From Campbelltown's first catholic school building to Tourist Information Centre. A lesson in conserving our local heritage.p>


Quondong, Old Menangle Road, Campbelltown September 1979. (Courtesy -Campbelltown City Library).

Quondong was Campbelltown's first catholic school, and is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Campbelltown. The foundation stone was laid on St Patrick's Day, 17 March 1840, by Archbishop John Bede Polding. As a result of the day of its dedication, the building became known as St Patrick's School House.

The design of the building is widely attributed to Fr John Joseph Terry. In 1841, the first teachers at the school were Mr and Mrs Patrick Mulholland. The Mulholland's were in charge of 25 male and 29 female pupils in the first year of education at the school, in what was a very small building for such a large number of pupils.

The Bourke family at Quondong, Christmas Day 1915 (Courtesy - CAHS)

School life was fairly different to our modern day experiences of education.

When Inspector Casey visited St Patrick's on May 29th, 1861, he reported that the following subjects were being taught: spelling, reading, writing, dictation, grammar, arithmetic, geography, singing and catechism. He found that the school was 'fairly' organised, the discipline good, and the attainments of the students were, on the whole, 'satisfactory'. While a total of eighty-three pupils were enrolled (fifty boys and thirty three girls) only fifty eight were present for their examinations. The cleanliness of the girls was described as 'good', but that of the boys was only, 'very moderate'. Attendance at the school must have fluctuated according to the season. When Casey noted in his 1863 report that the building was not big enough for the pupils then attending, he reported that the problem would be worse in summertime.(p.18 Pratten & Irving, July 1994).

Patrick Newman was a well liked teacher at the school serving from 1864 until 1880 when he moved to Campbelltown Public School. Enrolments at St Patrick's declined after Newman's departure and increased dramatically at the public school where he had taken up teaching. Edward Bendon was teaching at St Patrick's by 1882 when records reveal he was forced to buy water for his pupils at a cost of 4/- per week due to the severity of a long drought affecting Campbelltown. At the end of the nineteenth century the school was run by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. According to The Campbelltown Herald of 1898 the school held annual concerts during the winter and picnicked at Menangle during the summer.

On 2 February 1914 Father James Dunne, Campbelltown Parish Priest laid the foundation stone for a new school for the parish. This ended the building's role as the local catholic school.

Catherine Keihone paid 205 pounds for Quandong, as the building now became known, to be used as a private residence. The local legend has the new inhabitants mistaking the Kurrajong tree at the front of the property for a Quandong Tree and so naming the house after the mistakenly identified botanical specimen on its doorstep. The variation on the spelling of Quandong has occurred ever since. Ambrose Burke recalled living as Quandong,

...with my aunt Kate Keihone... She bought it because she and her brothers and sisters had attended catholic school there.( p.27 Praten & Irving, 1994.)

The family lived for several decades in the building before subdividing the land in 1948 into two lots. A succession of families purchased the property between the end of World War Two and 1991 when Campbelltown Catholic Club purchased the property from the estate of P Segal. In 1994 Campbelltown City Council commissioned a conservation plan for Quondong. The catholic club and the council embarked upon a painstaking restoration of the building which was completed by April 1996. Quondong Visitor Information Centre was officially opened during Heritage Week 1996. The building houses an authentic replica school classroom, an ever-changing museum display and a chapel. The building is visited by a constant stream of tourists to our city. Quondong is a constant reminder of the excellent public uses our built heritage can afford to the local population.

Quondong Visitor Information Centre is open Monday to Friday 8.30-4.30pm
Saturdays, Sundays & Public Holidays 10am-5pm. Ph: 02 46458922. Quondong is located in Art Gallery Road Campbelltown, opposite the Art Gallery and behind Campbelltown Catholic Club.

Quondong Visitor Information Centre, Art Gallery Road Campelltown 1997.

For further information on the history of the building "Quandong" the library holds copies of the conservation report for the building.
Pratten, C. & Irving R. Quandong: The Old Catholic School House Campbelltown. Conservation Plan (Balmain, NSW: Heritage Conservation Consultants, July 1994)
For further images of the building visit our photo database website at www.campbelltown.nsw.gov.au/localhist