In 1850 Captain Samuel Horton offered the Wesleyan Church 20 acres of Somercotes and 1350 pounds for the establishment of a boys’ school.
The foundation stone was laid on 6th January 1852. Work was delayed due to the Victorian gold rush taking place at the same time and nearly every able-bodied man left for it. The school was completed and opened in 1855. It was a two-storey building with a high tower over the main entrance. It was made of red brick, which was unusual for the time. The dressings and trimmings were beautifully carved freestone.
Horton College was a boarding school for boys. Over 770 boys went through the school and the school had a maximum of 62 at one time. For a time it was known as one of Australia’s finest educational institutions. It was a great honour to attend Horton College. The requirement for entry was ‘the ability to read the New Testament with facility’.
The first president was Reverend Manton who had been chaplain to the convict boys at Port Arthur.
Arriving from England in February 1863, William Fox was the headmaster from 1863 until his retirement due to ill health 26 years later.
Horton College prospered through the late 1800s until the resignation of the Headmaster Mr Fox. It never regained popularity and failed due to the financial depression and the establishment of bigger schools in Hobart and Launceston.
The building fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1919. Some of the bricks were used by the family, some were sent to MLC in Launceston where Mr Fox’s daughter Mary Fox was the headmistress. The school bell was sent to Hutchins School in Hobart. All that remains today is the magnificent portico.
The photograph below shows the students, teachers and family of Horton College in its final days, c.1891. Along with the school boys you can see here, are the headmaster James de Quetteville Robin’s children.
If you look very carefully towards the back you will be able to spot one of Horton’s girl students. This is probably Gertrude de Quetteville Robin, the headmaster’s daughter. She was dux of the school that year and apparently would have won the Horton Scholarship, except that due to the schools financial problems that fund had been exhausted. Despite her outstanding academic success, she wasn’t allowed in the front of the picture!
Photo Donated by J Paine.