Pambula Town Hall

Pambula School of Arts Declaration of Trust

The Story

Title of Object:

Pambula School of Arts Declaration of Trust.

Brief Description of Object:

Handwritten legal document.

Location of Object:

Bega Valley Genealogy Society Inc., Old Pambula Courthouse & Police Station, Corner Monaro and Toalla Streets, Pambula, NSW, 2549.

Accessibility of Object:

This object belongs to the Bega Valley Genealogy Society Inc. Their research centre is open on Tuesday and Saturday, 1 pm – 4 pm; and Thursday 9.30 am – 12.30 pm; free entry to members; $5.00 for non-members.

In line with standard best practice long term preservation procedures, this document is not on public display. Please contact the Society regarding access procedures for their historic document collections.

History and Provenance of Object:

Declaration of Trust dated 31 October 1904 between Messrs. C. A. Baddeley, J. H. Martin and W. D. Pfeiffer on behalf of the Pambula School of Arts committee, on the one part, and William James Tweedie, on the other, for the purchase of land in Quondola Street. Bought to enable construction of a new, larger building. This is the site that the current Pambula Town Hall (formerly known as the School of Arts) stands on.

The Pambula School of Arts committee was established at a public meeting in July 1882, with the inaugural committee consisting of John Martin Snr (President); Messrs. O. Wrightson and J. Behl (Vice Presidents); A. Earl (Treasurer); E. J. Cornell (Secretary); and Messrs. G. Davis, J. H. Martin, P. Doherty, W. Gahan, A. Neilson, M. Woollard and J. Doherty. At that meeting £43 in donations were promised while land adjoining the building now known as Toad Hall was given to the cause by local resident John Behl.

Funds totaling £287/7/-were raised through public subscriptions and tenders for construction of a building. Tenders were called in 1883. In June that of year, Nicholas Bouquet’s tender was accepted. Measuring 63 feet (about 19 metres) in length by 24 feet (almost 7½ metres) in width, the structure included a hall, stage and two rear rooms with a passage. A November report noted that “The School of Arts approaches completion…” while the December opening ceremony was described as a “…great success…”

As the community’s only public hall, the building was the centre of Pambula’s social life - the home of balls, plays, concerts, recitals and dances, in fact virtually all public entertainment held in the township. For many years, the School of Arts committee also maintained the town’s only public library, which just twelve months after establishment, consisted of 126 volumes. By 1904 it had grown to encompass 1,153 books, in addition to regular subscriptions to various newspapers, magazines and periodicals. Lectures, magic lantern shows and other educational activities were also held at the institution.

By 1901, the rapidly swelling needs of the community led to the conclusion that a larger building was necessary. However, the size of the original site ruled out any expansion, so a sub-committee was appointed to investigate possible options. In 1904, a meeting unanimously agreed to purchase a block about 100 yards to the north of the original site from Mr. W. J. Tweedie for the sum of £66. Situated on the opposite side of Quondola Street, it is this parcel that the Declaration of Trust relates to.

Mr. Martin suggested moving immediately towards the erection of a new building and the Pambula Voice declared that “If any member of the Pambula School of Arts can offer a suggestion or submit a rough plan suitable for the proposed new building, no doubt it will receive consideration by the committee.” In November, plans and specifications were tabled at a meeting and it was resolved that tenders for construction be called. By July 1905, plans for the new building were in the hands of the government, and the trustees had given consent to sell the old site and building.

However, although the Department of Public Instruction approved the building plans, they refused to sanction the sale of the old site or taking out a loan for the new building. By 1908, although they were advised that the Department was looking into the situation, members were still waiting an outcome. Little had changed by 1911 when local media complained of the dreadful state of the Pambula School of Arts hall.

The new building was back on the agenda by 1913, and a building fund had been established. Membership stood at 92 by May 1914 and in June that year, further plans and specifications were forwarded to the government. Approval was finally received in August, along with news that the Department of Public Instruction would subside the project on a pound for pound basis.

Unfortunately, however, World War I broke out in August that same year, putting paid to fundraising activities locally for all but patriotic purposes. The School of Arts committee also agreed to allow use of the hall for such events at half the normal rate, but with the ongoing hostilities in Europe, the government withdrew all subsidies for new facilities. The original building continued to be source of discontent, with the Voice again commenting in 1916 "The School of Arts present building is a standing disgrace to the community and funds to assist the new building project are urgently needed."

By 1921, it was evident that a new approach was needed so it was decided that, instead of a new building, they would remove the old structure to the new site, utilising the extra space to extend the hall. Local builder Job Koerber was employed to draw up plans and specifications which included enlargements encompassing a stage and supper room as well as raising the height of the walls by two feet. In April that year, the plans were accepted by the committee and in May approval was received from the authorities controlling public halls. In August, tenders for removal of the hall were finally called, and the contract was awarded to Job Koerber. The project was finally completed in 1922 at a cost of around £900. Held on August 31 that year, a report of the official opening commented that “...the new hall was overflowing filled with dancers, of whom over 100 couples were present.”

Movie screenings commenced on a regular basis in about 1920. In about 1929 a new picture screening box was installed in the brick addition at the front of the building. Following on from the disastrous fire in Quondola Street that destroyed a number of buildings, the town’s Red Cross World War I Roll of Honour, rescued from the porch of the post office, was relocated to the School of Arts. In 1944, the then premier of New South Wales William McKell, born in Pambula decades earlier and later to become the Governor General, opened the Digger’s Ball at the School of Arts.

The building continues to be an important social and cultural element of the local community through to the present day.


Originally established to provide educational facilities for working-class adults, it was from the Schools of Arts movement that public libraries, neighbourhood centres and formal systems of adult and technical instruction developed.

The 18th century intellectual and philosophical movement known as the Age of Enlightenment gave rise to the ideas and ideals that culminated in the formation of Schools of Arts, Mechanics Institutes and similar organisations.

The movement had its roots in Scotland when physician, academic, philanthropist and professor of natural philosophy Dr. George Birkbeck began running a series of evening lectures at the Andersonian Institute in Glasgow in 1800. Proving incredibly popular, 75 attended the first presentation, exploding to 500 over the following weeks. Following his example, upper-middle class Presbyterian businessman and geologist Leonard Horner founded the world’s first School of Arts in Edinburgh in 1821.

Also known as Mechanics, Literary, Railway or Workingmen’s Institutes, their aim was the intellectual improvement of members through the transmission and exchange of knowledge and the cultivation of literature, science and art. Underpinning the concept was the belief that industry and society would benefit from an educated artisan class, in turn giving rise to a new breed of inventors and innovators. Public lectures became increasingly popular as a vehicle for the circulation of knowledge and political reform.

During the 19th century the notion spread rapidly throughout the English-speaking world and within a decade, schools of arts and their counterparts had been established in London, Manchester, Montreal, New York, Boston and Philadelphia. By 1850 there were over 700 such organisations in Britain alone.

The Australian colonies were very quick to adopt the movement. As early as 1827, just six years after the first in Edinburgh, the Hobart Mechanics’ Institute was founded, with Sydney following in 1833. Over the course of about a century, around 750 Schools of Arts or Mechanics Institutes were established in NSW alone and as Phillip Candy noted, the movement in Australia proved more widespread and influential at a population level than in any other part of the British Empire.

Established by volunteers as independent community organisations, they thrived as the hub of local community life. Richard Waterhouse, in his history of popular Australian culture, placed the organisations with their debating clubs, public lectures and lending libraries “…at the heart of the movement for rational recreation…” and the 19th century emergence of “respectable culture”

However, eventually their focus began to change and while some were absorbed by educational facilities, others became more social in focus.

By the middle of the 20th century, local governments across New South Wales began taking over the book collections of the organisations and establishing public libraries. In many cases, premises were also appropriated by councils. In some instances they were retained as community facilities, but more often they were sold and in many cases demolished to make way for new development.

Fabric, design, manufacture and condition:

Document on heavy parchment (or vellum?) and inscribed by hand in black ink with various points underlined with red ink.


Used by:

Committee of the Pambula School of Arts.



Production date:


The particular significance of this Object:

[Currently under development]


Main theme:




Social institutions


Sociality in Bega Valley Shire

Other themes:







Ethnic influences



Creative endeavour




Settler heritage in Bega Valley Shire

Educating and learning institutions within Bega Valley Shire

Caring for the needs of others in Bega Valley Shire

Creative endeavour in Bega Valley Shire

Having fun in Bega Valley Shire

Sports in Bega Valley Shire

Thematic storylines:

  • Developing the settlements, villages and towns
  • Education
  • Social institutions
  • Community organisations
  • Entertainment and social life
  • Sports and recreation
  • Arts, culture and creative endeavours

Geographically associated places / sites:

Associated / linked places / sites / items / people:

Heritage listings (statutory and non-statutory):

Further information:

Contributors to this ‘library’:

Angela George and Pat Raymond, March 2019.

Acknowledgements, Rights and Permissions:

Acknowledgement of Bega Valley Genealogy Society Inc., Angela George and Pat Raymond.

© Angela George and Pat Raymond. All rights reserved.

References and bibliography:

  • Baddeley, Ben and Alma, pers. comm.
  • Bega Standard
  • Brown, Stella, pers. comm.
  • Candelo and Eden Union
  • Candy, Philip The light of heaven itself': The contribution of the institutes to Australia's cultural history in Candy, Philip and Laurent, John (eds), Pioneering Culture: Mechanics'
  • Institutes and Schools of Arts in Australia, Auslib Press, Adelaide 1994
  • Dowling, Terry, pers. comm.
  • Dunn’s Almanac
  • Eden Magnet
  • George, A. C. “Bubby”, comp. History of Pambula – old records early days, unpublished notebook.
  • George, Allan, pers. comm.
  • George, Angela, Pambula District’s Built Heritage – A History, unpublished study, 2006
  • Kennedy, Arthur, pers. comm.
  • Magnet-Voice
  • Martin Family of Woodlands, Pambula, records, private ownership
  • Moore’s Almanac
  • Pambula Voice
  • Sand’s Sydney & NSW Directory
  • Waterhouse, Richard Private pleasures, public leisure: A history of Australian popular culture since 1788, Longman Australia, Melbourne 1995
  • Went, Bill, pers. comm.
  • Whelan, Betty, pers. comm.

© Angela George and Pat Raymond. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of the Bega Valley Genealogy Society Inc. All rights reserved.

This Bega Shire Hidden Heritage project has been made possible by the NSW Government through its Heritage Near Me program.

Any further information relating to object or to associated topics will be GREATLY welcomed and will be added to the above library of information. Please email your contribution to


13 Quondola Street, Pambula NSW 2549