Maitland Town Hall
A civic achievement
After the donation by the colonial government of a suitable parcel of land to be the site of the Town Hall, West Maitland Municipal Council advertised for suitable designs for the civic building, offering a first prize of 70 pounds. The winners were two young architects, James Warren Scobie and his partner, Arthur Lee from the local firm of Lee and Scobie.
The consolation prize of £20 went to the firm of JW (John Wiltshire) Pender, a Scottish builder and architect who had settled in the Hunter in 1857. Scobie had only recently served his articles with the firm JW Pender.
The foundation stone was laid 26 January 1888 as a centenary gesture by the Mayor Dr. R.J. Pierce and the cornerstone of the building was laid a year later by the next Mayor, John Gillies. His name is commemorated on a carved keystone over the Town Hall’s portico but the stonemason mis-spelt his name as ‘JONH” and the mistake remained for many decades until corrected in the 1990s.Construction took precisely a year and the cost of £6,645 included fittings.
Maitland Town Hall was opened by Mayor Richard Young on 28 February 1890.
Edmund Barton delivered the first policy speech by an Australian Prime Minister at Maitland Town Hall on 17 January 1901, before the first federal election held on 29 and 30 march 1901
With a tower that makes it a local landmark, Maitland Town Hall is considered one of the best examples of Victorian architecture in Classical style within the Upper Hunter region.
The classical style structure is Italianate with a neat façade surmounted by a prominent dome and clock tower which reaches 84 feet 6 inches (25.7 metres) above the pavement.
The hall proper is 80 feet x 50 feet x 35 feet plus a stage area.The wrought iron gates originally placed in the foyer were designed by James Scobie and fabricated at Sims Foundry, Morpeth in 1889. They were later dismantled and in 1971 were presented to Newcastle City Council at the request of the National Trust’s Hunter Region Council to decorate the King Street entrance and stairway of the refurbished Cathedral Park. They remained in the Park for the next 30 years after which they were returned and reinstalled in late 2001.
In 1980 the Town Hall was given a National Trust “classified” listing, the building considered to be essential to Australia’s heritage and worthy of preservation. A suspended steel awning over the front entrance was added in 1933 to protect people attending dances and functions from the weather. The awning has caused continued controversy over the years and when a proposal to make a permanent conservation order on the Town Hall and its site was raised in the 1981, some councillors expressed their desire to have the awning removed as it is not part of the original structure and has been described as ‘ugly and an eyesore’.
The awning remains in place.
Maitland Town Hall is still currently used for meetings, community activities and cultural events, meetings and as a symbol of representative local government. Over the years it undergone several renovations and repairs, the most recent being completed in 2017, but maintains its originality and beauty as a notable civic building.