Wandiligong Public Hall’s History
The building known as the ‘Manchester Unity Hall’ was built in 1874 by the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows (MUIOOF), a community self help group founded in England during the Industrial Revolution. Originally meetings of the lodge were held in the Prince of Wales Hotel, which was situated across the road from the hall. Unfortunately this hotel no longer stands today.
The Hall was built on a freestone foundation, with triple brick walls, Baltic pine ceiling and a one-inch thick kauri timber floor. Its original timber shingle roof was replaced with iron sheeting. Then 100 years later as part of the hall‘s restoration the roof was once more renewed with galvanized iron.
The hall has had a varied history of occupancy. In 1875 the building was used temporarily as a school to ease the over crowded conditions of the Wandiligong School. Later in 1917 the hall was once more used as a school whilst renovations were being carried out to the Wandiligong School buildings.
The Manchester Unity Lodge willingly hired out the hall to other organisations of the day, such as the Independent Order of Rechabites, the Wandiligong Horticultural Society, Blue Ribbon Army, Wandiligong Brass Band, the Choral Society, the Band of Hope and the Glee Club. In addition to this the hall has been the focal point for the Wandiligong Community, and over the years has been used for concerts, minstrel shows, parties, weddings, funerals, dances, balls and even roller-skating. As well as for farewelling and welcoming home our soldiers from the world wars.
When electricity was finally brought to Wandiligong in 1955, the Hall was used by the Wandiligong Community as the gathering place for the official turning on of electric powered light.
In 1947 the Hall was sold to the R.S.L. and later in 1971 it was again sold to a local doctor who wanted to demolish the building and construct a dwelling on the site. On hearing this concerned locals banded together to form the Wandiligong Preservation Society, and in 1972 they succeeded in raising the monies needed to purchase the Hall. Thanks to the funding raising activities of the Wandiligong Preservation Society the Hall was fully paid for in 1974, and at the end of that year the Wandiligong Community celebrated with a Centenary Fair.
The National Trust has recorded the building as ‘contributing to the heritage of Australia, sufficient interest to warrant recording and preservation is encouraged.’ The much-needed restoration of the building was carried out soon after its acquisition, and its subsequent upkeep has continued in the ensuing years under diligent management of the Wandiligong Public Hall Committee of Management Inc.
Following the restoration and improvements carried out on the building, the hall was once again used for the annual Wandiligong School concert in 1975, even though the kitchen was still work in progress and the supper room not started. The supper room was built out on the south side of the hall and was later demolished in preference to using the downstairs foyer adjoining the kitchen as the dinning room.
More recently the building has undergone a facelift, with the exterior woodwork repainted in the heritage colours of red and cream. New guttering and drainage installed and the ground around the building levelled and top dressed. The main hall floor and stage floor have been oiled, internal brickwork overhauled. New interior blinds fitted and electrical work carried out on the premise. Details of recommended trades people and businesses can be found on our Useful Links page.
Happily, the hall continues to be hired out and used by not only by the Wandiligong Community for local gatherings and celebratory events, but it is also opened to hire to visiting enthusiasts for their varied functions. This is in addition to the Wandiligong Public Hall Craft and Produce Market, which is now a bi-annual event during the autumn and spring festivals, showcasing locally grown produce and handcrafted goods.
Wandiligong Public Hall Committee of Management Inc.