The township of Bellbrae was once known as Jan Juc which can be confusing that we now have a Jan Juc township between Torquay and Bellbrae. Consequently the Bellbrae Primary School started out as the Jan Juc School.
The area was settled during the 1840’s and land sales commenced in 1857. One of the first purchasers was Joseph Gundry, and he commenced a school in a small wooden room attached to his home, as there was no school nearby. This school was for the Gundry children, and other people paid to have their children taught with them.
In early 1861 Mr Gundry had a brick schoolhouse erected in the valley along the Spring Creek and the Jan Juc school was opened on August 26th, 1861 as a National School, with 35 children. Part of the Geelong Advertiser report of the opening read:-
The thriving district was enlivened on Thursday, the 26th instant, the occasion being the opening of the first National School in this district, which was inaugurated by a social tea festival, and when it is considered that a year or two ago the principal residents of the district were the kangaroo and the wombat, and that on this occasion about one hundred and fifty farmers and residents met to quaff the social “That cheers but not inebriates”, it speaks well for the progressive nature of the district.”
The site chosen for the school was a block of land near Spring Creek. The land was probably not entirely suitable for a school as the land was uneven and sloped down to the creek. The bank was steep in place and parents were concerned that, when flooded, smaller children would fall in.
William Cook was the first Head Teacher and he taught at the school for 16 years. In a letter to the “Age” (undated) D McKenzie described what life was like at the school:-
…The first person appointed teacher was a Mr Wm Cook. His job was not an enviable one. Young men and women who had run gloriously through the bush were brought there. when the teacher tried to catch them there was more than one fight between them. It was an amusing sight to see small boys and girls who could read and write a little teaching others with whiskered faces to read and write. Several of them got married from school.
Our family could read and write a little. we were taught by our parents out of their Gaelic Bible. The first books we had were called Sequels; then we had the Irish National School books. We always got religious lessons at school every morning, generally about Adam and Eve, Abraham, , Joseph going to Egypt for corn, and the Children of Israel. We were taught music and singing….
The Jan Juc school became a vested Common School and received its number *319 in 1863. At some stage a school residence was built but the date and details of its erection have been lost with the passage of time.
The school entered a decline during the 1880’s, both in attendance and in the physical condition of the buildings. The monthly average attendance had also dropped, and finally fell as low as 4, so in April 1882 the school was closed and the residence leased; however, the closure was only for a short period, and the school reopened in November the same year. the state of the buildings continued to deteriorate and, in 1897, the then Head Teacher Mr James penned the following epistle to the Department:-
I have the honor to respectfully ask when will repairs be done to the residence of the above named school so as to render it fit to live in?
I expected to find it fall in the storm of Friday night last week and hope to not put in such a time of anxiety again. The building settled a little lower on the south side during Friday night.
Is it healthy to live in these rooms where the breeze in playing nightly through every chink and crevice and the floor-carpet rising and falling in time to the in-rush of air? (and the house creaking with every wind). One tank is empty on account of the spouting – and in so dry a locality? No springs here of fresh water: a rotten roof – panes of glass falling out of windows rotten with age – and many other faults – all for 15/- a month!
I have done a great deal to improve the property of the department and amongst which was buying an oven for the kitchen.
The Building Inspector has long ago reported on the matter and I am not mistaken will show by his report that I have reason to complain. It would be hard to find a worse residence in Jan Juc, or one of so delapitated in appearance. I never trouble the Department except when the case is urgent!
I have the honor to be
Your obedient servant
The next Head Teacher found no stove in the residence when he replaced Mr James.
The state of the buildings continued to deteriorate and a continual barrage of complaints and requests for a new building on a better site continued until, in 1916, when it was announced that a block of about 4.5ac, opposite the Post Office on the old Anglesea Road had been purchased for £116.18.6d from the Amos family.
The construction of the new school was let shortly afterwards for £399.3.0d. The old school continued to deteriorate and in spite of a number of offers by local residents, the Department refused to sell. Eventually the building was sold for the value of its materials in 1921, and the land to Mr Helps for £12.
The long overdue move to the new site took place on October 31st, 1916. The children assembled at the old site and marched up the hill to the new building in rows of two.
Geelong Advertiser, March 9th, 1922
JAN JUC PROBLEM
To be or not to be? That is the question which residents of the township and district of Jan Juc are asking themselves. It relates to whether the district has been suitably named.
To arrive at a solution, it is intended to hold a public meeting on Saturday to consider whether the name should be altered to something more in keeping with popular fancy. In the event of a decision against the present name, it is probable that a poll of ratepayers will be taken to select a new one.
Reports from the district indicate that there are several reasons why a change has been suggested. First, many believe that “Jan Juc” is regarded more in the light of a joke than a title fitted to a progressive district. Secondly, there is a feeling that the name has become too much associated with honeymoon trips. There are other reasons which will, no doubt, be adduced at Saturday’s meeting.
Geelong Advertiser, March 28th, 1922
“BELLBRAE” REPLACES JAN JUC
Councillor W R Gundry was in the chair at the adjourned meeting of residents of the Jan Juc district held in the public hall on Saturday evening, March 25th, to consider the question of selecting a new name for the township.
There was a large gathering of ratepayers and others interested.It was decided to proceed with the ballot of the six names left in from the previous ballot, and the name “Bellbrae” was declared winner by a large majority.
Councillor Gundry will present the ratepayers’ petition to the Barrabool Shire Council, probably at the April meeting.
Geelong Advertiser, October 21st, 1922
THE PASSING OF JAN JUC
The Jan Juc township was proclaimed on November 17th, 1885. It is situated on the Geelong to Anglesea main road.
As a result of an overwhelming vote of the residents, and with the approval of the council of the Shire of Barrabool it was decided to petition the Governor-in-Council to change the name to Bellbrae.
The petition was duly settled and lodged by the council’s solicitors, Messrs Harwood and Pincott, and has now been granted.
The Order-in-Council changing the name to Bellbrae was gazetted on September 27th.
The new name is chosen as a compliment to Mr John Calvert Bell, of “Addiscot”, which is adjacent to the township and on which Mr Bell has resided for many years past. Mr Bell is the son of the late James Bell, of Woolbrook, and a nephew of the famous Major John Bell, late of “Bell Park”, near the golf links. Mr Bell’s only son, Harold George Bell, who was educated at the Central college, Geelong, joined the A.I.F., and was killed on the Menin Road near Ypres in 1917.
The next 50 years saw the school continue to serve the small rural community, in much the same manner as in many other country districts. It was the focal point of the area and, it was not until the start of the 1980’s that any great change was noted.
Over the past decade or two there has been a rapid increase in the number of pupils attending the school. These were mainly children of the new people entering the area to the so called “hobby farms”, many of them professional people who commute daily to Geelong. In 1980, the number of children attending the school from distances up to 10 kilometers or more was such that the Department agreed to the establishment of a bus route to bring these children to school.
The school celebrated its 125th anniversary in September, 1986. A history of the school was published to mark the occasion and copies are still available at the school. The enrolment in 1988 was 68 under the headmastership of Mr G J Bayles, with Mr P Heywood and Mesdames T Poulton and J Rodda assisting.