Strathfield Council Chambers and Town Hall

by Cathy Jones

The Municipal District of Strathfield was incorporated in June 1885, establishing local government (or Council) area.  In August 1886, Strathfield Council acquired land from James. R. Powell (owner of ‘Terry-Hi-Hi’ Homebush Rd and descendent of one of the original Liberty Plains land grantees Edward Powell) at the cost of £600 on the corner of Homebush and Redmyre Roads, in order to build the Council Chambers.

Strathfield Council contacted four architects residing in the local area and requested they submit tenders to design the new Council Chambers and Town Clerk’s residence. The architects included Harry C. Kent, John Sulman, William Gratus Coward and Ferdinand Reuss.

Sulman, of the architectural firm Sulman and Blackmann, was the successful tenderer. Sulman had recently arrived from England and was residing in ‘Glencoe’ Torrington Rd Strathfield, when he submitted the tender.  The builder was John Morrison.  The cost of the Chambers and Town Clerk’s residence was £1635.13.0.

The Council Chambers were completed and opened in 1887.  The Council Chambers were officially opened on 31st October 1877.  The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 1 November 1877 that:

The formal opening of the Strathfield Council Chambers was celebrated last night by a public banquet, at which a large number of residents and visitors set down.  The Mayor, Mr. Von Der Heyde, presided, and among the visitors were the Hon.  James Inglis, Minister for Public Instruction; Mr. Piggott MLC: Mr Toohey, MLA: Drs Sydney Jones and Jackson, Messrs Kirkaldy, D. Veron, Buzacott, H S Bird, R. Betts, Dr G J Sly and Rev. Mr Raynor.

The new building is centrally situated, and he’s built upon plans and in scale in keeping with the rapid progress of the borough; the rooms, offices, &c., being of dimensions which would necessitate no additions or alterations for many years to come.  The toasts of the evening were “The Queen”, “The Governor”, “The Parliament and Ministry” and “Success to Minister in Municipal Institutions”. 

In responding into the toast of the parliament and ministry Mr. Inglis briefly complained of unfair and partial criticism to which the members of the cabinet had been, in his opinion, subjected at the hands of various writers in certain sections of the press.  He felt thoroughly grateful for honest, genuine, sound, impartial criticism, in as much as that was only under bona-fide comment that real progress can be looked for.  The government, he maintained, was solely actuated by a desire to carry into effect the lines of action and pledges which they had submitted to the country so, with the least possible delay, and in as perfect a manner as was consistent with fear and straightforward comment and discussion.  In answer to an interjection, Mr. Inglis remarked that he had always been, and still was, very strongly in favour of the extension of the railway from Redfern Station and to the Circular Quay.  It was his firm belief after no small amount of thought up on the manner that no system of railway transit to the metropolis could be a perfect one until the waters of Port Jackson were tapped. 

Remarks were offered by Mr Piggott, Mr Toohey, The Mayor of strathfield and by others, and an enjoyable gathering was brought to close shortly before 11 o’clock.

The Council Chambers building has undergone many additions including first floor additions in 1921/22 designed by Harry Chambers Kent. Kent was once an Alderman of Strathfield Council [1903-1905] and lived at ‘Kelmswood’ [later ‘Woodstock’] in Redmyre Rd. Kent also designed Mount Royal [1887] and the Catholic Institute of Sydney Building [1891] in Albert Rd.

The Council Chambers building provided rooms for Council meetings, council administration and also operated as Town Hall for community purposes.

The new Strathfield Town Hall and supper room was also designed by Harry Chambers Kent and built by Kell & Rigby in 1923.  The Town Hall opened in October 1923.  The following article on the opening of the Town Hall was featured in the Sydney Morning Herald

“To celebrate the official opening of the recently completed Town Hall at Strathfield a dinner was held in the building last night. The Mayor (Alderman Wallis) presided, and among the guests were Mr. P. E. Coleman, M.P., Mr. J. H. Wise, M.L.C., Sir Thomas Henley, Mr. E. J. Loxton, Mr. R. Greig, aud Mr. G. Cann, Ms.L.A., Alderman G. S. Blair (Mayor of Burwood), Alderman Stewart (Mayor of Homebush), Alderman Wyatt (Mayor of Lid- combe), and Mr. J. Garlick (Under-Secretary for Local Government).

Alderman Kessell, in proposing the toast of the State and Federal Parliaments, said he questioned whether New South Wales was getting fair treatment from the Commonwealth in respect of the Federal capital, Customs administration, and the closing of the mint. Mr. Coleman, acknowledging the toast, said he believed the Federal capital compact should be honoured, and was going to be honoured, as the antagonism of a small Victorian section had been broken down. The closing down of the mint was altogether unjustified. The administration of the Customs Department should be conducted in New South Wales, where the principal seaport was. Mr. B. R. Gelling, supported by Mr. E. A. Laurence, proposed “Success to the Municipality of Strathfield,” the Mayor (Alderman F. J. Wallis) responding.”

 

Further office extensions were undertaken in 1969 and 1984 by the architectural firm of D T Morrow & Gordon, who also designed many other Strathfield Council Municipal buildings including the former Baby Health Centre and High St Branch Library.

The Strathfield War Memorials for the two World Wars are located in the front of the Council Chambers. The World War I war memorial was dedicated on 11th October 1925 by the Governor of NSW, His Excellency the Governor, Admiral Sir Dudley de Clair, KCB, MVO. The memorials for World War I consist of Honour Roll tablets erected on a wall of the Council Chambers and a globe of the world erected on a granite pillar. Countries forming the British Empire were originally signified on the globe in gold lettering, which has now faded.

The World War II memorial was dedicated on 26 September 1953 by the Governor of NSW, His Excellency the Governor, Sir John Northcott. The memorials for World War II consist of a trachyte seat and a bronze plaque containing the names of all those residents of the Strathfield Municipality who died in the Second World War.

Council Administration Building

The Council Administration Building facing Homebush Road is a former house called. ‘Ravenswood’, which was acquired by Strathfield Council in 1961. ‘Ravenswood’ was built in 1902 for Edgar Boston, Director of E. Way & Co, a prominent city department store.  E. Way & Co was located in Pitt St Mall, next to Myers (the façade is still visible). Edgar Boston died in 1906 and the property was transferred to his wife, Susan.   The plan of the house design is dated 28 July 1902 and signed by G H Dale, contractor. George H Dale was master builder from Meryla Street Burwood.  Dale also served as an Aldeman on Burwood Council.

Mrs Boston continued to reside at ‘Ravenswood’ until her death in 1948. ‘Ravenswood’ was then purchased by Ernest and Elsie Melheuish, leathergoods manufacturers, who owned the property until 1961. Council records note that this property was used as a boarding house.

In 1961, Strathfield Council sold the former Town Clerk’s residence ‘Halloween’ [69 Redmyre Road] and acquired ‘Ravenswood’ to accommodate the administrative offices of the Council. Though the expansive front gardens have been well maintained, the rear and side gardens have been reduced with further extensions to the Council Chambers and building of a new office block in the late 1990’s at the rear of ‘Ravenswood’. Though the grounds surrounding ‘Ravenswood’ have been reduced, the building has been well maintained and most internal original features of the house are in-tact.

Ravenswood was converted to accommodate the Engineering Office, Parks Supervisor’s Office and Mayor’s Room. The back of the building was used as a residence for the Council caretaker, a position that has since been abolished. Despite the Council using ‘Ravenswood’ for over forty years as office accommodation, most of the original features of the home have been retained including fireplaces, pressed metal ceilings, leadlight doors and internal archways. ‘Ravenswood’ also provides accommodation for the offices of the Mayor and General Manager of Strathfield Council.

The former Town Clerk’s residence at 69 Redmyre Rd has been reacquired by Strathfield Council.  As at early 2017, the building is being renovated.

Heritage Status

The Strathfield Council Chambers, Town Hall and ‘Ravenswood’ are heritage listed items on the Strathfield Council Local Environmental Plan. The Council premises are also located within the Redmyre Road Heritage Conservation Area.

References

Fox and Associates, Strathfield Heritage Study, 1986, Strathfield Council.

George H Dale (obituary), Sydney Morning Herald, 29 October 1931, p13.

Jones, C, ‘Strathfield War Memorial’, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter, December 2005.

Kell, A., ‘A brief history of Kell & Rigby [Builders] Pty Ltd’, Strathfield District Historical Society vol. 15 no. 11, Nov-Dec 1992

Malcolm, C.S., Strathfield Council Chambers, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 3 October 1979.

Sands Sydney and Suburban Directory

Strathfield War Memorial [World War I] – Opening ceremony booklet dated October 11th 1925, Strathfield Council.

Survey of Sculpture, Monuments and Outdoor Cultural Material, Strathfield Council, 1999.

Strathfield Council meeting minutes April 19 1887

Strathfield Council valuation books.

“Strathfield Town Hall”,  Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Oct 1923, page 14.

Sydney Morning Herald 1 November 1877

© Cathy Jones 2005, updated 2017.  This article is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without permission of the author.

2 comments on “Strathfield Council Chambers and Town Hall

  1. maria keith

    Hello my name is Maria Keith i live at 63 Cardigan street Guildford n.s.w. I would like some information if you could help me i have an oil painting of Thomas Fitzgerald my great grandfather and a hand painted certificate thanking miss m fitzgerald for being a assistant town clerk while mr balmain was ill and after died i am wondering if you could give any information

    Like

    • Maria

      John Hope Balmain was the Town Clerk of Strathfield Council until 1907, when he died. The Inspector of Works and Overseer of Works at this time was James Fitzgerald, who worked at Strathfield Council from 1888 – 1918. Fitzgerald Park at Homebush is named after him. I am unaware of a Miss Fitzgerald occupying position of Deputy Town Clerk. It was not uncommon for relatives to be employed in these positions but very rare in those days for a woman to occupy this position. I’ll see if I can find any further information.

      Cathy

      Like

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