The evening of 27 July was mild, and about thirty residents turned out to hear about the proposal for a 68-place Childcare Centre to be located in this remarkable Late Victorian Church Hall, a Heritage Item and landmark that has served the Glebe community in many capacities over it long life. In case some members are unaware, the Hall commemorates Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and she was at that stage the longest serving British monarch: hence the name. She has now been supplanted by the present Queen, but the Hall contains two unusual relief plaques, the inside, coloured one hoping and proclaiming, in a style unmistakably Victorian, May children of our children say she wrought her people lasting good. I have not seen anything quite like it anywhere else.
The President, Allan Hogan, chaired the meeting, which lasted about an hour. St John’s Churchwarden, Conrad Kerins, began by explaining the reasons for the church’s decision. The parish can consolidate all its activities in the church itself, thus allowing the lease of the Hall and adjacent land to provide income for the church’s community activities.
Paul Mitchell, Development Manager for Goodstart Early Learning, then explained the nature of his organisation. When ABC Childcare collapsed, a group of four major charities bought many of the ABC centres to form a non-profit collection of centres that now operates successfully on a large scale throughout Australia. He also showed several examples where Goodstart had converted heritage buildings to Early Learning Centres in several States.
Paul Mitchell also he described the Application for Record Reign Hall and the adjacent land, which is now in advertising. The 1970s addition to the Hall will be demolished and replaced by a two-storey building on the adjacent land, at right angles and at the rear of the site, designed to match the existing Hall in height, mass and roof form. This new building will be divided into two areas for different age groups, and so will the Hall itself, making two more age-group areas. There will be extensive landscaped play-space.
The current community garden and the memorials will be moved across the road to the land surrounding the church. There will be an archaeological survey of the present community garden site. In case more recent members are unaware of the history. The original church was built on this site by Edmund Blacket in 1857. It was demolished after some fire damage in 1970, and replaced by the current lean-to. The masonry of the old church was sold to a local dentist, Alfred Adey, who used it to construct the underground section of what is now Darbar Indian Restaurant. If you want to see what happened to Blacket’s church I strongly recommend you come to the Society’s Thirsty Thursday at Darbar on 7 September.
Allan Hogan then invited questions from the audience, and a number of points mentioned in the report above were covered. There were more searching questions about changes to Record Reign Hall itself. The most significant is that, while the proscenium arch and columns will be retained, the floor of the stage will be lowered to the same level as the rest of the hall, using the same timber flooring, and there will be new connections to the new building to be built next door. There will be a lift so the upper floor of the new building is fully accessible. Record Reign Hall will no longer be available for the many community uses that have made it so familiar to members in the past. However, the recently renovated Town Hall, further along St Johns Rd has since accommodated several of those uses, and others will be transferred to the Church.
Generally speaking, the response was favourable. I was also assured after the meeting by the Goodstart Area Manager that places for disadvantaged children would be available and a special effort made to integrate the Centre into the Glebe Estate Community.