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The Narooma Soldiers Memorial School of Arts, also referred to as the Memorial Hall, was built in memory of the district’s soldiers who fought in the First World War. The hall’s front façade includes the Roll of Honor on two granite plaques either side of the main entrance.
In 2013-2018, the building underwent significant restoration and enhancement, guided by Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Heritage Consultant and funded with the assistance of seven grants, including a NSW Government Community Development Grant for war memorials. This work included repairing the exterior, replacing some stormwater pipes, regilding of plaques, and repainting the facade to resonate with the original 1925 proposed decoration. Images 1-3 above show the repainted building. Image 4 shows the building prior to the painting. More details about the project are attached to this listing (see 'Related links' below).
Narooma Soldiers Memorial School of Arts was the second School of Arts Hall in Narooma. In 1919, the community decided they needed a bigger and more substantial hall and it should be in memory of the district’s soldiers who fought in the First World War.
Fundraising for ‘the Soldiers’ Memorial Fund’ started in earnest.1 Fundraising events included bazaars, balls, annual sports on New Year’s Day and the Queen of Narooma competition (1925).
The School of Arts committee approached Dick O’Donnell to design a new hall. He had built the ABC Cheese factory at Central Tilba in 1924/1925 and was in the process of building the Tilba cheese factory.
Fundraising fell short so the Trustees borrowed ‘by mortgage’ £1,000 to erect the new hall "as a war memorial to those who fought in the late war", with the approval of members.2 Guarantors were the Hylands, Miss Lynch and Mitchell Bros, all owners of Narooma’s major businesses at the time. The loan was paid off over the following years.
Despite criticism the design was too small, work started in September 1925 with Fred Bradford as foreman and Alf Webb responsible for the brick work.3 Bertie Martin and Claude Whitfield laid the floor; "it was a good dance floor", Bertie Martin said.
The hall was Narooma’s first brick building. The bricks were made by Stafford Bros of Bega on William Field’s property near Glasshouse Rocks. Stafford Bros gave a discount because the hall was to be a memorial to the town’s soldiers and Field donated ‘the land’ for the 40,000 bricks. It was completed in late December 1925 but not officially opened until 10 February 1926.4
The four granite plaques including the rolls were donated by Dorman & Long, then quarrying and preparing granite at Moruya for the pylons for Sydney Harbour Bridge which was under construction at the time.
The granite plaques were dedicated on Anzac Day 1928.5 They were unveiled by Major General Charles Cox. The Moruya Examiner reported:
In no uncertain tones he sought to impress on all that never should Australia forget the debt it owed to its volunteers during the War… and a special tribute was paid to the part that the womenfolk of Australia played in the War and Narooma was reminded that in their midst was Sister Joyce who had done her bit nobly in the great campaign which tablets were to immortalize.
The religious service for the dedication was done by Padre James Benson. Any returned First World War soldier was deemed to be a Life Member of the School of Arts.
In the early 1930s, the hall was extended a further 16ft and a supper room incorporated underneath the extension by Mr Bye using bricks that had been discarded when the hall was first built.
The hall was the hub of Narooma’s life for much of the twentieth century. It was the venue for balls, dances, Anzac Day services, flower shows, live theatre, public meetings, and films since 1928. Its heritage significance has been recognised by the National Trust.
Further extensions were done in 1955, resulting in today’s building.
The building is still owned by the community and held in trust and managed by Narooma School of Arts & Soldiers’ War Memorial Hall Incorporated on behalf of the community. The hall is leased to an independent cinema operator as a cinema and venue for live performances as it has been since 1971.
Inside the hall is a wooden First World War Honor Roll donated in 2016 by Narooma RSL Sub-branch when they moved to new premises. This donation recognises the hall’s standing as Narooma’s First World War Memorial and its later role as a recruiting centre.
1 The Cobargo Chronicle, 4 October 1919, p. 2.; ibid., 18 October 1919, p. 2
2 Moruya Examiner, 23 February 1924, p. 2.
3 Bertie Martin said Fred Bradford was also O’Donnell’s foreman on the two Tilba cheese factories and Alf Webb had also worked on the two factories.
4 Moruya Examiner, 20 February 1926.
5 Moruya Examiner, 5 May 1928. Hon. Major General Cox, then a Senator, and J Perkins MHR were the guests of Sister Joyce who had served with Cox in Egypt. The dias had been suitably decorated by ex-Petty Officer William Lubbock of HMAS Swan, then Narooma Pilot.
SCHOOL OF ARTS
THE GREAT WAR
ROLL OF HONOUR
1914 - 1919
ROLL OF HONOUR
THIS STONE WAS LAID
J.A. PERKINS ESQ. M.L.A.
5TH SEPTEMBER 1925