History of Montville Precinct – School of Arts Hall and Village Green
Early settlement of Montville
Timber getters knew of the rich source of cedar in the area before the Colony of Queensland was created in 1859 but it was not until the 1880s that the first land selectors were permitted. In 1881 GL Bury selected land adjacent to what is now the Village Green. TPL Weitemeyer selected land in 1887 and was soon followed by the Butt, Burnett, Dalton, Harvey, Smith, Muirhead, Mill, Skene and Vining families. A settlement developed on the range known as Razorback.
The first task was to clear the land which provided the industry of timber getting. Cedar logs were cut down and pushed down the range to awaiting bullocks which took the timber to mills on the coast. Early commercial farming crops included gooseberries, strawberries, citrus and later pineapples, macadamias and avocados fostered by the subtropical climate and rich soil. Dairying was also established.
In the 1890s Henry Smith and his brother Alfred selected land on the Back Road (now Western Road). Henry established the first cattle dip, store and post office in town. As there was already a Razorback post office at Coolangatta. At a community meeting in 1899 the name was changed to Montville after the town in Connecticut, USA, near where Henry had previously lived with his mother after their emigration from England. The Salvation Army constructed a place of worship in 1897 on Razorback Road.1. By 1892 there were a sufficient number of settlers in Montville to request a provisional school which was built in 1896.
The main road to Palmwoods was a rough track down the Razorback Ridge. The track came up the range from the existing surveyed Gympie Road and continued along the road reserve past the current site of the school and up to the Village Green. A rough, steep route, it was described by Government Surveyor Alfred Delisser in 1884 as the best road he had observed in the region.2. The road provided the main access from Palmwoods to this part of the Blackall Range. In 1891 the railway reached Palmwoods and the road became more important as it provided a route to the railhead for fruit growers, dairymen and timber getters in the region.
This track remained the main road to the area until 1910 when the route was changed with a cutting on the western side of the spur. Maroochy Shire Council let a contract to Messrs Bowsers (Brisbane) to cut a road and provide a metal surface at a cost of £1100. This is the road that passes under the Centenary Bridge. This road provided better access to Palmwoods, and with the opening of the Palmwoods railway station in 1891, made markets more accessible. In 1923 this road was gazetted as a main road and in 1929 was officially opened as a well engineered metalled road.
The Village Green
The area now known locally as the Village Green is part of the road reserve and was once known as The Reserve. The area was used as a convenient yoking area for bullock teams taking empty waggons down the Razorback. It is thought to have been among the first land cleared in Montville.
Since the 1980s there has been a concerted effort to protect the area as a green space. In 1982 logs were installed along the edge of the green to restrict parking and development. In July 1983 camellias were planted on the green in memory of long-time Montville resident and gardening authority Byron Watkins.3.
In 1984 two new flag poles were presented and installed on the green by the Palmwoods Lions Club. Further garden beds were planted. In 1987 tables were provided on the green and three “Old English Gaslights” (electric) were installed on the green. As the plaque on the lamp post records they were a centenary gift from the Dallas family and Alison and Jack Warren. A new flagstaff was commemorated in the Bicentenary year on Australia Day 1988. Also in 1988 the lane between the Montville Village Hall and the Village Green was named Memorial Close.
The Village Green has been used as communal gathering space since settlement. It was used as the school playground for Montville State School. It is used annually for the Christmas Concert and Anzac Day Service.
Montville Hall (1903 School of Arts)
A public meeting was held on 20 September 1902 at Edward Smith’s house to discuss the possibility of building a School of Arts Hall in Montville. Schools of Arts developed in Britain to provide education for adults in the 19th and early 20th century. They were based on ideals of self improvement. As districts settled, local committees formed to establish a School of Arts. Most commonly this community facility provided libraries for the members’ use and offered educational and cultural activities.
The Montville School of Arts
Edward Smith, as Chair, declared he had £67 pledged for construction of a hall and a building committee was duly appointed comprising Edward Smith, Alfred Bowser, Henry Smith, Charles H Bundy and Hamilton Muirhead. The plans and specifications were prepared by William Skene. The building was to be constructed on land adjoining the Salvation Army barracks built in 1897.
Separate tenders were called for the supply of timber and construction of the building. John Walker successfully tendered to supply the timber. Robert Whitecross constructed the building for a cost of £36/10/-.
The building was completed on 23 February 1903. Robert Whitecross was also paid to supply 24 seats which were placed in the building on 11 March. The building cost £182/7/2. A ceiling was constructed, the building was lined and a proscenium arch was provided.
On 3 January 1903 Alfred Bowser, George J Butt Senior and Henry Smith were appointed the first Trustees for the Montville School of Arts.
Between 1915 and 1921 the Hall was greatly enlarged, increasing its size by a third. The decorative barge board was replaced with vertical battens in the front gable. In the 1920s the hall roof was blown off in a cyclone. This may have prompted the improvements. Unfortunately no specific details of this work have been uncovered through research.
In 1938 the building was painted internally. While the building had Gloria lights for the stage it was not until sufficient funds were raised by 1940 that lighting could be installed in the hall. Its installation was a big community event and a dance was held to commemorate the occasion. Committee member, Mr Farrington, was given the ceremonial honour of the turning on the first lights.4. In 1940 the roof was painted with red oxide and a paling fence was constructed in front of the building.5.
The next significant change occurred in 1956 when the hall was painted internally and the floor was sanded and polished. The building was restumped. The ante-room was lined and ceiling installed in 1957.6. Fluorescent lights were added to the building in 1958.7.
The Additional Supper Room
In 1958 the Country Women’s Association, who regularly used the hall, requested that a supper room be added to the School of Arts hall. Committee member and builder, Mr Williams, volunteered to provide plans. He designed an addition on the eastern side which provided a supper room 51 feet by 12 feet (15.5 metres by 3.6 metres) and required no alteration to the existing building.8.Tenders were called but they could not be accepted because of lack of finance. The option of building the room underneath was considered and rejected as impracticable.9. The only solution was a voluntary working bee and fund raising for the materials. A Committee led by Mr Williams was formed to organise labour and comprised Messrs Murray, Hooper, Callaghan and Craig. A Council building permit was obtained. The voluntary labour was not forthcoming and construction was delayed.10.
The supper room was eventually completed in 1959. However, it had completely depleted the School of Arts’ funds. A pineapple drive was held by the Fruitgrowers Association which provided money for three lights in the new room. The extension was painted externally and the projection room was moved from the back to the front of the hall.11.
In 1960 the Junior Farmers Club and Badminton Clubs joined forces to fund a powder room in the building.12. The space above the stage was also ceiled in 1961 to stops draughts blowing on the band.13. The supper room renovations were completed in 1963 when the Montville Ladies’ Club funded the lining of the supper room walls. A plaque was put on the walls to acknowledge their generous donation.14.
New Management of Hall
In the 1960s the hall was still managed by the subscribers to the School of Arts Library. To ensure the survival of the hall it was felt that its management should become more of a community effort. In 1964 the subscribers surrendered their management and a public meeting was called to form a new management committee. The new committee members were Mrs Mathers; Mr RG McCullough; Mr Murray; Mr Roland Thorne Seccombe Brown; Mr White; Mrs White and Mrs Baker. As the library had been a financial loss, the new committee agreed to discontinue the library. As the caretaker’s duties were very limited, the position was discontinued. All outstanding bills were to be settled and the Montville School of Arts ceased to exist.15.
The new committee set about making improvements. The fence had been removed at the front of the hall and the Ladies’ Club requested that they plant trees or scrubs where the fence had been. Two trees were planted on the church side of the hall to balance the two pine trees growing on the opposite side.16.
Consideration was given to modernising the front entry. The proposal was a brick structure, 15 feet by 16 feet (4.5 metres by 1.8 metres), with an iron roof. It would cost approximately £25. A porch would be constructed which was large enough for cars to drive under in wet weather, to allow people to step directly under shelter at the door of the hall. This would cost around £100. It was felt that the painting of the hall’s exterior and roof was more urgent and the planned extension was abandoned.17.
In 1965/66 a number of minor repairs were carried out. The hall was painted grey green externally with trims of antique white. New guttering (wild olive in colour) and downpipes were installed on the western side of the hall by voluntary labour. Some minor replacement of weatherboards occurred. The steps outside the powder room were also replaced. The stairs at the rear, which once led from the old projection room, were removed as they were considered dangerous. The doors on the church side were repaired as replacement was too expensive. Internally plastic wood was used to repair holes in the floor boards.18.
In 1966 the fence between the church and the hall was removed. The corner posts were left to mark the boundary. In 1967 the Montville Ladies and Social Benefit Club and the Country Women’s Association (CWA) both donated money towards a new floor. An area of 50 feet by 21 feet (15 metres by 6 metres) was replaced with first grade timber. The floor was then sanded.19.
In 1969 the windows between the hall and the supper room were removed. The supper room side was filled in with masonite and the window spaces on the hall side were finished off to form alcoves or window boxes.20. The servery was improved further in 1970 when the servery cupboard was covered with laminex, thanks to the generous donation of the Ladies’ and Social Benefit Club.21.
The supper room, kitchen, powder room and stage were painted by volunteers. The supper room floor was covered with masonite and then painted.22.
Both the hall’s exterior and interior was painted in 1974. The roof above the supper room was repaired, guttering replaced and the side steps repaired and strengthened. All was completed in time for a dinner held on 9 November 1973 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the hall.23.
A management change occurred in 1975 when the Fruitgrowers and Progress Association disbanded. A new committee was formed called the Montville Hall Committee and Progress Association. One aim of the new committee was to provide a venue for discussions on the progress of the district. The second aim was to care for the local hall. Funds were to be raised for the upkeep and improvements to the hall.24.
Between 1975 and 1993 a number of small changes were made at the hall. In 1975 a masonite floor was added to the powder room which was also painted. The kitchen was extended in 1976 to about 4 metres by 3 metres. D McCulloch and Arthur Walker were employed to construct the main frame and T Barnett, K Manley and L Harper donated their labour. D McCulloch donated kitchen tiles and A & B Tutin donated laminex for benches.25.
In 1981 a grant from the Maroochy Shire Council helped fund a 1000 gallon water tank and stand for use in the hall kitchen.26. After vandals lit a fire under the hall in 1983 wire mesh was installed around the underside of the hall.27. Five ceiling fans were donated by the Montville Ladies’ Club and installed in the hall.28. In 1985 the kitchen and supper room cupboards were replaced. New steps to the supper room (with railings) were constructed in 1986. Hail damage caused to the roof on 23 October 1987 required roof painting which was paid for by insurance.29.
In 1988 the Montville Hall and Progress Association was renamed the Montville Village Association Inc. The hall was reroofed in 1991 and the roof supports were strengthened. The hall was painted externally in 1991.30.
Concerns were raised about the structure of the hall in 1992, which prompted Parnell and Associates, Structural Engineers of Maleny, to be commissioned to assess the building. The building was found to be in sound condition. However, some work was required on the floor joists and stumps, as well improvements to the ventilation of air under the hall. All the work was completed. At the time Parnell commented, “It is an attractive building in a superb location and fulfilling a very useful function within the Community and as such, any modifications or alterations should be carried out with sensitivity”.31.
The Hall Extensions
On 8 February 1993 a special meeting was held to discuss the future of the hall. Thirty people attended. Conflicting opinions were presented. Some liked the small scale of the hall, referring to the intimate quality of the internal space. Others wanted to extend the hall to increase its potential use. It was agreed that extensions could be made to the west and architect Phillip Harrison, who was present at the meeting, agreed to prepare plans of the proposed extension.32.
Two sets of plans were presented to a meeting on 27 September 1993. The plans provided an extension at the rear of the hall to provide change rooms and toilets. Plan B also involved a larger kitchen area. There was considerable division over how to proceed and it took years to determine plans. Finally in July 1997 it was agreed to proceed with the extension which would provide toilets (male, female and disabled); a shower with a small change area; two change rooms to the rear of the stage and storeroom. The kitchen was upgraded and enlarged to a commercial standard. The building was rewired and new stage lighting was installed. A ramp was built at the eastern door and stairs constructed outside the toilet area. The extensions were completed in 1998 with the financial assistance of a Gaming Benefit Fund grant, a grant from the Maroochy Shire Council, the Montville Ladies’ Club and community donations.33.
In recent years there have been minor modifications to the building. There were some changes to the new toilets, the lighting bar and stage wall and curtain in 2000. Awnings were added to the hall in 2002. The right hand barge board at the front of the hall was repaired and colorbond awnings were added over the eastern and western double doors and toilet door. The hall floor was sanded and polished in 2006. The building was painted internally and externally in 2006 and the floor was oiled. Handrails were added to the stage steps. The paving at the front of the hall was extended to provide access to the ramp and east door of the front porch. The gardens around the memorial gate and the road frontage and eastern side of hall were planted in 2006.
Since construction the hall has been used continuously for church services and Sunday Schools, meetings for community groups, weddings, funerals, balls, school assemblies, movies, concerts, plays, health and fitness classes and parties for people throughout the district. The Montville Memorial Hall is used regularly by the Montville Village Association; Montville Ladies’ Club; The Range Christian Outreach Centre; Montville Table Tennis Club; Arts for Peacemakers (art based activities for children and youth) and the Montville School. The hall is also regularly used for markets, concerts, exhibitions, balls, weddings, parties, fundraising and movie nights.
1.It was destroyed by cyclone in 1903, rebuilt and later demolished.
2. Alfred Delisser, Survey 3 March 1884.
3. Minutes of the Montville Hall and Progress Association 30 May 1983 and 25 July 1983.
4. Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 1 May 1940.
5. Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 1 May & 7 November 1940.
6.Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 16 April 1956 & 6 May 1957.
7. Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 6 January 1958
8.Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 5 May 1958
9. Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 23 June 1958
10. Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 23 June 1958
11.Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 8 June 1959
12. Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 28 June 1960 13. Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 2 May 1961.
14.Minutes of School of Arts Committee, 30 April 1963.
15. Minutes, 14 July 1964
16. Minutes of the School of Arts Committee, 26 August 1964
17. Minutes of the School of Arts Committee, 28 January 1965.
18. Minutes of the School of Arts Committee, 1965.
19. Minutes, 26 April and 29 June 1967.
20. Minutes, 9 April 1969.
21. Minutes, 13 May 1970.
22. Minutes, 9 February 1970, 15 April 1970 and 7 September 1970.
23. Annual report for 1973-4.
24. Montville Hall and Progress Association Annual Report 1975-6.
25.Minutes of Montville Hall and Progress Association, 9 February 1976 and 30 August 1976.
26. Minutes of Montville Hall and Progress Association, 24 August 1981.
27. Minutes of Montville Hall and Progress Association, 28 February 1983.
28. Montville Hall and Progress Association Annual Report 1983.
29.Minutes of Montville Hall and Progress Association, 31 July 1988.
30. Minutes of Montville Hall and Progress Association, 21 January 1991 and 29 July 1991.
31. Montville Village Association Annual Report 1992.
32. Minutes of Montville Village Association, 8 February 1993.
33.Minutes of Montville Village Association, 28 July 1997 and President’s Report, August 1997.
This information has been taken from the Montville Memorial Precinct Conservation Management Plan pps.9-14 with some editing and known historical inaccuracies corrected.
Minutes School of Arts Sept 1937- 23 Feb 1959
Minutes School of Arts 8 June 1959 to 28 July 1975
Minutes of Montville Recreation and Sports Ground Committee 1 August 1928 to 1994
Montville School of Arts Accounts 1959 to 1986
Montville Hall and Progress Association Minutes 1975 to 1986
Montville Hall and Progress Association Minutes Feb 1982 to March 1986
Montville Village Association Minutes April 1986 to 2007
St Mary’s Auxiliary Minutes 1996-2007
RSL correspondence (copies held in DERM Heritage Register file 602616)
The Maroochy Churchman July 1925 – 27
Montville Methodist Church 1912-1972. Montville Methodist Church 1972.
Books and Articles
Articles on Maroochy District, Blackall Range. . . by Practical Men. Nambour: McFadden and Sons, Nambour Chronicle Printers, 1928?
Dingle, RSC (ed) Annals of Achievement: A review of Queensland Methodism 1847-1947. Brisbane: Queensland Book Depot, 1947. Haddow, Janine “Avenues of Honour” in Meanjin, Volume 47, No 3, Spring 1988. Inglis, K. Sacred Places: War Memorials on the Australian Landscape. Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 2001.
Montville Memories, A Pictorial Journey. Montville Historical Group 1987.
Ramadge-Ross, Barbara, Montville State School 1896-1996: Centenary History. Montville State School, 1996.
Speake, JG. History of St Mary’s Anglican Church Montville. Undated manuscript. Woods, Ruth and Cook, Margaret. Yeronga Park Conservation Management Plan, City Design, Brisbane City Council 2003.