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Joseph Stear Carlyon Cole (1832–1916)

by Jean V. Moyle

This article was published:

Joseph Stear Carlyon Cole (1832-1916), by unknown photographer, c1895

Joseph Stear Carlyon Cole (1832-1916), by unknown photographer, c1895

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 12272

Joseph Stear Carlyon Cole (1832-1916), schoolmaster, was born in 1832 at Exeter, Devon, England, son of George Talbert Cole and his wife. Educated by his father and at Oakhampton Street Grammar School, he was a dreamy boy who enjoyed reading Scott, Byron and Burns. In 1848 he went to London to work for his uncle, a builder's manager. Cole is said to have read some law and attended Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution. In 1857 he migrated to Adelaide to join his uncle John Cole at Penwortham. He taught at Auburn Public School and was 'factotum general to the district': as clerk of the local court and of the Upper Wakefield District Council, secretary of the Independent Order of Oddfellows, curator of the cemetery and correspondent for the South Australian Register.

In 1861 Cole was headmaster for three months at Pulteney Street School, Adelaide, but left to open a public school at Watervale. His salary was £100. On 29 November 1862 he married Hannah Peacock in Adelaide; they had a son and five daughters. Next year he built the first six rooms, for boarders, of his own Stanley Grammar School for boys and girls, on thirty acres (12 ha) of land at a cost of £4000. He taught in both institutions, with his wife as matron, until 1877 when he relinquished the public school.

The grammar school, a two-storied freestone building, advertised that 'the two main aspects of human life—the industrial and the ideal' would be catered for: 'whatever dignifies, ennobles, and enlightens'. Although the prospectus stated that corporal punishment was 'derogatory to the dignity, and inimical to the progress of rational nature', it was listed as the penalty for obscene language and lewdness, or for striking a blow in anger. Subjects included: chemistry, assaying, surveying, linear and perspective drawing, brokerage discount and commission, book-keeping, and field subjects. Night school was also provided. There were two large class-rooms, five dormitories and a library of 1000 volumes containing a prized set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. A French clock was presented to Cole by his pupils in 1875; the master's response was that he had 'never mistaken himself for a hero nor his poor service as heroic'.

Although Stanley Grammar School graduates were not qualified to enter the University of Adelaide, many of them matriculated later and flourished at the university, in State parliament and among the professions. Ex-pupils included Sir David Gordon, Dr William Torr, Sir John Duncan, Dr W. Jethro Brown and Emile Sobels. The school's mottoes were: 'Without learning, life to man is death' and 'Let the boy so learn that he may teach'. In 1904 Cole retired; the school closed in 1917, although the family continued to live there and the building still stands. Survived by his wife (d.1928), Cole died, aged 85, on 15 October 1916 at Watervale; they are buried in St Mark's churchyard, Penwortham. Cole's estate was sworn for probate at £1565.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Meller, The Stanley Grammar School, Watervale and Joseph Stear Carlyon Cole (Adel, 1949)
  • W. R. Ray, Pulteney Grammar School 1847-1972 (Adel, 1973)
  • Evening Journal (Adelaide), 10 Jan 1903
  • Mail (Adelaide), 31 Oct 1936
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 22 Feb 1939
  • Stanley Grammar School ledger, M1441 (State Records of South Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jean V. Moyle, 'Cole, Joseph Stear Carlyon (1832–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Joseph Stear Carlyon Cole (1832-1916), by unknown photographer, c1895

Joseph Stear Carlyon Cole (1832-1916), by unknown photographer, c1895

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 12272

Life Summary [details]


Exeter, Devon, England


15 October, 1916 (aged ~ 84)
Watervale, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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