The Metchosin Schoolhouse was opened in the spring of 1872 and is the first school building opened in British Columbia after confederation.
It was only twenty years after the settlement of Metchosin by the first British landowner Thomas Blinkhorn in 1851 that the need for a school arose. By 1870 a number of families were settled throughout the district. With children growing up in many of these families, the need for a school became imperative. Mr. John Witty offered to donate an acre of land as a school site. This site is today occupied by the Metchosin Arts and Cultural Centre and the Metchosin Seniors Information Resource Centre.
A gathering of residents was arranged by Mrs. Hans Helgesen. Members of the Weir, Witty, Parker, Gleed, Cole and Helgesen families met on February 3rd, 1871. There they selected the site and drew up a petition to be presented to the Colonial Government, The request was granted in a letter dated March 7th, 1871, under provisions of the Common School Ordinance of 1869. The settlers and the government agreed to share the $300 cost of the buildings, reportedly $150 from the people and $150 from the council. Construction was entrusted to Mr. B.W. Pearse of Victoria.
Classes began with Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher teaching seven girls and three boys. Mrs. Fisher taught for one year at that time and later for a four year period.
In its early years, the Metchosin School also served as a community gathering place. Political meetings were held there as well as dances, concerts and social gatherings of many kinds. Also, church services were conducted in the school until St. Mary’s Church was completed in 1873.
The school closed in 1914 when a new school was built. The original schoolhouse would be pressed into use with increased enrolments in 1922, 1942 and 1959. When it finally closed its doors as a classroom it was believed to be the oldest schoolhouse still in use west of the Great Lakes.
The original building had a shed roof rear addition which for a time served as housing for the first teacher. This addition was the full width of the building and is evidenced by the exterior door (presently unused) on the rear wall of the main room. The present rear addition was built in 1972 to house an oil furnace including a concrete block chimney and the room was later converted to the archive room.
An interesting sidebar to this history is that the existing shed on the property is the original ‘pail closet’ designed by the Provincial Dept. of Public Works, in connection with the building of the 1914 school. A DPW drawing of this small building is extant
It was relocated in 1959 to its present location
On the school’s one-hundredth birthday in 1972, it ceased life as a school and became a museum. Today the Metchosin Schoolhouse Museum houses one of the earliest and most complete collections of school records and artifacts.
The Metchosin School was designated as a Provincial Historic Site in 2017 but the Metchosin School has been protected locally since 1977 in accordance with Bylaw 298.