Waratah Council was incorporated on 23rd February 1871. During its 67 years of existence, the council meetings were held in quite a few different locations.
The exact chronology and locations are sometimes hard to confirm, and I have had to make some educated guesses based on sometimes fleeting references in newspaper articles retrieved from Trove. The list below is therefore a tentative summary based on the available facts, and should not be regarded as a definitive.
|April 1871||Stephens’ Long Room, High St.|
|May 1871||Mr Dawson’s Assembly Room, Green Gate Hotel, Station St.|
|1871 – 1873||Former Wade’s Hotel, Turton St.|
|1873 – 1882||Courthouse building, Georgetown Rd.|
|1882 – 1889||Stephens’ Long Room/School of Arts, High St.|
|1889 – 1897||New School of Arts building, Station St.|
|1898 – 1926||Former Northumberland Hall, Turton St.|
|1926 – 1938||Hanbury St, Mayfield.|
Stephen’s Long Room, April 1871
The first election for alderman in Waratah Municipality took place on Saturday 8th April 1871. The following Thursday, 13th April 1871, there was a special meeting of council for the purpose of electing a Mayor for the ensuing year. The meeting was held in “Mr. Stephens long room, Hanbury”, a building which still exists today at 29 High St. At the meeting, Robert Turton was unanimously elected as Mayor.
The first ordinary meeting of the council was supposed to have happened at this same location on the following Monday, 17 April 1871, however a newspaper report a few days later somewhat cryptically reported …
“The whole of the aldermen composing the Waratah Municipal Council met on Monday evening in Mr. Stephens’ large room, but, in consequence of some clause in the Act, no business could be transacted of an official character ; so that, after an hours’ private conversation as to matters to be brought forward at a future period, and the appointment of next Friday night, at half-past seven, for the next meeting, they broke up.”
One can only wonder which of the clauses in the 1867 Municipalities Act invalidated the meeting that night. The council moved to other premises for their next meeting, but would return to Mr Stephen’s building a decade later. See the section below (1882-1888) for further details.
Mr Dawson’s Assembly Room
On Friday 21st April 1871, the council held their first official ordinary meeting, in “Mr. Dawson’s Assembly Room.” This room was located in the Green Gates Hotel (or Green Gate Inn) operated by Mr. Dawson, as seen in a newspaper report from 29th September 1866.
“On the evenings of Saturday and Monday last the Boston Minstrels gave an entertainment in Mr. Dawson’s Assembly Room, Green Gate Inn.”
In April 1905, an article on the death of Mr. James Marchant reported that …
“Upon his retirement he removed to Waratah, where he kept what was known by the old settlers as the Green Gate Hotel at the Junction of Turton-road and Station-street . Being successful in the business, he had the old building pulled down, and erected the building known as Marchant’s Family Hotel, which was subsequently re-built, and is now called the Town Hall Hotel.”
It is somewhat fitting that the modern day Town Hall Hotel is on the site of the very first ordinary meeting of the Waratah Municipal Council. A second council meeting was held in Dawson’s Assembly Room, on 2nd May 1871. The Ralph Snowball photo below, from the period 1884-1888 shows the site of Dawson’s Assembly Room. The building indicated is almost certainly not the Green Gate Hotel, but Marchant’s Family Hotel, that was rebuilt in 1884 on the same site.
Former Wade’s Hotel
The third council meeting was held on 16th May 1871 in yet another location, with the paper reporting that
“On Tuesday, the members of the Waratah Municipal Council sat in their newly appointed chambers, (late Wade’s Hotel.) The room is nicely fitted up, and is furnished with every convenience without being too costly. The aldermen, however, did not appear over comfortable in their new arm chairs, for they (the chairs) appeared rather too low for the height of the table.”
A retrospective on Waratah in a 1940 newspaper article, in listing old hotels, reports that
“William Whiteman had the house known as Wade’s Inn in Turton street from where, in 1887, teams left for the gold diggings.”
A newspaper article in 1866 reported on the Waratah Foot Races, which were held …
“… to open the new running ground …. on the open space between the railway station and Wade’s Hotel”
If the running grounds were where the current sporting fields are, then that would suggest that Wade’s Hotel was somewhere on Turton St between Station and High Streets. Ralph Snowball’s photo of Waratah (1884-1888) contains a large double storey building in this location that could possibly be the former Wade’s Hotel.
In the following year, the council began debating the need for new council chambers, noting in their meeting of 11th March 1872 that
that the premises at present rented for Council Chambers are, in many respects, very unsuitable for the requirements of the municipality,
that it is highly desirable that new Municipal Council Chambers be erected on the ground granted by the Government for that purpose
In the debate Alderman Harper commented that the room currently rented as a council chamber “was simply a closet.”
In August 1872 the plan and specifications for new council chambers was approved by council, and tenders were called for the construction. A month later, tenders were received and evaluated, and the following separate tenders accepted:
G. Gane, stonework completed, £199 ; A. Bung, carpenter’s work, £129 ; Thos. J. Turton, plumbing, painting, and glazing, £31 10s. ; plastering and colouring walls, £16 10s. Total, £376.
The Government Gazette of 18th March 1873 “contained a notice of the grant of one acre of land at Hanbury, Waratah, for Council Chambers”, a date which appears in a map from a 1906 real estate sale poster as seen below.
After many delays in construction, and demands for the contractors to finish their work, the Waratah councillors held their first meeting in the new building on Monday 16th June 1873. It was a rather muted affair though …
The Municipal Council of Waratah held their first meeting in the new council chambers, on Monday night last. The interior presented a most cold and dismal aspect, being insufficiently lighted and furnished, with one table, a few chairs, and a couple of deal forms. From the entire absence of anything approaching a celebration of the event, and the depressing appearance of the inside, the impression conveyed to the observer was that the worthy municipal councillors were thoroughly ashamed of the building, themselves, and the occasion.
In 1873, the NSW Department of Justice had decided to build a district courthouse in Lambton in preference to Waratah, so for court sittings in Waratah they rented out rooms in the new Council Chambers. Within a few years though, the Justice Department were desirous of having a dedicated courthouse building in Waratah, and the council were willing to sell their chambers for £600. The “Waratah Council Chambers Resumption Bill” was passed in parliament on 9th July 1879, and the purchase was completed in September 1879.
With the building now officially a courthouse, the role of landlord and tenant were reversed, as the council now rented a room in the courthouse to use as council chambers and clerk’s office. By November 1880 the Justice Department had given notice to the council to quit the building, however the Minister for Justice, Sir George Innes, gave reassurance that
“he would do justice to the Council who would not be disturbed within a reasonable time, until other chambers could be found.”
It seems that there was a mismatch of expectations as to what a “resaonable time” was, and the council was still using the courthouse for its meetings 18 months later, and there is a hint of tetchiness in a letter from the Minister for Justice to the council on 6th May 1882, stating that
“representations had been made that the alterations to the Court House were nearly completed, and that great inconvenience arose from the council occupying it; also, that it would be necessary when the alterations were finished for the building to be handed over to the Police Magistrate for the administration of justice.”
This kicked the council into action, and they formed a committee to seek new premises. On Monday 6th June 1882, the council moved back to the premises where their very first meeting had been held 11 years earlier, Stephen’s Rooms in High Street.
Stephen’s Long Room, 1882 – 188?
Variously referred to as “Mr Stephen’s large room”, “Mr Stephen’s long room”, “Stephen’s Assembly Rooms”, or sometimes just “Stephens Rooms”, this was a small double-storey stone building in High St. It was used for various public meetings, and candidates for political office would sometimes make speeches from the second floor balcony. The stone building was constructed by Mr. Henry Stephens, whose occupation was listed as “quarryman” in his nomination for election as alderman in 3rd February 1872. (His nomination was subsequently declared to be informal.)
The School of Arts will, in future, be conducted in Stephen’s rooms, High-street. The committee decided upon the removal as the abovenamed rooms are more commodious than those previously occupied.
For the next 7 years, the council and the School of Arts appears to have been conducted from this same building. The ownership of the building throughout this whole period is uncertain, but at the end of this period of co-tenure in January 1889, when the new School of Arts building in Station Street is about to be opened, it is clear that the Council is renting its chambers from the School of Arts committee. The committee wrote to the council …
“intimating that they cannot guarantee Council’s occupation of the present room rented by them, as Council chambers, and suggesting that a large room in the new building be used for that purpose.”
The photograph of Stephen’s Rooms below (from University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections) shows a sign mounted on the upper balcony that reads:
Municipal Council Chambers
Tuesdays & Thursdays
Stephens’ Rooms also appears in a Ralph Snowball photograph of Waratah from the period 1884-1888.
School of Arts building, March 1889 – 1897
Land for new School of Arts buildings was granted by the Government in November 1887, having a frontage of 58ft to Station St, and 220ft to Market St.
Reporting on the laying of the foundation stone by Sir Henry Parkes on 15th December 1888, the new hall was described as an
“… auditorium 35ft x 60ft, and 16ft in height, with a stage 21ft x 16ft, and dressing rooms on either side 7ft x 16ft each. … The building is of very elaborate design, having frontages to Market and Station streets, and will contain eleven rooms (besides the hall and apartments referred to)
and balconettes on each side.
The laying of the foundation stone was a ceremonial affair, and not the start of construction, as much of the new building had already been completed, and in the following month the opening of the new School of Arts was celebrated by a concert in the hall on 24th January 1889.
Six weeks later on 4th March 1889 the council meeting …
“… was held on Monday evening for the first time in the new Council Chambers in connection with the School of Arts’ Buildings.”
The council continued meeting in the school of arts until 1897 when it was reported that …
“The business of the Waratah council has hitherto been conducted in a portion of the local school of arts, but it has now been decided that the municipality shall have a Town Hall, and for that purpose a building has been secured.”
Northumberland Hall, 1898 – 1926
At a special meeting of the Waratah Council in October 1897, a proposal was put forward …
“… to acquire the present bank buildings in Turton-road, better known as the Northumberland Hall, and convert them into council chambers and offices, making provision on the upper storey for friendly societies and Masonic lodges.”
Northumberland Hall was built in late 1878 and formally opened on 9th January 1879. It was built by the Northumberland Building Society, with the ground floor to be used as offices, and the upper floor as a large hall to be rented out for public meetings. In a strange intertwining of connections, at the time the Society embarked on the building of Northumberland Hall, their office was in a rented room of the Council chambers in Georgetown Rd, premises they were about to lose as the council sold their chambers to the Government for use as a courthouse.
In December 1897 the council purchased the building from the bank and did some renovations, for a total cost of £350. On the day the council took possession of their new town hall, 8th February 1898, the paper reported …
The opinion is general that the council have taken a wise step in acquiring this building. The ground floor consists of a fine suite of offices, providing ample accommodation for the public, the Mayor, and offices. Upstairs is the large hall, providing ample accommodation for council and lodge meetings, with ante-rooms and a spacious balcony. The ventilation is perfect throughout, and the renovation improvements and repairs reflect credit on the architects, Messrs. Sanders and Son, and the contractor, Mr. Thomas Bates, of Hamilton.
On the same day, in the evening, the council met for the first time in the new building, for the purpose of electing the Mayor for the ensuing year. Alderman N. B. Creer was elected unopposed, replacing Alderman H.C. Langwill who had served as Mayor in the preceding year, and whose name appears in the inscription on top of the new Town Hall.
Northumberland Hall appears in a Ralph Snowball photograph of Waratah from the period 1884-1888.
The map above shows the Town Hall on Turton Rd, and the Station Master’s residence on Station St, which is also marked on the following 1926 real estate map.
Hanbury St, 1926 – 1938
The last Waratah town hall was built on Hanbury St Mayfield, near the intersection with Macquarie St. (It was just to the south of where Mayfield Diggers Club is now). The foundation stone was laid on 20th February 1926, and the official opening was held on Saturday 26th June 1926.
I’m not sure of when this town hall building was demolished, but it appears to be some time after 1975, as an aerial photograph from 1975 shows a building on the site that matches the size of the town hall, and is clearly not the modern Diggers club.
The Town Hall that never was
In addition to all the places where the council did meet, there remains the story of the town hall that never was.
On 23rd July 1891 the council received notification that the Secretary of Lands had approved the council’s request for three portions of land (2411, 2412, 2413) on Turton Rd for a Town Hall, and portion 2410 for a fire brigade station. The dedication of land was officially gazetted on 15th September 1891 along with an adjoining triangular block of land for the Waratah Gas Works, as shown in the map below.
A fire station was soon built, and officially opened on 14th October 1893, but the town hall site remained unused, as the the council continued to meet in the new School of Arts building in Station St. Eventually, in 1935 a new fire station was built on the corner of Turton and High streets, on the proposed Town Hall site. The new fire station was officially opened on 16th March 1935.
Timeline of events
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|13 Apr 1871|
8 Apr 1871
|First election of aldermen for Waratah Municipal Council.|
|15 Apr 1871|
13 Apr 1871
|First council meeting and election of Mayor in “Mr. Stephens long room, Hanbury”.|
|20 Apr 1871|
17 Apr 1871
|“The whole of the aldermen composing the Waratah Municipal Council met on Monday evening in Mr. Stephens' large room, but, in consequence of some clause in the Act, no business could be transacted of an official character”.|
|25 Apr 1871|
21 Apr 1871
|First ordinary council meeting, in “Mr. Dawson’s Assembly Rooms”.|
|4 May 1871|
2 May 1871
|Second ordinary council meeting, in “Mr. Dawson’s Assembly Rooms”.|
|18 May 1871|
16 May 1871
|Third ordinary meeting of Waratah Council held "in their newly appointed chambers, (late Wade's Hotel.)"|
|16 Mar 1872|
11 Mar 1872
|Waratah council debating the need for new council chambers.|
|31 Aug 1872|
26 Aug 1872
|Plan and specifications for new council chambers adopted by council, and ready to be put out for tender.|
|28 Sep 1872|
23 Sep 1872
|Tenders received for construction of Waratah council chambers, and preferred tender decided on.|
|15 Feb 1873|
13 Feb 1873
|Motion in Waratah Council "That the inscription to be placed on a tablet to be built into the wall, over the entrance to the new Council Chambers, should be as follows : — 'Waratah Council Chambers, erected A.D., 1873.— Robert Turton, Mayor.'"|
|13 Mar 1873|
10 Mar 1873
|Contractors G. Gane and A. Burgh ask for an extension of time to complete the council chambers – five weeks is granted.|
|27 Mar 1873|
18 Mar 1873
|Gazetting of one acre of land at Hanbury, for Waratah council chambers.|
|24 Apr 1873|
21 Apr 1873
|"In reference to the completion of the Council Chambers ... that the contractor be informed that if the Council Chambers be not finished and fit for use on the 1st of May, he will be required to pay the rent of the present room."|
|21 Jun 1873|
16 Jun 1873
|First meeting in new chambers in Georgetown Rd.|
|3 Aug 1878||Northumberland Building Society to build a hall in Turton St. Society’s office is currently in Council Chambers building, Georgetown Rd.|
|11 Jan 1879|
9 Jan 1879
|A banquet held in celebration of the opening of the new offices and hall of the Northumberland Permanent Building Society.|
|10 Jul 1879|
9 Jul 1879
|Passing of the "Waratah Council Chambers Resumption Bill", so that the council chambers could become the courthouse.|
|8 Nov 1880|
5 Nov 1880
|A deputation to the Minister for Justice in connection with the council chambers being purchased for a courthouse.|
|6 Nov 1888|
5 Nov 1880
|"Waratah Municipal Council had received notice to quit the room used by the Council Clerk in the Courthouse." "Sir George Innes said he would do justice to the Council who would not be disturbed within a reasonable time, until other chambers could be found."|
|26 May 1882|
22 May 1882
|Waratah Council still meeting in the courthouse building. A committee formed to find new location.|
|9 Jun 1882|
5 Jun 1882
|The council has vacated the Courthouse, and meets at their new chambers, Stephens' Rooms, High-street.|
|21 Jul 1882||"The School of Arts will, in future, be conducted in Stephen's rooms, High-street." This is at the same time that Council commences using this building also.|
|7 Feb 1885||Waratah Council Chambers noted as being in High Street.|
|17 Mar 1887||Waratah Council Chambers noted as being in High Street.|
|1 Nov 1888||Waratah Council Chambers noted as being in High Street.|
|17 Dec 1888|
15 Dec 1888
|Ceremonial laying of foundation stone of the new School of Arts building in Station St. (Construction already well underway.)|
|9 Jan 1889||A letter from the Waratah School of Arts Committee, intimating that they cannot guarantee Council's occupation of the present room rented by them, as Council chambers, and suggesting that a large room in the new building be used for that purpose.|
|26 Jan 1889|
24 Jan 1889
|Opening of new Waratah School of Arts building in Station St.|
|6 Mar 1889|
4 Mar 1889
|Waratah Council meeting for the first time in the new council chambers in connection with the School of Arts building.|
|31 Jul 1891||Secretary for Lands approves dedication of land portions 2411, 2412, 2413 on Turton Rd as a site for a town hall, and portion 2410 for a fire brigade station.|
|16 Oct 1893|
14 Oct 1893
|Opening of fire station on High St, adjacent to site of proposed Waratah Town Hall.|
|13 Oct 1897|
11 Oct 1897
|Proposal for Waratah Council to acquire Northumberland Hall in Turton St and convert into Council Chambers.|
|3 Dec 1897||"The business of the Waratah Council has hitherto been conducted in a portion of the local school of arts, but it has now been decided that the municipality shall have a Town Hall."|
|8 Feb 1898||Waratah Council takes possession of new town hall – ground floor is offices, upstairs is a large hall.|
|9 Feb 1898|
8 Feb 1898
|First council meeting in the new Waratah Town Hall in Turton St.|
|22 Feb 1926|
20 Feb 1926
|"The foundation stone of the building in Hanbury-street, Mayfield; which is to be the new town hall for the Municipality of Waratah, was laid on Saturday afternoon."|
|28 Jun 1926|
26 Feb 1926
|Official opening of the new Waratah Council Town Hall, in Hanbury St, Mayfield.|
|18 Mar 1935|
16 Mar 1935
|Official opening of new fire station on corner of High St and Turton Rd, the site originally dedicated for the Waratah Town Hall.|
Questions yet to be answered
- Where in Turton St was Wade’s Inn? When was it demolished?
- When was the Town Hall in Turton St demolished?
- When was the Waratah town hall in Hanbury St demolished?