FREESTONE SCHOOL OF ARTS AND MEMORIAL HALL
From the records of the Hall Committee, it appears that the School of Arts was built in 1900. The original site of this building was adjacent to Freestone Creek Road and Jack Smith’s Gully Road, on property now owned by Norman Gillespie.
The contract for the erection of the building went to Mr J Woodcock. Total cost of the land and building, including the fence, seats, tables and chairs cost approximately 150 pounds. In 1903, a caretakers cottage was built at an approximate cost of 82 pounds. Many social events took place here, with the last gathering in the School of Arts before its removal to Freestone Road, being a school concert.
With the township growing, it was decided that the School of Arts and caretaker’s cottage should be moved to Freestone road. A block of ground was purchased from J Ryan at a cost of 25 pounds. The land was then surveyed by Mr Brownsdon at a cost of 5 pounds.
Just how the hall was shifted is a topic of discussion. The Hall Committee records do not identify the method of removal, only that the contract for its removal was awarded to a Mr W B Wilson, for the contract price of 95 pounds. Some residents say the hall was shifted by a team of bullocks, with a steam engine being used to manoeuvre the two sections into position. This story continues with the team of bullocks becoming bogged in the school lane, and the steam engine assisting here. The caretaker’s cottage was removed in a similar fashion.
The other line of thought on how the hall was moved is that the steam engine did the whole job. The only photo we were able to find shows the steam engine in action. The engine is believed to have been owned by Mr Ernie Cox and we leave this debate with the individual family recollections of the event, as we have been unable to prove one way or the other, even after much research into the matter.
The re-opening of the hall was held on Saturday the 2nd September 1922 and took the form of a concert and dance. Mr P McMahon was invited to declare the School of Arts open. Admission price for the night was Gents 3 shillings, Ladies 2 shillings and children 1 shilling. The artists performing at the concert were Messrs Pettie, Hugh Miller, A Parker, A Glover, HW Weimers, G Johnson, W Haine, F H Moss, J Cunningham and Master Howard Irwin.
On September 26th 1946, a public meeting was called to discuss the proposal to make the present School of Arts a Memorial to those who gave and those who offered their lives in defence of their country. The proposal also called for the hall to be remodelled and painted and the name changed to the Freestone School of Arts and Memorial Hall. To raise money for the Memorial and remodelling, donations of a bag of wheat, or the value of a bag of wheat were given to the Committee by locals. The wheat was sold and all proceeds went to the Hall funds.
The caretakers of the hall were, for many years, a Mr & Mrs Lancaster, who received a small wage and a cottage to live in. Mr Lancaster also did other jobs around the district, having at one stage, mail delivery run. The last caretaker of the hall was Mrs M Shelley. The caretaker’s cottage was then sold to R J Aspinall for 100 pounds, this money being paid into the War Memorial Hall account.
Some additions and alterations seem to have taken place in 1953, as the hall re-opening is recorded as having been a very successful dance with door takings of 190 pounds.
In 1959, the QCWA, in conjunction with the Hall Committee, held a fete to raise funds for further extensions. It is also noted that the hall was lined and sealed and the Honour Board renovated. Electric powere was connected to the hall in 1968. The kitchen was modernised and septic installed in the late 1970’s and since then fans, heaters and an electric stove have been installed, with new tables also being purchased. During 1988 new floor coverings for the supper room and kitchen were laid, and a bar area has been built at the rear of the hall.
We were unable to find any record of when it was decided that the hall be renamed The Freestone Memorial Hall, although, from peoples’ memories, it appears this took place in the 1950’s.
Over the years, the hall has been the entertainment centre of the district with concerts, dances, balls, cabarets, sporting events and reunions, to name just a few, held within its walls.
We can all be proud of the hall. It is one of the best country hall in the Warwick District and is used not only by Freestone residents, but by organizations from neighbouring districts and Warwick, for their social evenings.