The Brookfield Hall Restoration
Anyone driving past the Brookfield Hall now could not help but notice that the Brookfield Hall is undergoing a bit of a facelift.
Our Brookfield Hall arrived here at the Showground in 1932. This current restoration is probably the most significant building work the hall has had done to it since then. Over the years it has been restumped (the last time in the 1980s by our current re-stumper Peter Mackenzie), painted (there is a lovely little mural on the side now laid bare by the removal of the annexe, with two separate sets of initials (‘J B’)), and the annexe was added in the 1940s and enlarged in the 1970s. Part of the annexe cladding and windows came from the old 1871 hall and, while the annexe is being rebuilt, these historical materials are in storage, awaiting a new life in the revitalised building.
It was apparent to all who dealt with the hall on a daily basis, most obviously to the trustees, that something had to be done or this wonderful old lady of Brookfield, having reached her centenary would not make it to the next. The trustees hatched a plan to do the work that is now under way in February 2016, when the Brookfield Hall Restoration Committee met for the first time. Since that time, with a lot of hard work and effort by a large number of people, over $350,000 has been raised from State and local government, and donations from a significant section of the local community. Part of this fundraising effort involved the writing, publishing and delivering of a high-quality booklet to the people of Brookfield and surrounding areas describing the area’s history and that of the Brookfield Hall. The funds generated were enough to start this project. With a local builder, a local restumping contractor and suppliers who have given their support in kind and financially, a true community hall and annexe will be on this spot for at least another 100 years.
This is the plan
When the work is finished, by the end of June, the exterior of the hall and its annexe will look largely the same as it did before the work began, albeit a little fresher and happier. There will be better pathways around it, a disabled toilet for the mobility -impaired members of our community at the end of the ladies’ toilets, a much easier access to the hall for everyone who comes to this marvellous building, and some landscaping in keeping with the landscaping elsewhere on the Reserve.
The real changes are inside. Since work began at the beginning of March, the hall has already been raised and ‘restumped’ so that its interior floor, while there will be a distinct demarcation between the old floor timbers of the hall and the new ones of the annexe, will be on the same level as the previous annexe floor. The stage is untouched, and the steps leading from the northern door have been raised a small distance only.
The annexe, apart from the incorporated historical features, will be completely new. A caterers’ kitchen, with ovens, hotplate, dishwasher and under bench refrigerator will take the place of the previous sink, benches, refrigerator and urn. The ‘bar’ bench will be faced on its outside in timber from the old annexe, as will a mobile bench. The storeroom will still be in the same place, but a little smaller and entered from the hall interior by opening two sliding doors which, when closed, will have inscribed on their public faces the names of everyone who has contributed to the restoration – a functional honour board.
Progress so far
The hall has been lifted and resettled, inspected and the work approved. The annexe has been demolished. The heritage timbers have been stored. The old stumps under the annexe have been removed. The footings and part of the concrete slab on which the annexe will rest have been poured. The work on the pathways to the disabled toilet has been started.
The steel frame for the new annexe will be fabricated on site and the disabled toilet will be started shortly. The hall and its immediate surrounds will not be able to be used during the Brookfield Show, and the needlework stewards will not be able to run their very popular needlework section this year at the Show. However, it is hoped that there will be a weekend later in the year when they can hold an exhibition. It is anticipated that there will be an official opening of the restored hall and annexe in October, one month after the centenary of the opening of the original Darra Victory Hall on 21st September 1918.
As work progresses, there will be further bulletins on the website.