Bishop Feild Elementary is the oldest school in Newfoundland and fifth oldest in Canada
Many names that go hand-in-hand with Newfoundland have been Feildians, names like Joey Smallwood, Ches Crosbie, Tommy Ricketts and Geoff Stirling. Newfoundland’s most storied school is celebrating its 175th anniversary this August, and it will be hosting various events in order to raise money to help the school provide better education to its current students.
NL’s oldest school
Bishop Feild Elementary began as the Collegiate School for Boys, an all-boys Anglican school started by Bishop Edward Feild. Feild arrived in St. John’s in 1844 to serve as Newfoundland’s Anglican bishop, the same year he founded the collegiate.
One of Feild’s first goals was to create a superior boys’ school. He took it upon himself to rent the Avalon Cottage on Forest Road out of his own pocket, which was the location of the first school.
Up until his death in Bermuda in 1876, Feild was known as the firm but forgiving headmaster of St. John’s most prestigious boys’ school.
The Collegiate became very successful, and in 1858 the school was moved to a red brick building on Bond Street, right beside the future location of the school’s current main building. In this building, a dormitory was built for the purpose of accepting students from outport communities.
An extension was added to the brick building in 1984. An advertisement for the new classrooms at the time stated, “the classrooms will be so heated and ventilated that all the air in each will be replaced every 20 minutes.”
The name of the school was also changed to Bishop Feild College.
A new beginning
By 1928, the Bond Street building had deteriorated to the point that it was no longer safe to use. A new gothic style building was constructed on the site of the old playground, where it remains to this day.
In 1972, Bishop Feild had become an elementary school, with 1972 marking the first year that girls were allowed to attend. Prior to then, all the girls attended Bishop Spencer College.
In 1986, the school began French immersion classes, a practice which the school still proudly continues to this day. The students of Bishop Feild Elementary currently aren’t being schooled in their own building, as a section of the ceiling in the gymnasium collapsed in 2017. All the students have been transferred to the old School for the Deaf on Topsail Road until 2020.
In celebration of 175 years, Feildians new and old will celebrate Bishop Feild’s from August 9-11. The school will be using these events as fundraising opportunities, as the school has many items on its “educational wish list” that would help them buy much-needed resources for their students and teachers. A ticket price of $165 per person, or $300 for a couple are available to cover the events for all three days. Individual prices are also available per event. The deadline to get tickets for the anniversary is July 31.
Celebrations kick off
Friday, August 9 starts off the celebrations with a meet and greet at the RE/MAX Centre on Mayor Avenue. Tickets are $25 for a single person or $50 for a double.
On Saturday, August 10, volunteer Feildians are invited to host class reunions between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Although not a structured event, this time could be a great way to catch up with old friends for anyone interested in setting up an event.
Starting at 6:30 p.m., a dinner, auction and dance will be hosted at the RE/MAX Centre. Dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 for one person, $200 for a couple.
Sunday’s events start at 10:15 on the Bishop Feild school grounds, where all attendees will take part in an old Bishop Feild tradition. Everyone will walk from the school to the Anglican Cathedral for a church service, just like the boys’ collegiate of yesteryear.
There will be a closing brunch from 1:00-3:00 p.m. at the RE/MAX centre to cap off the celebrations. Tickets are $40 for a single person, and $80 for a family of up to four people.
The wish list
These celebrations aren’t just to rest on the laurels of Bishop Feild’s past achievements, but to fund its future. Bishop Feild, like any public school, could always use more money in order to buy resources to enrich the education of their kids. Some things the school needs include:
• Brain Pop, a French and English learning resource: $5100
• 20 iPads and cases for elementary literacy blocks: $8000
• Library books (particularly graphic novels): $1000
• Brass & woodwind instruments: $2000
• New sports equipment such as soccer nets and balls: $1100
• A 3D printer: $1500
Among it’s main goals, Bishop Feild Elementary also has a “stretch goal.” They are in possession of an 1855 Chickering grand piano that is slowly falling apart. The piano would cost about $18,000 to restore.
“It’s a dream,” said Laurie Andrews, Principal of Bishop Feild Elementary, when asked about repairing the ancient piano.
Anyone looking to attend the Bishop Feild anniversary can purchase tickets through Chris Facey of Chris Facey Financial at (709)754-2143 or [email protected]. Donations to the school can be made by cheque or credit card to the Newfoundland and Labrador Education Foundation via www.nlesd.ca/foundation/donation.