The first School of Arts in Wingham began in 1875 in a single-storey building at 23-29 Isabella Street.1 Schools of Arts provided both recreational and educational activities and were the heart of community activities. Many public meetings were held there including debates, agricultural lectures, musical performances and even protests.2 On 25 June 1886, the Father of Federation, Sir Henry Parkes, visited Wingham and attended a banquet at the School of Arts in the evening.3
By the turn of the nineteenth century, the suitability of the original building was debated and in 1902 it was decided that new premises were needed to accommodate future activities. Architect Frederick Mallinson was employed to design the late Victorian-style building.4 Mallinson had lived in Taree for many years and his mother was licensee of the old Windsor Castle Hotel. Mallinson went on to design several attractive homes in Mosman.5
The site of the new building was not without controversy. It was built on recreational land that separated the Wingham Brush from the Central Park. Local identity George Snell Hill headed the protests claiming that the land was used for children’s activities such as cricket, kite-flying and tennis. Hill was defeated and the construction went ahead.6
On 7 August 1907, the two-storey building was officially opened. The President, H J Hammond, was presented with a gold engraved key to mark the occasion.7 In 1909, it also housed the Wingham Municipal Council before the Town Hall was built in 1924.8 The School of Arts was eventually replaced by the Wingham Library in 1958.9
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Manning Valley Historical Society Journal 34, August 2008.
2 Search of Trove Digitised Newspapers.
3 Daily Telegraph, 26 June 1886.
4 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 14 January 1905.
5 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 12 August 1938.
6 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 10 September 1904.
7 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 10 August 1907.
8 Manning Valley Historical Society Journal 34, August 2008.
9 Wingham Chronicle, 1 March 2018.
10 Wingham’s Past Days: Recollections of Early Life in Wingham and Upper Manning.Compiled by John Doust.