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Hall with a proud history

Former member of the now disbanded Kyabram Town Hall Management Group Catherine Bleasdale has written a brief two-part history of the building.

January 16, 2013 4:19am

The official opening of Kyabram Mechanics Hall in 1891


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With a consultant having been appointed to assess future uses for Kyabram Town Hall there is revived interest in one of the town’s most iconic landmarks.

Former member of the now disbanded Kyabram Town Hall Management Group Catherine Bleasdale has written a brief two-part history of the building. Part one, published here, covers the first 64 years, from 1890 to 1954, and part two is to follow in next week’s Free Press.

Kyabram Old Town Hall has more than 100 years connection with the people of Kyabram, starting life as a mechanics institute.

In 1890 Kyabram citizens, having decided that Henley Hall was too small for their purposes, formed a small public company to raise money to build a larger hall within the township of Kyabram.

The shares from the company were donated to the Mechanic Institute Committee for the building, which, with other money raised, ensured the institute was built entirely without recourse to government money. The hall was opened in 1891.

‘‘THE KYABRAM MECHANICS INSTITUTE — A SPLENDID BUILDING’’ was the headline of the Tatura Herald on July 24, 1891. In 1908, there were further additions made to the front of the hall, which included a clock tower but, due to a lack of funds, the clock was not installed until 1949 when Mrs James Finlay donated the clock in memory of her husband.

Kyabram became a borough in 1954 and the institute building was renamed the Kyabram Town Hall, continuing in use until the Campaspe Shire Council closed most of the building to the public in 1983.

The hall has had many occupants starting with the trustees, the Progress Association and a local magistrates’ room until 1912, also a small library and billiard room. At one stage the entire building became the local council offices.

An important part of the town hall’s history is the association with the Kyabram Reform Movement of 1902 to 1904. This movement was the work of citizens who were interested in politics, particularly the overspending by Victoria’s parliament after the move of the Federal Government to Canberra from Melbourne. On May 16, 1902 a monster public meeting was held in the Mechanics Hall. Among those attending was a Mr Palmer from Euroa, who had ridden 36 miles on a bicycle to be there. The movement had spread all over Victoria, with articles in local and state newspapers. Punch published many cartoons.

Many names of gentlemen involved in the movement are remembered today by street names in Kyabram including Wilson, Lancaster, Goddard, Bishop and Finlay. John Allan also played a minor part. The latter had some interest in the movement but really made his name well known in Victoria when he was elected to parliament in 1917 and became premier in August 1926. He gave his pre-election speech in the Kyabram Town Hall.

Part two of the history of Kyabram Town Hall follows in next week’s Free Press.

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