Wales Street Primary School, located in Northcote, was officially opened 1st October 1891 though it had begun operating months earlier in February. It was the second school to begin operating in the Northcote area after Helen Street State school found it had too many pupils for the space available.
The school began operating in two rooms of the Northcote Wesleyan Sunday School in High Street until the Wales Street location, consisting of four classrooms, headmaster’s office and bell tower was complete. There was also a white picket fence out the front, where the chain fence is today.
Wales Street Primary School was first known as ‘Prince of Wales Park State School’ It later became known as ‘Northcote Primary School No. 3139’ but is now known simply as ‘Wales Street Primary School’.
In the years between 1891 and 1913, Wales Street School was an adjunct to State School No. 824 South Preston. On July 1, 1913, Wales Street became its own entity, with Mr. George H. Hardress as head teacher.
After an economic depression resulted in families moving away to other areas in the 1890s, Wales Street closed in 1892.
It soon re-opened and from 1900 was suffering from overcrowded classrooms.
By 1913 Wales Street was accommodating 809 pupils, though it was built to hold only 280. At this time there was up to 150 children in one classroom.
The east wing building was extended to help with the overcrowding of students and by 1915 more land was acquired and the west wing built. The school could now accommodate 1147 pupils.
Originally Wales Street was on the edge of the residential area of Northcote, with undeveloped open space to the east.
As the area of Northcote and Thornbury grew, so did the number of children attending Wales Street Primary School. In 1920 the school reached a record high number of pupils at 1232 to a low of 340 in 1957.
Ward, Andrew (2001). Darebin Heritage Review 2000. Burwood, Vic: City Of Darebin.