Wesleyan home missionary, and his wife Martha Susan, née Lynax. The family migrated to South Australia in 1884, Lydia and her aunt remaining in Adelaide while her father and mother followed his calling as a bush missionary.

The mothers’ clubs, headed by infant-mistresses, grew from one in 1920 to thirty-seven in 1931 with over 20,000 mothers being involved; their Froebelian aim was to deepen both mothers’ and teachers’ understanding of children. The clubs’ impact on school life impressed the superintendent of primary education: ‘At no time … in South Australia has there been such living contact between the school and the home’. (17)

De Lissa and Froebelian kindergartens in Australia :

DE LISSA, LILLIAN DAPHNE (1885-1967), educator, was born on 25 October 1885 at Darlinghurst, Sydney, daughter of Montague de Lissa, merchant, and his wife Julia, née Joseph; they were Jewish. She was educated at Riviere College, Woollahra. Musically gifted, she became an accomplished pianist but, on seeing the transformation of slum children by the Woolloomooloo free kindergarten, she dedicated herself to the education of young children. In 1902 she entered the Kindergarten College, Sydney, and was influenced by the principal Frances Newton who had trained in Chicago. De Lissa graduated brilliantly and in 1904-05 was a kindergarten director; she then took a course in training teachers. In 1905 she accompanied Newton to Adelaide at the expense of Rev. Bertram Hawker, a philanthropist, to demonstrate kindergarten methods; their work led to the formation of the Kindergarten Union of South Australia. (18)

De Lissa also in Western Australia :

Next year de Lissa became director of the first Adelaide free kindergarten, Franklin Street, in a cottage in the city’s slums, where she was assisted by young women voluntary helpers. She used Froebelian methods and continually related theory to practice, regarding improved child welfare and education as the basis of social reform. She was not a practising Jew but applied general biblical moral precepts in teaching and encouraged the children to celebrate the major Christian festivals. She held extra classes for older children, arranged mothers’ meetings and made visits where she gave informal instruction in hygiene and child care. Her compassion was tempered by a sharp intellect, while her personality, beauty, and logical claims for kindergarten principles attracted support for the Kindergarten Union. She persuaded it to establish the Adelaide Kindergarten Training College for teachers which opened in 1907 with eleven students; she was principal and also director of the union.

Modelling the two-year course on the Sydney curriculum, de Lissa taught the professional subjects; specialist lecturers included Professor William Mitchell, Dr Helen Mayo and Mrs Lucy Morice, secretary of the union and her close friend. The college flourished in spite of lack of funds and makeshift accommodation; in 1915 Robert Barr Smith donated a substantial house. From 1908 more kindergartens had opened, mainly in poor areas, using de Lissa’s advice. Her visit to Perth in 1911 resulted in the establishment of the Kindergarten Union of Western Australia. In 1913 she began a successful evening course for Sunday school teachers. (19)

The Thornber’s school, Froebel, at the Village of Mitcham: (The Thornbers from Harpurhey in Manchester, Harpurhey meaning “hedged enclosure by a man called Harpour”, the name Harpour being a form of ‘harper’, the one who plays the harp.

Although Unley Park School’s reputation was quickly established, its zenith occurred under Miss Catherine, born on 17 November 1837 at Harpurhey, near Manchester, Lancashire. A music governess in private homes, she became the school’s headmistress after her mother’s death in Adelaide on 14 May 1894. Ellen, born on 7 September 1851 at Mitcham, was then in England, attending conferences, visiting leading girls’ schools and assessing educational trends. Catherine made a similar trip six years later. In its methods and curricula the Thornbers’ school was among South Australia’s most progressive: it offered chemistry, physiology, geology and botany, taught by university-educated women. By 1898 it had an enrolment of 125 pupils. Preparation for the university was emphasised, but the school’s successes there did not prevent the sisters from deploring the university’s restrictive entrance requirements.

With buildings and equipment worth £4000, Unley Park School had an imposing appearance. It’s teaching reflected the owners’ interest in method: geological excursions, lantern-slides acquired by Miss Ellen in England and a skeleton (kept behind a satin curtain) enlivened senior lessons; in 1894 pupils had studied history, geography and literature by following Miss Ellen’s journey overseas. German was taught and French was popular: one teacher was sent to Paris to study for a year as a means to ‘keep us in touch with the old land and its modern systems’. Some of Adelaide’s leaders in art, music and elocution taught at the school, while club-swinging, drill, tennis, cricket and swimming were also provided.

Because the Thornbers espoused ‘the glorious principles of Froebel’, in the kindergarten (which included boys) time was devoted to structured play; the sisters supported Lillian De Lissa, an advocate of Montessori’s system, who stayed with them on her return from England. With her, Miss Catherine was a promoter of the Kindergarten Union of South Australia. (20)

It was noted in the article ‘Methodism in the Paradise of Dissent, 1837-1900’ by RB Walker, that in 1901 almost one quarter of the population on South Australia were Methodist, and that Wesleyan Methodists had always been the numerically largest component. (21)

References :

Further Study
In Profile : The Froebel Education Method And The Third Reich
The Social Organisation Of Australian Tribes
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