Creswick Shire Hall, Kingston

Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston

 The Creswick Shire Hall, Kingston: The story in brief

Creswick was first incorporated as a Roads District in 11 January 1859, and became a Shire on 31 Dec 1863. The Creswick District Roads Board built the original double brick hall in Kingston, then set back off street frontage, some time between 1860 and 1863, after which it became part of the Creswick Shire and the more convenient and larger centre for its administrative base. New rooms and the current (2018) street façade were added to the 1860s Hall in 1911 to create the current Creswick Shire Hall 1911. After the Borough of Creswick (incorporated on 19 Nov 1858) was united with the Creswick Shire (on 29 May 1934), the local government administrative centre reverted back to Creswick. Some Council business and meetings were held at the Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston until the after the end of the Second World War, when the Municipal Offices were finally moved to the Creswick Town Hall.

The largely vacant Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston was then briefly offered for use to post-war industry, and then for local community purposes. From the late 1950s into the 1970s it became the venue for the Kingston District Youth Club, during which time many of the internal brick walls were removed. In the late 1970s the Creswick Shire sold the hall in a public tender process to Barry Golding in 1979, to be renovated internally and modified as a private home. On 20 January 1995 the Shire of Creswick was abolished.

 Creswick District Roads Board Hall (constructed between 1859 and 1863)

The actual date of construction of the original Hall during the 1860s has not been firmly established. What is known is that the decision to build the hall was discussed at a Creswick District Roads Board meeting in 1859. This meeting was held at the then recently constructed Kingston Hotel, next door and south of the current Hall. At that time around 25,000 miners were estimated to be in the area.

On 8 June 1863 the Creswick District Roads Board met to select ‘the requisite furniture for the Board room’

The 1863 Minute Book (Sept 1863 to Dec 1865, VPRS 003795/P /0000) records at the 23 Sept 1863 Creswick Road District meeting, that a public meeting had previously been held in Kingston on 17 Sept 1863 to elicit public opinion on dividing the District into Wards or Ridings. On 24 Dec1863 the Shire minutes record that ‘proclamation of the Shire was on the eve of issuing.’ The Proclamation of the Creswick Shire was read on 7 Jan 1864.

The Shire Hall in Kingston is mentioned a few years later as the venue for the refreshments following the first service (held in 1864) in the bluestone Holy Trinity Church of England in Kingston following its completion. Previous to that date, the Anglican Church services were held in the wooden Kingston Mechanics Institute, itself destroyed by fire in August 1982.

The first election of the Creswick Shire Council was held in the former Creswick District Roads Board Hall in 1864, Kingston then being central to the then mainly rural Shire.

Addition of a new Hall on the front of the former hall in 1911

The Shire continued to use the original Hall as its base from 1864 until 1910, when it was agreed to add two new rooms to the front of the 1860s Hall, for a cost not exceeding 500 pounds, to be paid in instalments over five years.

On 4 August 1910  a Notice of Motion was put at the Shire Council Meeting  that two new rooms be built in front of the Hall and the present building renovated.

On 5 Sept 1910  (Minutes Book p. 472) it was agreed after debate, to investigate purchasing a strip of land from the estate of the late Mm (William) Kenna and allow larger rooms to be built, and also to consult with an architect about the design.

On 6 Oct 1910 (Minute Book, p.476) decision was taken to to get out plans and specifications for Shire Hall improvements, with alternatives either stone or brick foundations.

On 1 Dec 1910 Tenders for the Shire Hall renovations were received and the 689 Pound tender from H. Armour tender was accepted for the whole works, with Council repayments budgeted  over seven years. There was some debate in Council as to whether this would be practicable or whether it would be better to sell the original building and procure a bigger site.

The decision to add the new hall onto street frontage was made possible by procuring the narrow strip of land from Mr William Kenna on a separate, new title to the south of the existing easement. Given that the sides of allotment that the Hall is on are not at 90 degrees to the street frontage, building right to street frontage means that many of the angles on the stonework and decoration on the front to the 1911 building (evident in the irregular shape of the front alcove) are several degrees away from square.

The two new rooms were constructed with external cavity brick walls and each had a chimney and fireplace with pressed metal ceilings. The walls were rendered with hard plaster. Given that the new hall had higher subfloor clearance and better side ventilation it was in relatively good condition when sold by the Shire in 1980 compared to the older 1860s’ hall.

A Certificate of Title separate from the one the Hall itself is on dated 13 April 1911 confirms a narrow easement was created in 1911 on a separate title the full length of the block on the south (driveway side) of the Shire Hall 25 units wide and 499 units long, noting ‘a special railway condition contained in grant to John Haylock’.

John Haylock is recorded in 1854 as one of the approximately dozen early land owners around Kingston and presumably held the original title before Kingston township was subdivided. John and Anne Haylock were a farming family from Thurlow (near Haverhill) Suffolk, England landed in Australia on 24th August 1852. Their family of seven made their way onto the goldfields of Victoria and made their home on a 96 acre allotment which they purchased adjoining the village of Kingston .

On 6 April 1911 Venetian Blinds were  ordered for the ‘New Rooms’.

On 1 June 1911, (Minute Book, p.569) there were discussions about  Coronation Celebrations. The President suggested the planting of two trees in front of the Shire Hall on Coronation Day, one to commemorate the Coronation of His Majesty King George V and the other the reign of King Edward VII along with a suitable guard to protect them.

A new council table and chairs were procured in 1912 for the main Council ‘Board Room’ and insured along with the ‘stables’ then behind the building.

A photograph taken in approximately 1914 shows the completed 1911 Hall with a hitching post for horses on street frontage. A flag pole is also evident (the base for the flag pole is still in place to the left of the 2018 side entrance. There was a walkway along the northern side of the hall with a ‘Rate Collection’ sign above it. A large Shed is visible behind the Hall on the northern boundary. One of the two oak trees planted in 1912 in front of the hall, then approximately 3 metres in height (details below) was protected by a surrounding picket fence.

The elm trees lining the main street of Kingston north of Victoria Road and the extensive Avenue of Honour (as well as the two oak trees planted outside the Creswick Shire Hall in 1912, see below) predate the Avenue. The Victorian Heritage Council Avenue of Honour Heritage listing (VHR H2343) notes that:

The Avenue of Honour, Kingston is of local significance for its relationship with the local street planting of elms along the main street of Kingston and with the Shire Hall building. This council planting, which appears to predate the Avenue of Honour, extends to the north from Victoria Road and provides a visual continuation of the memorial planting. The small town of Kingston was the administrative centre of the Shire in 1918 when the Shire of Creswick established a committee to provide an avenue of honour to district servicemen. This resulted in the location of the Avenue of Honour at Kingston rather than in the larger town of Creswick.

The two oak trees either side of the bus shelter outside the Shire Hall in 2018 were planted to commemorate the reign of Edward VII (who was King from 1901 until his death in May 2010) and the Coronation of George V in June 1911 (The coronation of George V and Mary as King and Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Empire took place at Westminster Abbey, London, on 22 June 1911).

The largely vacant Creswick Shire Hall, Kingston, 1934 to 1959

After the Borough of Creswick (incorporated on 19 Nov 1858) was amalgamated with the Creswick Shire (on 29 May 1934), the local government administrative centre reverted back to the much larger and more central Town Hall in Creswick. Some Council business and meetings were held at the Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston from 1943 until the late 1940s. The largely vacant Hall was then briefly offered for use by post-war industry. Mr L. Gross of Gross Knitting Mills addressed the Council in 1948 with a proposal that the hall be leased or sold as required for industry or housing purposes. The Council was agreeable in principle, but stipulated that consistent with the prevailing policy of employing post-war males if it was to be used for industry, it should be for male workers only.

Internal modification by Kingston and District Youth Club 1959-1979

The information about the former Shire Creswick Shire Offices, Kingston that follows (from 1959 to 1980) is from documents in the original file now held at the Public Records Office in Ballarat (File VPRS 15564/P/0001).

  • On 13 May 1959 Kingston District Youth Club sought Shire of Creswick permission to pull out internal walls and put in new ceiling hangers in the newer, front part of the hall, with a detailed plan (see Photo of the Plan).
  • On 21 May 1959 Shire Council gave permission to undertake these alterations, but requiring at least 18 inches of existing brickwork to be left in place, forming a buttress to the other brick walls, and using truss-type girders rather than oregon hangers in the original plan. This work was carried out, effectively creating one large open space on street frontage in the 1911 addition and another large room behind it including the original 1860’s Shire Chamber.
  • On 12 July 1960 a letter was sent from Shire of Creswick to C. J. Lay, as Secretary of the Kingston District Youth Club, noting that the Youth Club was responsible for keeping the Hall in good repair while remaining in occupancy, and that the Club is responsible for all charges, such as lighting, sanitary services and repairs. They also noted that a check had been made ‘… of the double doors which were taken from the inside of your hall, but each door is only 2 foot wide. Both have had a glass panel in the top. We also have two single doors each 2 foot six wide’.
  • On 16 March 1961 the Youth Club applied for permission to also remove back walls of older, original building, to create one room, with an attached plan. This work was formally approved on 22 March 1961 but was (fortunately) never actually carried out.
  • In 1964 the previous, shorter-term Kingston and District Youth Club lease was confirmed for a further period of 10 years in a letter to the Club from the Council via Mr A. W. Hives.
  • On 22 Feb 1965 an application was made via Council from the Youth Club to connect water to the Youth Club rooms.
  • On 25 Jan 1968 permission was given to the Youth Club to ‘clean up the old scrap seats’ at the rear of the Kingston Youth Club and to sell the scrap cast iron.
  • In 1970 a letter was sent via Mrs M. E. (Mollie) Charleston of Kingston and District Youth Club seeking permission to paint the front of the building and renew some of the spouting, which was granted.
  • An extension of the previous lease of the Shire Hall for the Kingston Youth Club was granted in a letter via Mrs J. B. Lindsay dated 16 May 1974.
  • On 4 December 1978 youth organisations and community welfare groups in the Creswick Shire were formally invited to submit, in writing, proposals and submissions for the use of Kingston Shire Hall, Main Road Kingston. The council made it clear that it was prepared to consider making the hall available by sale or lease on attractive, negotiated terms.
  • On 8 Feb 1978 Graham Carrery wrote to the Council wanting to purchase the building for a restaurant or a private dwelling.
  • On 4 Dec 1978 local youth organisations and community welfare groups were invited to submit, in writing, proposals and submissions for the use of Kingston Shire Hall, Main Rd Kingston. The council stressed it was ‘… prepared to consider making the hall available by sale or lease on attractive, negotiated terms’.
  • Gary J. Bunn wrote to the Creswick Council on 14 December 1978 with a long letter explaining that he wanted to purchase the hall as a venue for those people of the district interested in cinema and the creative arts, as well as to secure it from further neglect as a concerned neighbour.
  • Again on 3 April 1979 Gary Bunn wrote to the Council reiterating his intent in his previous letter requesting to buy the Hall.
  • On 4 May 1979 Creswick Council sought Local Government formal approval to offer the Shire Offices for sale, noting that ‘the Kingston Shire offices are very old and in very poor condition and would require a considerable expenditure to be incurred to reinstate it’. This consent for sale was formally granted on 26 June 1979 by the Secretary for Local Government.
  • Tenders were called for sale of the Hall on 27 Aug 1979, closing on 3 Oct 1979, requiring details of proposed usage to be provided with the tender. Five per cent of the tender price was required for inclusion as part of the tendering process.
  • Barry Golding tendered $6,610 for renovation as a private residence.
  • Gary Bunn placed a $2,000 tender for the hall to be used as a venue for those people of the district interested in cinema and the creative arts.
  • The higher tended was accepted and the formal transfer of title to the former Hall was expedited to Barry Golding by March 1980. 

Conversion to a private home from 1980

At the time of purchase in 1980 the two interconnected halls, though the brickwork was structurally sound, were in very poor condition internally, due to a combination of old age, poor maintenance, Youth Club modifications, leaking roofs and spouting and vandalism.

  • The original 1911 pressed metal ceilings in the front rooms, already damaged by the brick wall removals, were beginning to rust out and collapse because the valley gutter along the front roof was leaking.
  • The only water to the property was by a badly rusted galvanized pipe to an enameled cast iron sink then fitted into a kauri pine draining board in the now (2018) laundry.
  • The original 1860’s flooring, with 1 1/8 inch thick pine floorboards were very badly rotted towards the back on the main 1860s hall and particularly the back two rooms. This was caused by lack of external cutoff drains, leaky spouting, minimal sub floor clearance, inadequate sub-floor ventilation, a partly breached roof, smashed windows and accumulation of washed in debris. There was a tree growing out of the floor (and out the window) of the main former council chamber room.
  • The hard plaster lining the inside of all 1860 brick walls (including several layers of rotting wallpaper) above the 1.5 metre dado was badly peeling and cracked for many of the same reasons as above as well as rising damp.
  • Several of the original features including the huge 1860s fireplace in the main hall and the tiled 1911 entrance had been covered over by the 1960’s renovations. Stud walls covered by masonite had been put over the badly peeling original walls in the main 1860s hall.
  • Youth Club modifications still in place in 1980 in the 1860s hall included a platform supporting a boxing punching bag, fittings in the floor and ceiling for Roman Rings and other gymnastic equipment as well as a badminton net.
  • Break in and vandalism by local young people and ‘bikies’ was extensive. Most internal doors and external windows were smashed, rotting or missing. Billiard balls had been thrown around the walls in the 1911 front hall badly denting the still intact hard plaster.
  • Fire surrounds and hearths, where they still existed, were very badly damaged.
  • The lath and plaster ceiling in the south 1860’s back room and the back floors in both back rooms were not repairable. The only original unpainted, 1860s Baltic pine ceilings that could be retained are still in place in the back study and hallway of the current (2018) residence.
  • The back yard was full of rubbish and overgrown with blackberries, elm suckers and weeds.

On a positive side, the building was still structurally sound; minimal work was required externally; power and water services were still connected; the roof was essentially intact; the five brick chimneys (including one double chimney) were intact; the missing roofing iron was easily replaced; the original telephone connection was easily reinstated; wire screens put in by the Youth Club sill protected most of the window openings (even where the glass had been smashed) and external doors made it possible to ‘lock up’ the building.

Council requirements for the 1980s renovation

Plans for renovation were drawn up by Madin Lyons Associates (architects) in Ballarat and submitted to the then Shire of Creswick in 1980. The schedule of work was to:

  1. Repair downpipes, install spoon drains.
  2. Check subfloor clearances and ventilation
  3. Repair / replace windows and doors
  4. Remove internal linings, repair solid plaster
  5. Rewire as necessary
  6. Install septic tank, plumbing fixtures, supply and waste pipes
  7. Construct stud wall partitions (as shown on architects plan: essentially to replace brick walls that had been removed in the 1960’s)
  8. Make good ceiling to Bedroom 1, Workroom
  9. Rebuild fireplaces to CSIRO recommended specifications
  10. Insulate ceiling, space, 75mm fibreglass recommended.

The Council, having owned the building for over 100 years, gave approval in 15 Feb 1980 with a set of caveats that:

  • A complete and effective system of stormwater collection and disposal is provided to the building
  • The walls and floors of the bathroom are lined with impervious material
  • Flywire screens are fitted to the bathroom and kitchen windows.
  • Doorways of minimum width (bathroom 700mm, Laundry 740mm, all other doorways 800.

The material cost of the renovations (to 19 September 981) based on original receipts) was $13,565, mainly comprising: plumbing $3,135; timber and hardware $3731; doors and windows $1700; insulation $520; plastering $340; floor sanding $740; electrical fittings (not including T. J Coutts’ main wiring work) $1,050; Curtains $440. Labour costs (mainly Ross Mongdon’s carpentry) were only $880 as most of the work was undertaken by Barry Golding as owner builder. The plumbing oversight was by Allen Thompson.

1986-7 Addition of an upstairs bedroom

On return from Darwin in early 1985 and a third child born in May 1986, Barry Golding and Janet Bracks decided to create a fourth, upstairs bedroom.

The Shire of Creswick rate notice for 30 Sept 1986 indicated a Site Value (SV) of only $2,900 and a Capital Improved Value (CIV) of $7,000 (in 1981 the then Council rates were only $85 per year, and the Water Rates were only $55 per year. By July 2018 the SV had risen to $74,000 and the CIV to $376,000, with an Annual Rate of $1378 and total rate, including Fire Services Levies, Recycling and Waste Collection charges of $1,828 per year).

In June 1986 Maddin Lyons, Ballarat architects, drew up plans to create a new upstairs bedroom above the laundry and part of the southern front bedroom. This involved changing the roofline, adding a staircase, building in cupboards and providing a small door to provide simpler access to the roof space. These plans were approved by the Creswick Council on 11 August 1986.

Most of the structural and carpentry work including the solid, single run staircase was undertaken by Paddy Caulfield, with the finishing including plastering done by Barry Golding.

The only contested modification post these renovation (identified by the Shire Building inspector in 1987 during an on site inspection as part of the process of gaining a Certificate of Occupancy in 1987) was a Regulation requiring the floorboards in the bathroom to be covered by an impervious material. An application to waive this requirement was formally granted by the Building Referees Board. A formal ‘Certificate of Occupancy’ was granted on 17 August 1987.

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