The origin of Canterbury Boys' High School dates back to 1917 when a deputation from the local primary school's parent and citizens association urged the minister for education to open an intermediate high school in the district. They were concerned there would be a demand for admission to high schools far in excess of the available places.
As a result of these representations, the department decided to establish an intermediate high school at Canterbury. In January 1918, the school was ‘opened' in the present historic primary school buildings, under the headmastership of Mr. Ernest John Rourke who had acheaved a bachelor's degree (B.A). Who then started operations with only two classes, which was made up of a total of 72 students. At its foundation, the search had already begun for a more appropriate site for the new high school.
In 1919 the section of land on which most of the original part of the school now stands was resumed and sketch plans for a new school were prepared. A section of the parcel of land that was resumed is historic – it formed part of a 100 acre grant made the Rev. Richard Johnson on 20th May, 1793. This farm was called "Canterbury Vale" and it was from this that the suburb of Canterbury and our school took its name.
Late in December, 1923, plans for the new building were finally completed and a tender for £22 000 ($44 000) was accepted in May, 1924. The building was completed and occupied in July, 1925 and officially opened on 1st August of that year, still with Mr. Rourke as the Headmaster.
With the rapid growth of population in the area served by the school, the building was soon overcrowded, so plans for extensions to the school were started. Further land acquisitions occurred in 1929, 1931 and in 1933 the extensions were completed. The northern and southern wings of the original building were extended, thus providing further accommodation.
The school was initially an intermediate high school (1st to 3rd year) and became a full high school in 1925. For some years, difficulty was experienced in inducing boys to complete 4th year and sit for the leaving certificate examination the following year. This was due in part to the difficult economic conditions of the time. In other cases, boys preferred to enrol in one of the more established high schools such as Sydney Boys' High School and the Technical High School. In order to increase enrolments in 4th year, Mr. Rourke brought pressure to bear on the department and boundary lines were set up so that boys living within this area were compelled to enrol at Canterbury. Later, Canterbury was to become a selective high school from which time many student enrolments were from out of area. Mr. Rourke retired in 1932 and was succeeded by Mr. A.W. Cusbert who retired in 1946. Between them, they guided the school's destiny for 28 years – a remarkable achievement!
More land on the northern side of the school grounds was resumed in 1945 and much later, the gymnasium building was erected on part of this land in 1954.
Increasing enrolments and a lack specialist rooms such as, science labs, art, music and industrial arts rooms led to a major extension of the school buildings being undertaken. The new structure opened in 1969 containing 6 science laboratories, 2 music rooms, 3 art rooms, 2 technical drawing rooms, two woodwork rooms, a metalwork room, a new library, several classrooms, new toilets and a new canteen. Also included were 3 staff rooms that originally accommodated the science, industrial arts and languages staff. It was connected to the old building via overhead walkways and because it was constructed around a central courtyard, it quickly gained the name of the ‘doughnut' block.
The physical appearance of the school changed very little over the next twenty years, however, all that was to change in 1988. Canterbury had been campaigning for a multipurpose hall for many, so there was much disappointment when a major refurbishing program for the original building and the provision of another classroom block did not include a school hall. Not with standing this, there was a remarkable transformation of the original building to the configuration that is present today. The main changes were lowering of all the ceilings, the replacement of the assembly hall and some rooms on the top floor to a modern multi-purpose library, transferring the administration office to the front entrance, relocating the principal, deputy principal and counsellor offices, providing study rooms and two new staff rooms and reducing the original staff room on the top floor to about one-third its original size. A ground level and first floor walkway was also constructed along the eastern side of the original building. The new classroom block on the eastern side of the school was occupied by the human society and its environment (HSIE) staff and the quadrangle was resurfaced and landscaped too much improve the physical appearance of the school. Two large plane trees were planted in the main quadrangle and in 2003, shade cover was installed for the benefit of the students on hot days. One often overlooked link with the original building is that some of the doors in the administration area and ground floor offices are the original ones removed from some of the classrooms during the reconstruction; they are all made from Australian Cedar!
The school remained a selective high school until 1976 when it became a comprehensive high school as part of the school restructuring at the time. The school is proud of its past and it is also proud of its present. Many of the school's programs have received wide acclaim in the printed media, on television and even in parliament. Canterbury Boys' High School continues the proud tradition of academic excellence, has an experienced and committed staff and offers a comprehensive curriculum. The school also received a 'director general school achievement award' to "recognise the exceptional quality and outstanding achievements of this school in its student welfare program and harmonious race relations".
Principals of Canterbury Boys High School
Mr. E.J. Rourke 1925 – 1932
Mr. A.W. Cusbert 1933 – 1946
Mr. W.D. Noakes 1947 – 1949
Mr. F.C. Wootten 1950 – 1954
Mr. E.R.S. Watson 1955 – 1960
Mr. R.M. Cooper 1961 – 1974
Mr. R.J. Oliver 1975 – 1979
Mr. J. Coutman 1980 – 1984
Mr. D. O'Carrigan 1984 – 1986
Mr. B.A. Mackenzie 1987 – 1997
Mrs. A. Martin 1998 – 2006
Ms. L. Mitton 2006 - 2013
Mr. D. Hill 2013 –2016
Ms. B. Giudice 2016 – 2018
Mr. R. Dummett 2018 - Present
The old cantabrians union was inaugurated in 1928 and still flourishes today. Former cantabrians often visit the school to reminisce old times and they are always represented at formal functions such as the Year 12 Farewell, presentation night and the prefects induction evening. Fred Brown who attended the school from 1941 to 1945, launched through 'Gleebooks' Sydney, a highly entertaining and graphic account of life and conditions at the school during the second world war (WWII). The book ‘Fred Brown's school days' can also be obtained directly from the publishers, 'Ginninderra Press' website.
Probably, the school's most distinguished alumni is the former prime minister, the Hon John Winston Howard who attended the school from 1952 to 1956.
In 2018, Canterbury Boys High School (CBHS) celebrated our centenary anniversary.
We invited all existing students, staff, parents, alumni (both students and staff), local schools and our community to join with us in celebrating this historic public education milestone.
The official events were held on the weekend of 23 to 25 November 2018.
Information about the Centenary and photographic memories from the last century can also be found on our Centenary Facebook page 'CBHS centenary'.