CAPE, William Timothy (1806-1863)


CAPE, William Timothy (1806-1863)
schoolmaster
was born at Walworth, Surrey, England, on 25 October 1806. His father, William Cape, was a London bank manager who emigrated to Australia with his family in 1821, and at the end of 1822 became master of a private school, the Sydney Academy. On 1 April 1824 he was appointed master of the Sydney public school in Castlereagh-street, but about two years later he resigned because Archdeacon Scott (q.v.), who had become king's visitor to the schools, had "reduced the school to a mere Parochial School of St James". (See Cape's account of his experiences in Australia in H.R. of A., vol. XXII, p. 487). He went on the land that had been granted him but, considering that he was entitled to further grants, for the last 16 years of his life he was continually making applications to the government about his grievance. He died in 1847 still unsatisfied. His son, William Timothy Cape, was educated at the Merchant Tailors' school, London, and on his arrival in Australia became an assistant master at his father's school. Though barely 20 years of age he was made headmaster of the Sydney public school when his father resigned. He had already made a reputation as a teacher and shortly afterwards, when a number of public school teachers from the country were brought into Sydney for training, Cape was given charge of them as he was considered the only qualified person available. In 1829 he opened a private school in King-street, Sydney, and when the Sydney College was founded in 1835 he transferred his own pupils to it on being appointed headmaster. For seven years he was a most successful headmaster; his distinguished pupils included Sir John Robertson (q.v.), William Forster (q.v.), William Bede Dalley (q.v.), Sir James Martin (q.v.), and T. A. Browne (q.v.), and the number of boys was approaching 300 when Cape came into conflict with the trustees and resigned at the end of 1841. This was disastrous for the school, for though the number of pupils kept up for some time, between 1843 and 1847 there was a falling off from 283 to 62. The colony was passing through bad times, but it is clear that the trustees had not been able to find a successor who could approach Cape in personality and knowledge. He had in the meantime opened a private school at Paddington which was carried on until 1856 when he retired. In 1859 he was elected a member of the legislative assembly for Wollombi, and interested himself in the educational life of the colony as a commissioner of national education, a fellow of St Paul's College of the university of Sydney, and in connexion with the Sydney School of Arts. He visited England in 1855 and was again in England from 1860 to 1863. He died at London on 14 June 1863. He married and left descendants; a grandson, Captain C. S. Cape, was awarded the D.S.O. at the Boer war and in 1933 was a well-known pastoralist and solicitor at Sydney.
Cape was a man of liberal views, a strict disciplinarian, a consistent encourager of the good student, and an invariably just ruler. He gave his boys the sound classical education of his time, but he gave them more than that and more than they knew, and won the admiration and respect of everyone who came in contact with him. A tablet to his memory was placed in St Andrew's cathedral by his former pupils.
J. H. Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dales; S. H. Smith and G. T. Spaull, History of Education in New South Wales; S. H. Smith, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. V, pp. 201-23; Rolf Boldrewood, In Bad Company, pp. 325-30; Annual Reports of Sydney College, 1838, 1843, 1847.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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