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History of the Shire Hall

Laying of the foundation stone Tweed Shire Hall, 8 July 1915. TH165-31

The Tweed Shire Council building, also known as the Shire Hall, was the first local government building erected in the district. Constructed in 1915 by local building contractor A. Modini, and designed by architect W.A Edds, the building was to become the working centre of the Tweed Shire Council. At a cost of £1,418, the ornate brick building included the Council Chamber, President's room, Shire Clerk's office and strong room, Engineers room, Inspectors room, and lavatory. The rear of the building boasted a store room for tools and stable for draught horses.

The Tweed Shire Council formed in 1906 to serve the local rural communities. They held their first elections on Saturday 24 November 1906 at which time F.P. Chambers was elected as the Shire’s first President. This was four years after the Murwillumbah Municipal Council formed in 1902 to serve the urban township.

In 1947 the Murwillumbah Municipal Council and the Shire of Tweed merged to form the Tweed Shire Council. With this amalgamation came a relocation of staff to offices in the Municipal building on the corner of Queensland Road and Main Street.

Since this time the building has fulfilled a number of different functions including conversion into two residential flats, and as headquarters for the local SES in times of emergency. However its next major phase came in 1984 when the Tweed River Historical Society (now the Murwillumbah Historical Society) were granted approval to move into the premises. They undertook renovations to the building, and opened it to the public in 1988 as a Museum and Research Centre.

In 2004 upon signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Tweed Shire Council and three local historical societies, the building became one of the three branches of the Tweed Regional Museum.

The building was closed to the public from 2011-2014 while the collection was moved into a custom built offsite storage facility and the building underwent further refurbishments. The bulk of the building works took place in 2013-2014 and included an additional wing designed by architect Paul Berkemeier.

The building re-opened to the public as the Tweed Regional Museum Murwillumbah on 30 August 2014.

Tweed Shire Council

The first Tweed Shire Councillors were elected in November 1906. They held their first meeting in December 1906 and the group consisted of six councillors including, Arthur A Loder, Elijah C J Marks, David C Marshall, Patrick McMahon, Timothy O'Keeffe and Frank B Chambers, the Shire's first President. They were an active group of civic minded individuals, their common background being the land, all starting out as farmers in dairy, cane, or timber.

When the Shire Hall was built in 1915 the councillors in office included two of the original, Councillors Marks and McMahon, and four new councillors including the new Shire President Walter L Brasnett. They were still largely farmers, the one exception being Councillor Murphy, a publican and shopkeeper from Burringbar.

Matters that councillors would find themselves debating and deciding on could be wide ranging - it wasn't only roads and bridges. It ranged from health issues such as the erection of an emergency hospital at Uki to deal with the outbreak of influenza; to the purchasing of draught horses; to the employment of returned servicemen and the issuing of invitations to visiting dignitaries.

For some forty years, the Shire Council and the Municipal Council (established in 1902 and servicing the needs of the urban community) operated side by side. However, rumblings from the ratepayers on the cost of two bodies led to the idea of a merging of the two councils. A representative for the Minister of Local Government was sent to investigate with the outcome that an amalgamation would take place and take effect from 1 January 1947.

This decision was not met with resounding support as the newspaper excerpt below colourfully portrays:

A local government wedding of interest to the ratepayers of Tweed Shire and Murwillumbah Municipality was celebrated on July 9 after a long and unfriendly courtship. The contracting parties were the Shire of Tweed, groom, and the Municipality of Murwillumbah, bride. The bride entered the shire area on the arm of the Minister for Local Government (Mr. Cahill), who subsequently gave her away.

She was attended by all the civic fathers, who were horrified at the compulsory union. The bride wore a black frock, black stockings and shoes. Her head gear was black, too. This was in contrast to the gay and up-to-date cut of the groom's attire. He wore the latest in Victory suits.

The bride also wore a spray of electric light bulbs. Her gift to the groom was a powerhouse, while the civic fathers presented him with a bouquet of abuse. The groom's gift was a mixed state of affairs in the shire generally, and the CEL franchise. the space between the main building and the detached outbuildings to create more display space for the Tweed River Historical Society who occupied the building from 1988.

Firemans helmet

Donated by Board of Fire Commissioners, Sydney. MUS1965.21

This fireman's helmet is made of brass with an inner lining of leather. Stamped on the centre-front of the helmet are the initials 'NSW FB'. The top scroll element of the helmet is hollow and is a protective device intended to deflect any impact. The chin strap is of leather with an outer brass link chain. The helmet was made in various parts and put together with screws so that a damaged helmet could be easily replaced.

The helmet is stamped with a makers mark 'Rider & Bell'. The company commenced manufacture in Australia in 1941, after helmets were no longer available from the UK due to the outbreak of World War II. The number '2011' is stamped on the underside outer rim of the helmet and designates the fireman's identification number.

In 1907 Murwillumbah had no fire brigade, but following the fire of 15 September 1907 when much of the main street was destroyed, the town was motivated to form a brigade.

Brass helmets like this were adopted by the NSW Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board in the 1880s and were worn by firemen until 1964 when they were phased out and replaced with a thermo plastic helmet.

The Power House Whistle

Donated by Eric Flynn. MUS1961.9

This steam-powered whistle was installed in the Murwillumbah Power House in 1924. It was in daily use until 1960 when the Power House closed. The whistle was part of the everyday sounds and rhythm of life in Murwillumbah and nearby farms. It was heard across the town at 7.00am, 8.00am, 12midday, 1.00pm and 5.00pm, and its piercing sound called people to work and children home from play. The 1pm signal was "gun time" transmitted direct to the Power House by the Telegraph Department.

The whistle also marked events of importance and urgency in the community, such as when the river was in danger of breaking its banks. It was used to mark the 11th hour of each Remembrance Day, to announce 'blackout exercises' during WWII and was also used to herald the end of the War in 1945. In all, the Power House Whistle was in use for 36 years.

As remarked by local historian Ron Johansen in his publication 'Tales of our Time' "the town was practically controlled by the whistle".

The old couple looked in sorry light as they left on their honeymoon, which will be spent in great deliberations until the end of 1947, when they will take up residence somewhere In Murwillumbah. As they were leaving, they were showered with broken electric light bulbs and metal from the shire quarry.
Daily News July 1946.

After the merger, the combined staff numbers were unable to be accommodated in this building and were eventually relocated to the Murwillumbah Municipality offices on the corner of Queensland Road and Main Street.

The last Shire President to operate from this building was Charlie E Cox. He we re-elected as President to the newly amalgamated Tweed Shire Council in January 1947.

Council Chamber

The Shire of Tweed, covering an area of 511 square miles, was proclaimed in December 1906 to serve the needs of the local rural communities.

Before the construction of the Shire Hall in 1915, Council meetings were held in 'inadequate quarters' and it was agreed rather than lose land granted by the Lands Department, that the Shire erect a new building.

With the laying of the foundation stone on 8 July 1915, Shire President Brasnett acknowledged that

…it marked a new era in the growth of the Tweed Shire.

The pace of settlement in the Tweed was increasing rapidly, as evidenced from the release of conditional leases which almost tripled in the ten year period 1900 - 1909 compared to the ten years prior.

One of the Shire Council's key responsibilities in those early years was the building and upkeep of its roads. This was highlighted in Shire President Brasnett's speech of 1915 when he announced that he

…would like it made public through the Press that the construction of the hall in no way meant the curtailment of expenditure on their roads.

It is recorded in a Guide to the Tweed published in 1919 that there were around 960 roads within the Tweed Shire.

The Council Chamber in the new Shire Hall represented the hub of council process, debate and decision making. Regular Council meetings were held in this room up until 1946. With the amalgamation of the Shire and Municipal Councils of the Tweed on 1 January 1947, the staff were relocated to offices in the Municipal building on the corner of Queensland Road and Main Street.

This Council Chamber and Shire building is significant as is it was the first local government building erected in the district.

The Rear Verandah

When the Shire Hall was first constructed in 1915, this area of the site hosted a store room for tools and stables for horses. In the 1940s, the rear verandah, where you are now standing, was where Council's pipe maker Mr Percy Cramp mixed concrete by hand. A fellow Council worker at the time, Ken Forster, recalls that Mr Cramp had one hand amputated and was infamous for still being able to mix the concrete by hand and pour it into the pipe moulds. Ken also recalls that after the war materials were hard to come by and, as a result, there was no reinforcement for the pipes and gravel was obtained from creeks. Consequently pipes collapsed over the years and required replacing through no fault of Mr Cramp's.

Evidence of Mr Cramp's work can be seen from the splatter markings on the lower section of the brick wall.

In 1948 when the building was converted into two flats to house council employees, one of the out buildings was converted to a laundry for the tenants use. The site has experienced further alterations over time including the roofing of
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