North Arkaba School and Church

Thursday, Sep 09, 2021 at 13:13

Stephen L (Clare) SA

Around 10 kilometres north of Hawker on the main Wilpena Road, most peoples eyes are usually transfixed on the rugged beauty of the Flinders Ranges off in the distance, but for those that are observant will notice off to their right, a very short distance from the road is a lonely old structure that stands by itself and is a testament to the early pioneers to the district.

Those that like to inspect the relics of our past and take the small dirt track to this structure will discover that this grand old building was once the North Arkaba School and Church. One of the original pioneer to the district, Mr James Sweet provided under trusteeship, .2 ha of land and this is when this building was constructed.

The one teacher school was first opened in 1888 and was operational until 1918, when it closed, but again opened for another short period between 1932 and 1941. The open wood fire provided warmth for those bitterly cold winter days, while in the scorching summer heat, the only respite was a drink of cool water from a canvas water bag.

Inside the school building, students were seated at four long wooden desks, with the senior students using pen and ink, while the junior students used slate and chalk. Most of the time there were only a small number of children that went to school here, but during 1897 and 1898, the number of students here were at their peak and exceeded 20 students.

To get to the school, some students walked up to eight kilometres, rode horses that were tethered in a nearby yard or drove buggies.

To further utilise this special building, the local members of the Wesleyan Churched used this building as a place of worship between 1888 until the last service was conducted in 1928. After the church closed the locals then drove their motor vehicles into Hawker and attended services there.

During the war years when petrol rationing became an issue, those living in Arkaba area could not afford to drive their vehicles down to Hawker, so in 1943 the building had another small lease of life and then became known as the North Arkaba Methodist Church.

On special occasions, night services were held under the lighting of two hanging Miller lamps and for 12 years this special building was again the social meeting point for locals in the area until again the church finally closed its doors in 1955.

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