Roselle House Welcomes Back the Boys!

February 14, 2018 at 4:37 PM

Built in 1876, Roselle House, at the heart of the Boys’ School, was generously gifted by John Martyn Wilson to the St Kentigern Trust, a charitable entity with links to the Presbyterian Church. He stipulated that his bequest was for the sole purpose of education, bequeathing a further £5,000 pounds to develop the first classroom block. On 1 February 1959, the school bell rang for the first time. 

In the early days of St Kentigern School (as it was then known), Roselle House was alive to the noise of boys, as many of the rooms were given over to classrooms for ‘Primers 1-4’ and the library. As the roll expanded over the years, new classroom blocks were established and the library was moved, shifting Roselle’s primary function from classroom use to become the administration centre of the School. 

During the principalship of Jack Chalmers (1959-1978), Brian Irwin (1979-1993) and Geoff Burgess (1994 -2012), the top floor was assigned for residential use by the three successive Principals, but following the Christchurch Earthquake, new, stringent guidelines around seismic safety were put into place. As a listed Category B Heritage building with significant heritage value, not just to the School but the wider Auckland community, there was major work to be done to strengthen the building - and it was time to step back and reconsider the best use of Roselle as a School facility. 

After a year under shrouds, as an extensive renovation took place, this week, for the first time in almost 40 years… THE BOYS ARE BACK! 

Upstairs has been transformed into a light and airy learning commons with library nooks for quiet reading and open spaces for the boys to work collaboratively. Each space flows easily throughout the interior and continues out onto the wide verandas that have now been glassed in for safety and provide yet another comfortable reading area with outside chairs and a magnificent view! Walls have been removed, a new stairwell and lift have been installed and the floor plan has been reconfigured to maximise the available area. Now up to a 120 boys can comfortably make use of the space at any one time; the previous library having had a maximum capacity of 80. 

The move from the old library at the top of the campus, to a new learning commons at the bottom of the campus - at the top of a flight of stairs (now with a choice of a lift) - took some careful logistics. And of course, the day that was assigned for a removal company to do the bulk of the work, came with rain! 

In reviewing the books, almost 5000 old titles were culled from the collection and donated to Steve Farrelly from the Breakfast Club, who will oversee their distribution to local schools in need. Former library shelving and furniture were donated to the Tonga Youth Trust to be distributed to preschools and groups in South Auckland. 

The Boys’ School current collection includes almost 11,000 fiction, non-fiction and reference titles of interest to boys from new entrants through to their senior years. Years 0-6 visit with their teacher every week, whilst boys in Years 7-8 visit for digital literacy and media option classes several times a week. In addition to the hard copy collection, there are a further 514 titles available as e-books for senior students who, over the last three years, have embraced fiction reading on personal devices. 

Currently 30 new learning commons monitors from Years 6 – 8 are being trained to provide help every lunch hour and before and after school. They tidy, shelve books, issue to students and take a wider interest in all aspects of the new commons.

In visiting ‘upstairs’ you can’t help but notice, colourful, thought provoking artworks that now adorn the walls. Families were offered the opportunity to select and sponsor a quote of their choosing, which went to a graphic design company to illustrate. The results are a fantastic addition.

On the way up the original sweeping staircase, a distinctive wooden tree has been installed at the halfway point to acknowledge our bronze, silver and gold sponsors, with their name engraved on the leaves of the tree. 

And the old library? That is currently being used as a teaching space for languages until the next phase of the master plan gets underway, with that area of the campus earmarked for a new specialist science and technology block. 

In a first week of damp and humid weather, the air-conditioned commons has proved popular during lunch breaks as the boys settle down to read.  New to the School this year, Year 7 student, Mark Galloway has spent three lunchtimes reading ‘Sons of Kentigern,’ the Saint Kentigern School history book, written by former librarian, Mrs Jane Mackie. He said he has really enjoyed learning the background to his new school. 

The last word goes to Year 7 student, Oryon Ivanov who said he was really loving visiting the new learning commons saying that it was a beautiful space,’ Each time I walk in, it’s really easy on the eye!’


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