25: Temperance Hall

Town legend has it that His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh opened the Temperance Hall, to date the LDHS has failed to find confirmation of this, just that he was in Learmonth on the December 11th 1867.

In May 1866 the Independent Order of Rechabites discussed erecting a hall in Learmonth as, they believed, one was needed for both Lodge and public use, such as meetings, reading rooms and a public library. They hoped a suitable site could be found as Learmonth was growing rapidly.

As the Duke of Edinburgh was coming to Ballarat during his Royal Tour to Australia it was hoped he would visit Learmonth. This visit did in fact take place on December 11th 1867. A Royal Regatta was held on Lake Learmonth in his honour.

The committee "set to work in good earnest" to complete a structure in time for the Royal Visit and to hold a Soiree that evening.

It wasn't until November 18th 1867 that a site was reserved for the purpose of constructing a "Temperance Hall". A bazaar, private subscription and the publication of the now treasured "Learmonth Thunderer" (newspaper) helped raise £100 ($200) in less than a week to help towards the costs of the building. the hall was to be 30 feet wide by 60 feet long and covered with a semi-circular corrugated iron roof. It is believed that George Dean would have been the builder.

The "Ballarat Star" reported on the Rechabite Soiree at Learmonth - "provision was made for something like a thousand people, but owing to the very disagreeable weather during the later part of the afternoon which took many home earlier from the regatta and other sports than if otherwise, only about 400 sat down to tea. After the tables were cleared and seats furnished, evening entertainment and speeches began." 

On April 13th 1868, tenders were called for "10 backed seats, 20 forms, a platform 30 feet x 8 feet and lining the interior of the new Temperance Hall with soft wood".

1870 saw the hall recieve 3 coats of paint "not before it was wanted " according to the locals. A question arose in the town when an itinerant hawker wanted to use the hall, as funds were still required towards hall costs and local would be called upon to help, it was though that the outside would be selling goods to the detriment of the storkeepers. "The hall was built for special purposes not to be turned into a Paddy's Market".

The revenue of the hall grew considerably while the government rented the hall for three and a half years from 1873, at the rental of £1 ($2) per week, for use as a State School. This additional income helped to pay for the rights of the land, cleaning and lighting.

The Defence Department, through Dr. Courtney in 1909, applied to use a room as a storeroom and office for th Light Horse. Two other rooms were rented later. The lease wasn't terminated iuntil October 1922.

On November 13th 1912 the Temperance Hall site was revoked and it was duly constituted as the "Learmonth Mechanics' Institute and Free Library. Additions had been made to the hall in 1885 and in 1914 further additions consisting of a new Library and Billiard-room were made at a cost of £300 ($600).

Mr. Rain (well known in the district as he also served as clerk of courts for 60 years) stepped down from the position of secretary, a role he had filled for 57 years, in 1925.

The Temperance Hall / Mechanics' Institute had been use by many groups to raise funds for their organizations and was a valuable means of bringing together people who might otherwise have remained strangers, much good resulted from the meeting, entertainment etc.


Researched by LDHS member Mrs. Claudette Crick.




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