The Newcastle War Memorial Cultural Centre was originally erected in October of 1957 in memory of those who served in the First and Second World Wars. Two memorial panels of granite with gold inlay are set on either side of the main entrance of the building.
The then Governor of NSW, Lieutenant General Northcott, laid the foundation stone of the library wing on 8 June 1949, witnessed by a 10,000-strong crowd, and construction officially commenced on 16 May 1955.
The Newcastle bishop, Right Rev. F. de Witt Batty, stated at the time “the cultural centre would make a real contribution to the cause of national unity and international concord”, concluding “truth and beauty are uniting things, true internationals, that cross every frontier and take no heed of differences of race and speech.”
The project attracted very high community engagement, with £200,000 pledged by 16,000 adults and 4,000 children through fundraisers and weekly payments. As stated by the then Lord Mayor, Aid. H D Quinlan, the appeal “received the approbation of every section of the community”. The inscriptions note the centre was opened by previous NSW Governor, Lieutenant General E W Woodward, on 26 October 1957.
The War Memorial Cultural Centre originally functioned as Newcastle City’s public library, art gallery and conservatorium of music. Over time, the development of the Newcastle Art Gallery and the Newcastle University’s Music Conservatorium resulted in one of Australia’s most comprehensive local history collections within the memorial centre.
The War Memorial Cultural Centre has been kept in an extremely satisfactory condition. In 2016, Newcastle City Council identified a need to replace the windows and to reinforce the walls of the building in order to maintain its structural integrity. As a result of its listed local significance, architects were engaged in respect of the heritage of the project. A local Newcastle company, Kingston Building Australia Pty Ltd, was appointed by the Council to undergo the four-month long project, ultimately replacing 176 windows with a combination of modern fixed casement double-glazed windows to minimise the transfer of heat. The unique elements of the original windows have remained to maintain the historical aesthetics of the memorial. In addition to this, a 2016 Council grant will significantly reduce the building’s electricity consumption and carbon emissions, ultimately decreasing the annual costs of the building and increasing its longevity among the local community.
The War Memorial Cultural Centre is open to all members of the public and is maintained by the Newcastle City Council. The building is the main branch of the library, containing the local history department and a gallery.
Panel to the left of entrance:
NEWCASTLE WAR MEMORIAL CULTURAL CENTRE
In thankful remembrance of the men and women of Newcastle and district who served the cause of human liberty and especially of those who made the supreme sacrifice
To them we, their fellow citizens, dedicate this memorial as a token of our gratitude.
This foundation stone of the first section of the memorial was laid by His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales LIEUTENANT-GENERAL JOHN NORTHCOTT C.B. M.V.O., on the 8th day of June 1949. Construction was commenced on the 16th day of May 1955. W.A. Miller Town Clerk. W. Burges Town Clerk. H.D. Quinlan Lord Mayor. F.J. Purdue Lord Mayor President of Committee.
Panel to the right of entrance:
NEWCASTLE WAR MEMORIAL CULTURAL CENTRE
Opened by His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales LIEUTENANT-GENERAL E.W. WOODWARD C.B. C.B.E. D.S.O. on the 26th day of October 1957.
This memorial symbolises the desire of the citizens of Newcastle and district to the record their gratitude to all who came forward to protect their country in its hour of peril; and in special to commend to the remembrance of their countrymen and commit to the tenderness of God all those who by payment of their lives have redeemed their country that its life may be perpetuated and its honour increased by their honour
Mark Howarth F.R.A.S. Honorary Secretary Citizens Committee..W. Burges Town Clerk. C.K. Jones Lord Mayor President Citizens Committee.