Ladysmith Memorial Hall

In memory of those who served

In the early 1920s, residents in the Ladysmith district, under the leadership of Mr Stan Wild, started a building fund to raise money for a “War Memorial Hall” to be built in the village.

Over the three years of 1923-1925, £580 was raised by the Hall Committee through donations, sports meetings, dances and other entertainment events. A large number of working bees were also held to transport quartz stone to the site and prepare it for mixing with concrete.

The new reinforced concrete structure measured 50 feet by 30 feet in the main hall, with a stage of 20 feet by 16 feet, and two dressing rooms of 12 feet square.

The construction of the hall cost just under £1,000. The remaining funds were guaranteed by Anthony Brunskill, F.F. Copland, S. Wild and P. Watson, whilst the Hall Committee investigated other fundraising methods to pay off the debt owed.

The foundation stone for the Ladysmith Memorial Hall was laid on August 5 1925 by Mr M. Fitzpatrick (MLA).

Such was the importance of the event for the Ladysmith district that the schoolchildren from Ladysmith Public School were given a half holiday to attend the ceremony. That evening, a dinner was also held and another £123 pounds was raised through donations to go towards the cost of the Hall.

A ball was held to mark the official opening of the new Memorial Hall on August 21 1925, with between 60 and 70 couples in attendance despite inclement weather. During the night, Mr S. Wild, the President of the Hall Committee delivered a short speech where he officially declared the new Memorial Hall open.

After the end of World War II in 1945, the decision was made to extend the Hall so fundraising began again.

Finally, on 9 June 1956, all the hard work and fundraising paid off, when the Governor of New South Wales, Sir John Northcott, opened the new additions.

More than 1,000 people were in attendance at the function, which saw the front of the Hall lit with coloured lights, and a large revolving model of the world was erected on top of the new additions.

Ladysmith Memorial Hall (RW1574.338.1560)

The Ladysmith Memorial Hall. This photo was taken sometime after the opening of the new additions in June 1956 (from the Tom Lennon Collection RW1574/338/1560).

References: The Daily Advertiser (13 Sep 1923, p.2; 6 Aug 1925, p.5; 27 Aug 1925, p.6; 11 June 1956, p.3. ‘A History of Ladysmith & District’ published to commemorate the Centenary of schooling at Ladysmith, pp. 24-28.

Meet Mr Wagga

Phineas Hann House - Toyland Oct1956 RW1574-268 1

The Commonwealth Bank purchased “Invermay” in 1955 as the location for their new South Wagga branch. At that time it was the site of Wally’s Toyland. (CSURA Tom Lennon Collection RW1574-268)

“In the old days Phineas was Wagga”. So declared the obituary of Phineas Hann following his death in 1919.

Hann was an influential and extremely well respected member of Wagga’s fledgling community during the late 19th Century.

Born in Tintinhull, Somerset in 1839 Phineas had taken up residence in Wagga by the early 1860’s. He was employed at George Forsyth and Company, initially as the Accountant and afterwards as Manager.

In later years he opened up business on his own account, becoming a partner in the well-known stock dealing firms Swift and Hann and also Wilkinson, Hann and Lavender.

He acquired considerable land interests in and around the town of Wagga, including the rich river flats country, known as Hann’s Paddock, located on the banks of the Murrumbidgee just north of the racecourse.

At the height of his fortunes he built and resided at “Invermay” in Baylis Street, which was known as one of the best appointed homes in the district, surrounded as it was by beautiful gardens.

In his early years Phineas was heavily involved in public institutions and affairs. For many years he acted as District Coroner, was Secretary of the Riverine Club and a Director of the Wagga Wagga Building Society. He was also elected as Alderman for the South Ward in 1900 and held office until 1908.

A keen sportsman, Hann was a committee member of the Murrumbidgee Turf Club and held the position of both Treasurer and Judge. He bred and raced several good horses including Impulse and Invermay both winners of the Wagga Cup.

Phineas Hann House - Toyland Oct1956 RW1574-268 2

This picture, taken in October 1956, shows the shell of the house which was incorporated into the new building. (CSURA Tom Lennon Collection RW1574-268)

In his later years, the family fortunes declined. The farming properties passed into other hands, the house “Invermay” was sold and the racing stable was broken up.

In 1911 he retire to Rockhampton where he remained until his death in 1919.

Cured, Relieved, Died

Continuing the hospital theme, a certain large-sized volume in our collection was brought to our attention last week by a researcher which has been a source of endless fascination to us: a Register of Admissions, Discharges, &c. from the Wagga Wagga Hospital, 1881-1882.

The old Wagga Wagga Hospital with the Chisholm Fountain out the front.

The Wagga Wagga Hospital was located on the corner of Tarcutta and Johnston Streets until 1910; the police station now occupies this site. This photograph was taken circa 1900. [Image courtesy of the Wagga Wagga City Library, from the Keating Album].

The information recorded for each admission in the register is as follows:

  • Name
  • Date of Admission
  • Age
  • Male/Female
  • Marital Status
  • Religion
  • Native Place
  • Residence
  • Occupation
  • Medical Officer
  • Ward Number
  • Disease
  • Date of Discharge
  • Result – cured, relieved, died
  • Number of Days in Hospital
  • Received for Maintenance (£)
  • Cash found on Person on Admittance
  • How Disposed of
  • Remarks

Each person has their own interesting story but there are a few that have really stood out to us.  For example, on the following page are two gentlemen (Richard McCarthy and Samuel Lester) who were admitted to the Wagga Wagga Hospital on 14 and 16 May 1881:

A page from the Register of Admissions, Discharges, &c. at the Wagga Wagga Hospital, 1881-1882

Register of Admissions, Discharges, &c. at the Wagga Wagga Hospital, 1881-1882 [from the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital Collection, RW939/327]   Click on the image for a larger version

The register tells us that Richard McCarthy was a 23 year old single man, originally from Victoria; he was Catholic and employed as a labourer in Narrandera.  We couldn’t quite make out what the “disease” was that put him in hospital but it was something to do with fracturing both legs.  He was in hospital for 8 days, then died on 22 May 1881.

A quick search in Trove filled us in on some more details – poor Richard had been “accidentally dragged through a stone-breaking machine”, breaking both legs below the knees and his right arm almost torn off.  His limbs were amputated by Dr Taylor but, despite this, he died just days later.  Sadly, the newspaper article mentioned that Richard was to have been married that week.

Samuel Lester was a 73 year old unmarried hawker, who had been born in England but now resided in Wagga Wagga.  His disease on admittance to the hospital was Old Age.  The register records that he was in hospital for 22 days before passing away on 6 June 1881.

Trove found us an article in the Sydney Evening News that told us Samuel was known locally as “Old Sam”, that he was blind and that he sold matches in the streets of Wagga.  Apparently, Old Sam’s death had sparked discussion throughout the town about his relatives. Rumour said he was the parent of a “well-to-do person in town” and so the Hospital Committee resolved to ask that person to pay Old Sam’s hospital and funeral costs.  We’d love to know whether they claimed him…

Wagga Base – a view from above

With all the changes happening at the Wagga Base Hospital lately, we thought a look at the site from above would be interesting for a Friday afternoon.

We don’t know when this photograph was taken but it has to be after the 1950s, because the multi-storey block was opened in 1963.  It also has to be after 1967 since Rawson Private Hospital is gone.  So our best guess at the moment is the photograph dates from the late 1960s or early 1970s.  If you can narrow it down further for us, let us know in the comments below.

A view of the Wagga Base Hospital from above, looking south.

The Wagga Wagga Base Hospital, n.d. [from the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital Collection, RW2706/59].  Click on the image for a larger view.

A couple of interesting things that caught our eye:

  • the gardens out the front of the old hospital are still there;
  • the fuel depot in Coleman Street (top left corner);
  • Wes’ Walkabout on the corner of Coleman and Docker Streets (it was a general store, back in the day);
  • the tennis courts on the south side of the nurses quarters, along Docker Street.

We were also interested in which houses we could identify that have now been demolished and exactly how many parking spaces were available at the time!

The John Gelme Carriage and Waggon Manufactory

The coach-building and wheelwright business established by John Gelme in Wagga Wagga at the turn of the 20th Century started in a small way but very quickly grew to become one of Wagga’s premier manufacturing businesses.

Gelme’s first premises were in Johnston Street, he having taken over the business of Rae and Wright in 1899. At that time the staff consisted only of himself and two other men.

John Gelme Coachbuilders, etc., 1908 [RW88.1]

The John Gelme Ltd building circa 1908. As his business grew, Gelme moved the business to Baylis Street (the site later became the Plaza Theatre, in the vicinity of what is now La Porchetta RW88.1)

By 1905, the business grew to be known as “The John Gelme Carriage and Waggon Manufactory” and had moved to Baylis Street. Gelme designed the new building with a frontage of 100 feet and, with a staff of twenty men, he had one of the largest manufacturing businesses in Wagga Wagga.

When advertising the change of address from his Johnston Street premises, Gelme apologised for having to refuse work because of being so busy. The introduction of his new complete plant, the latest machinery and increased staff, would alleviate this problem and all orders would be able to be fulfilled.

One of the additions to his new premises was a large showroom for display of his “high class sulky and buggy exhibits.”

Just a couple of years later, Gelme branched out into engineering, adding the department to his factory and employing Mr George Blackie as engineer.

In November 1911, registration was granted to the new company of John Gelme Ltd with capital of £10,000 in £1 shares. John Gelme became Managing Director, with TWW Burgess and WJ Monks as Office Managers.

John Gelme Ltd

The John Gelme Ltd building, circa 1926, Tompson Street: the car and wagon together show how the business was adapting to changing times (RW88.2).

In 1913, the business was relocated to Tompson Street and the Strand Theatre was built in its place (later known as the Plaza Theatre).

John Gelme retired from his position as Managing Director and moved to Sydney after a long and successful business career in Wagga Wagga.

Wagon made by John Gelme (RW88)


John Gelme Coachbuilders, etc., n.d. [RW88.7]


John Gelme Coachbuilders, etc., n.d. [RW88.9]


John Gelme Coachbuilders, etc., n.d. [RW88.12]


John Gelme Coachbuilders, etc., n.d. [RW88.5]

Pubs We Have Known

The 1960s and 70s was a time of demolition in Wagga.  “Get rid of the old to make way for the new” seems to have been the motto at the time and quite a few of the huge hotels lining the main streets of Wagga simply could not escape their fate.

The Grand Hotel midway through the process of demolition.

The Grand Hotel in Fitzmaurice Street (between Kincaid and Crampton Streets) closed early in 1964 and was replaced by a service station [from the Tom Lennon Collection RW1574/1560].

The Pastoral Hotel in Fitzmaurice Street, c.1960.

The Pastoral Hotel closed in November 1973 and was demolished a short time later. It was situated where the ABC Riverina radio station is now located [from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/1560].

The Criterion Hotel, partway demolished.

The Criterion Hotel in Fitzmaurice Street, next to Romano’s, was demolished in 1961.

There were exceptions.  The Union Club Hotel is the obvious one, with its wide verandah still spanning two sides of the building today. Many survived the wrecking ball but had to “modernise” their look by removing their verandahs altogether. The changeover from verandah to cantilever awnings was a process the whole of the main street was going through, starting back in the 1940s, but discussions around such a change had been going on since 1929.

The Sportsmen's Club Hotel's verandahs coming down

The Sportsmen’s Club Hotel’s verandahs coming down [from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/1560].

A close view of the demolition of the Home Hotel's verandahs.

The verandahs on the Home Hotel being pulled apart. The Prince of Wales Hotel’s verandahs in the background weren’t long for this life either [from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/596].

 A few hotels were pulled down and then rebuilt to suit the changing times…

The Wagga Hotel, c.1960

The Wagga Hotel, on the corner of Edward Street and Station Place, c.1960 [from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/1560], which became….

The new Astor Motel, c. 1960

The new Astor Motel in the 1960s [from the O’Hehir Collection, RW3048].

The Royal Hotel in the 1800s.

The Royal Hotel on the corner of Baylis and Forsyth Streets, as it was in the 1800s [from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/1560].

Carmody's Royal Hotel, c. 1960s.

The new Royal Hotel, built in 1939 by Mrs Carmody. It was demolished in 1979 to make way for a new Coles, which later became the Sturt Mall [from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/1560].

The main street of Wagga was once dominated by hotels.  But the needs and wants of a population are continually changing and the disappearing hotels with their bars, accommodation and meeting spaces, were a visible sign of the changing face of central Wagga.

Daily Advertiser on microfilm


CSU Regional Archives holds an extensive collection of local and national newspapers on microfilm. We have in excess of 60 different newspapers, including the Daily Advertiser, Wagga Wagga Express, Albury Border Post, Coolamon-Ganmain Farmers’ Review, Junee Southern Cross, Riverine Grazier and the Tumut and Adelong Times. You can view a full list of newspapers on the Genealogical Resources page of our website.

Recently, we received a large consignment of microfilm from the CSU Library which contains copies of the Daily Advertiser from March 1964 to April 2015. We have taken up a subscription in order for us to receive the latest editions of the Advertiser as they are released on microfilm. This means that we will hold copies of the Daily Advertiser from it’s first edition in 1868 up to the present day.

We have two ScanPro microfilm readers in our search room which researchers can use to make digital copies from the microfilmed newspapers. The copy can then either be saved to a portable data storage device or printed. Researchers are welcome to visit the Archives at any time during our opening hours.