PUBLIC EDUCATION officially began in Manilla in September 1877, in the small Union Church built by the McGauley brothers on the rise above present-day Coronation Park at North Manilla.​ Local children had attended classes in reading, writing and arithmetic from the early days of town development. The location for these during the 1890s is said to have been at the corner of Strafford and Rowan Streets. In 1879, a brick schoolhouse for 50 pupils with an attached residence was put up and Manilla Public School operated there until just before the turn of the century.

The Union Church Manilla 1877
The Union Church Nth Manilla c.1870s
1885 Manilla Public School photo
1885 Manilla Public School photo.  Pupils with Mr. Murray & Miss McEwan    Image restoration: D.Nichol 2001

In 1898, after 21 years of lessons on the north side of the river, classes were transferred to the southern side of the Namoi, due to the danger to pupils crossing over traffic bridge and river. It was suggested that the former Strafford Street location be taken up for school activities, but the decision was made to transfer classes the Mechanics' Institute and build a new public school.

August 6th 1881
  6        Scripture Lessons (Old Testament)
  6        Scripture Lessons (New Testament)
  6        First Book of Lessons
10        Australian Class Book No.1
10        Australian Reading Book No.1
18         Reading Lessons in Sheets
48         Framed Slates
  3         Boxes of Slate Pencils
  2         Dozens of Pencil Cases
  1½      Boxes of School Pens
  2         Dozens of Pen Holders
  0         Bottles of Ink
  7         Ink Powders
  ½        Box of Chalk
  0         Ball Frame
  2         Black Boards
  4         School Maps: 
         World, Hemispheres, Australia, Europe

The first school building on the hill in North Manilla, above Coronation Park, remained as headmaster's residence until 1938. Its foundations can be seen on the site, along with an historical panel. Documents relating to the school were uncovered beneath the foundation stone and these are now kept in the Museum archives. 

The new school opened in Court Street in 1900 with 200 pupils enrolled. The official opening planned for the January 1901 was cancelled owing to the death of Queen Victoria and an opening held without official attendees, on March 9 1901. The original school bell continues to be rung daily, by Manilla Central School Primary pupils.


Typical of hundreds of subsidised One-Teacher Schools built throughout rural districts was Yarramanbully School, constructed during the early 1900s in the small farming community of Yarramanbully, east of Manilla town.

Originally built on the Gallagher family farm on the outskirts of Manilla District, the second Yarramanbully School building was donated to the Manilla Community for the town's centenary of Public Education in 1977. Manilla Historical Society volunteers transported the building to the museum complex and restored the building, which was left intact with all its contents on the Gallagher property at the close of classes in 1953. 

History of Yarramanbully School
2nd Yarramanbully School 1935-1953
Hession placemat & double-pocket bag made by pupil John Gallagher in 1939
Education Fact Sheet - Manilla Museum