Archive | November, 2013

If these walls could talk

13 Nov

bluestoneIf these bluestone blocks could talk I’d wonder what they say? Would they elaborate on the chatter of school children which they had listening into over the years as they stood as school walls. Perhaps they could reveal controversial dealings and questionable connections from when they housed council chambers, perhaps they would tell of sporting triumphs and disappointments from fans as they watched their footy team on the ground at Geelong West, where they reside today.

These bluestone block began their life as the walls of Mowbray’s Free Church School which was located in Pakington Street Geelong West. Mr Joseph Dibbs Mowbray had been conducting classes in Preston Street, but as student numbers grew, a bigger premises was required. Much community support and funding was collected to establish Mowbray’s School in 1867.

In 1875, again bigger premises was sort for the school, which by now was known as Ashby State School. The school was relocated to its present day location on Lawton Ave. The former school-house, complete with its bluestone brick walls were auctioned off, won by the newly formed Borough of Geelong West for use as council chambers.

The building continued in use as council chambers, it was remodelled a number of times including one which included the addition of a clock tower in 1884.

As the escalating councillors egos demanded more elaborate premises, it was eventually agreed upon to fund a new Town Hall. Whilst there had been motions to again remodel the premises, and despite many concerns regarding the financing of the project, the popular movement was for an elaborate new premises. In 1924 the former school-house and first location of council chambers for Geelong West came tumbling down. In that same year council moved into their new elaborate premises, where it continues to reside today.

But for the bluestone bricks this was not the end of the road.

As it happens, the council had a number of financial obligations, including a recreational reserve in Church St (today’s Geelong West Oval). Concurrently, a new grandstand at the West Oval was being planned. With the purse strings within council now pulled tight due to a severe dent in the financials cause mainly by the underfunded new Town Hall, it was decided that cost savings could be made if the bluestone from the former town hall building were transported to the reserve and used. These bricks along with some quality materials which had been acquired from the old market which had stood on the site of the new town hall, would form the new West Oval Grandstand. The Grandstand was completed in May 1925.

So next time you wander down Weddel Rd, listen carefully as you pass the grandstand and perhaps the bluestone walls will tell you their secrets!

Bluestone | Geelong West Town Hall | Mowbrays Free Church School


Images: Geelong Heritage Centre

The Ashby Story | A History of Geelong West. (1978) Seaton, G. Geelong West City Council
Geelong West – 100 Years (nd), Seaton, G.