Otterbury Schoolhouse was a one-room schooling institution in Harbour Grace, which operated from 1889-1969.
Early survey maps indicate Otterbury as the area roughly between the beginning of Water Street, Harvey Street, and Lee’s Lane. Interestingly, there are three areas called Otterbury in Conception Bay – one in Harbour Grace, one in Clarke’s Beach, and one northeast of Carbonear. The term refers to an abandoned fishing community. According to local historian Gord Pike, the word may have come from Ottery St. Mary, in Devon, England, or was a corruption of “otter burrow.”
Built as early as 1884, Otterbury Schoolhouse was a traditional, one-room educational institution for Roman Catholic youth in the Riverhead and Otterbury area. The school was located on Water Street West, in the Otterbury district. In 1884 there were 45 students registered. Like other schools of its era, it was heated by a wood-burning stove, and the other students, especially the boys, took turns getting the firewood. There was an outdoor bathroom and all students were responsible for helping keep the school clean.
In the 1930s, Ms. Helena Power was the teacher at the school. Power had previously taught in the United States before coming to Newfoundland. Although Latin was taught in schools at the time, she taught French to the students of Otterbury. (Power later published a book, More Stories from Dickens , which retold the famous author’s stories for children.) During the 1930s an average of 50-60 students attended the school each year.
The school officially closed in 1969. Gordon G. Pike and the Harbour Grace Historical Society helped remodel the deteriorated structure in the late 1990s. However, years later, repairs were needed again; the schoolhouse was then moved to its current location, near the Kearney Tourist Chalet and the SS Kyle, under the direction of Albert (Bud) Chafe. The exterior was repainted in fall 2017.
Otterbury Schoolhouse was designated a Municipal Heritage Site by the Town of Harbour Grace due to its historic and aesthetic value on January 10, 2006. Plans are currently set in motion to revitalize the Schoolhouse as a multipurpose space for the community’s seniors.
The above artifact was donated to the Town of Harbour Grace for the revitalization project. This 1954-55 register belonged to Angela Hickey, who taught at the schoolhouse for her entire career. The register measures 12″ (width) by 17.5″ (length) and is 96 pages in total. The register was donated by Angela Drover, niece of Angela Hickey.
There were 43 students in attendance during this school year. A monthly attendance list follows each name. In September, the monthly attendance was 93%, with the school open 21 days out of the month. In total, the school was open 174 days during this school year, with average daily attendance of 37 pupils. The local Department of Education supervisor, Robert J. Connolly, visited Otterbury three times during the 1954-55 school year, on September 20, December 7, and June 16.
As the pictures above note, students were from “Riverhead,” “Harvey St,” “Water St,” “Hr. Grace,” and the “Pipe Track.” Their guardian’s name is listed, with address.
View the registration roll in high quality (1200 dpi) here:
Page 4: Download link (Google Drive)
Page 18: Download link (Google Drive)
Do you recognize anyone from the roll? Do you have any artifacts from Otterbury or schools in Harbour Grace you’d wish to donate? Call 596-3631 ext. 4.