Lily Barton, 11 and Jean Thomas outside Hampden Street School’s new outdoor learning area. Photo: Charles Anderson

Hampden Street School celebrates 150 years

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They may be separated by decades in age but one thing unites Jean Thomas and Lily Barton – they both went to Hampden Street School.

The school celebrated its 150th anniversary last week and invited former students in to take a look around and see how much it had changed.

Lily, 11, was tasked with showing Jean and her daughter Sue around. It was a last-minute decision for Jean, who now lives in Motueka.

“I really wanted to come and see what has changed,” Jean, who attended the school in the 1940s, said.

She remembered wearing woollen bathing costumes to go swimming, doing papier-mâché with teachers and heading down to Queens Gardens to do tech class.

“It was a wonderful school. It’s changed such a lot.”

Lily said it was great to talk to Jean about those changes and get a small insight into how far the school has come. “It’s really interesting seeing what it used to be like. I’m really surprised.”

Principal Don McLean said, even after 150 years, the school “seeps history”.

“It has got a real history, if you think about the people who would be going to the school back then, some would be new immigrants to Nelson straight off the boat.”

Even some of the stories that staff tell each other still permeate, like the one of former principal Mrs Sunderly who died in the early 1900s. “They say she still walks the senior block,” Don said.

Almost 200 former students and staff attended the reunion over the weekend with class photos and a formal dinner being organised. The school also opened its new outdoor learning area which features an area of astro turf, bean bags and is bordered with native trees.

Don said that it was a special part of the school which stood as a landmark of its 150 years.