Friday, 17 June 2011

Narre Warren Mechanics' Institute

The first township of Narre Warren was surveyed in 1860, and is now known as Narre Warren North and the township which developed around the Railway Station, which opened in 1882, became Narre Warren Railway Station and later just Narre Warren.

The man responsible for the growth of this town was Sidney Webb. Webb agitated for a Railway Station at Narre Warren and he collected money to purchase land for a road to connect the town to the Station. He built the early shops in the township which further consolidated when Sidney Webb donated land for the School which opened in 1889 and Mechanics' Institute which opened in November 9, 1891 (or the birthday of the Prince of Wales as the invitation, reproduced below, says)

The building was used for lectures, concerts, Balls, billiards, and meetings. It also housed a subscription lending library which initially was open 3.00pm to 4.00pm on Saturdays and 4.00pm to 5.00pm on Tuesdays. In 1898 there were 990 books in the Library and this had grown to over 2,000 in 1905. The Library ceased operation in 1941, when the books and the shelving were sold. Library services at Narre Warren later operated from a building in Malcolm Court.

The Mechanics' Institutes of Victoria have an ongoing scanning project to scan the existing records of all Victoria's Mechanics' Institutes. Over 1,000 Mechanics Institutes were built and 562 remain, including the Narre Warren one.

The records of the Narre Warren Mechanics' Institute have been scanned. The first Minutes we have are from the meeting of March 14, 1892, they are shown above. Given the role that Sidney Webb played in the development of the Narre Warren township it is not surprising to find that he chaired the meeting. The meeting appointed 'Messrs S.Webb and McDonnell as ' joint Librarians honorary.' S.Webb was Sidney Webb's son, also called Sidney. However, we have earlier Ledger records that date from August 1890, which list donations made for the establishment of the building and, later on, subscriptions. These scanned records provide us not only with a full picture of the workings and activities of the Mechanics' Institute but also a snapshot of who lived in the township at the time. They are an amazing resource.

Subscriptions collected in 1895, click on the image to enlarge it.


Anonymous said...

After moving to the new Fountain Gate Estate devlopement in 1969 (only street names and lot numbers, no house numbers yet, we attended church in the "community hall" next to the primary school on Webb street. Thanks to your site I now know this was the Mechanics'Institute.
Also in 1969 to 1971 it housed the prep and first classes of the primary school. Maybe the secondclass too. But I'm not sure about that.
And for those who didn't know it: the arche entrance to the fountain Gate Estate did at one time have a working fountain and pounds. I don't think the fountain worked longer than the first whew weeks after the official opening of the estate.

Jenny G said...

I'm interested in the 1969 history of the Narree Warren Mechanics Institue Hall. If it is/ was next to the NW Primary School, I can vouch that the room at the back of the hall was used by the school as the classroom for Prep and Grade 1. I was the teacher in 1969. School numbers had grown beyond those for 2 teachers and while I was appointed as the 3rd teacher, there was no classroom provided by the Education Department so the school made use of the room at the back of the school. The little children and I were hot in summer and freezing in winter. We had mice in the floor and possums in the roof and it smelled awful!! I had to leave late in the year as I was pregnant and in those days we had to resign.
From Jenny Grout