Tenterfield School of Arts | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Tenterfield School of Arts

Item details

Name of item: Tenterfield School of Arts
Other name/s: Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Community Facilities
Category: School of Arts
Location: Lat: -29.0558190338 Long: 152.0190100730
Primary address: Manners Street, Tenterfield, NSW 2372
Local govt. area: Tenterfield
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Moombahlene
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT1 DP18800
LOT10 DP18800
LOT2 DP18800
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Manners StreetTenterfieldTenterfield  Primary Address
Rouse StreetTenterfieldTenterfield  Alternate Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
National Trust of Australia (NSW)Community Group 

Statement of significance:

Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts is of historic significance as the venue for the now famous 'Tenterfield Oration' delivered by Sir Henry Parkes on 24th October 1889. The School of Arts has also has a long social and cultural association with the construction of Tenterfield as a community and the functioning as a community facility. Architecturally Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts is a prominent building reflecting the society and era dating back to the 1870s. The building and location reflect the beginning of a community functioning politically and creatively as a whole.
Date significance updated: 11 Oct 00
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Builder/Maker: Mr Merrell
Construction years: 1869-
Physical description: There are four major stages of construction, following the demolition of the 1871 slab barn - 1876, 1884, 1903 and 1913. These construction dates embrace different architectural style which are expressive of the separate eras in which each part was built.

The School of Arts as it exists today, is really a complex of separate buildings.

The original part of the existing school of Arts complex, comprising a Hall and Reading rooms built in 1876, was the culmination of community effort following the establishment of a Reading Room in 1863 by Edward Reeves Whereat when the township was barely 10 years old.

In 1884 the building more than doubled in size with the addition of a No.2 Hall to the east, a new bay to the south and gabled frontispieces to the Rouse St Faade. These elements were constructed in a mixed Victorian Rustic Gothic/ Romanesque style.

The Main Hall in Federation Free Classical style, completed in 1903, is a memorial to men from Tenterfield who gave their lives during the Boer War, 1898 - 1901.

The Billiard Room, designed by F. J. Madigan, was completed in 1913 towards the end of period uniquely nationalist architectural expression not known as the Federation Style. (Perry, 1998: 59 -64)
Date condition updated:04 Jul 00
Modifications and dates: 1884 - additions were made, including the steep gable entry portico and enlarged room to Rouse St elevation and construction of rooms under skillion roof along eastern façade.
1902 - construction of the Boer War Memorial arched entry portico and Main Public Hall to the south of the original hall facing Rouse St took place.
1903 - Main Public Hall opened.
1912 - original timber shingled roof replaced with corrugated galvanized iron.
1913 - demolition of rooms occurred at the rear of original hall adjacent to Manners St and construction of Billiard Room, now known as the A.D Donnelly Hall.
1931 - plans made for alterations to the biograph room. Sound screens were installed.
1952 - controversy over the condition of the School of Arts following the resignation of A. G. Nelmes from committee after thirty - five years.
1958 - the Local Management Committee appointed by the National Trust. Restoration commenced.
1960 to 1968 - refurbishment works were carried out, verandahs were removed from Rouse St due to interference with cars and renovations to the Billiard Room were carried out to convert it for general use. Probable addition of toilet to west end of dressing rooms and linking corridor wall to Kitchen wall. Construction of retaining walls and dish drains to eastern side of Committee Room and to the re-named A.D Donnelly Hall.
1982 - construction of sealed car park, kerbs and gutters on land adjacent to the eastern side of the building. (Perry, 1998: 14 - 17)
Current use: Library, Museum, Community Centre
Former use: School of Arts, Tenterfield Municipal Council


Historical notes: In his reminiscences of 1913, Mr Isaac Whereat wrote 'The first school of Arts was started about 1863 or 1864. Mr Geo. Wilson was elected president and Mr E.R. Whereat (age 23) honorary secretary and treasurer. It was situated in a building occupied by Mr Raper, a tailor, at the corner of Scott and High Streets'

It was afterwards removed to one of Mr Merrell's brick cottages in Rouse Street. In 1869 or 1870 they built the first School of Arts on the present site. It was slab building with a single roof and looked like a big barn (Perry, 1998: 21).

A year or so later public interest intensified and a bazaar was held and funds collected. The town and Country Journal of August 30, 1879 wrote 'The first meeting was held on March 9, 1871, when the Institution was organized and the committee appointed Mr J.F.W Addision, Police Magistrate, was the first president. Great interest was manifested in the information, and subscriptions were collected, together with a bazaar to obtain funds, and a considerable sum was realised towards the erected of a building' (Perry, 1988: 21)

On November 26, 1875 Mrs Lee, Wife of Mr C.A Lee who was Mayor and also president of the institution laid the foundation stone. It was opened on September 7 1876, with great eclat, the day being observed as general holiday.

The new School of Arts became the centre of community life with the town's first agricultural show being held in the building and adjoining grounds on April 5 and 6, 1877. The founders of the School of Arts were actively involved in the town's inaugural show with Edward Reeves Whereat presiding over the over the first meeting of the Tenterfield Pastoral, Agricultural and Horticultural Society when it was first formed in the late 1876. An original trustee of the School of Arts, Edward Irby of Bolivia Station was subsequently elected president.

In 1880 the Tenterfield Post and Telegraph office was completed.

During this period after the School of Arts was opened, in November 1882 events unfolded in Sydney which would ultimately embroil Tenterfield in the historic events that have given the School of Arts much of its cultural significance.

On 17 November Sir Henry Parkes, as Premier, had dissolved Parliament after the government was defeated on a Bill to modify controversial land laws created by his government some years before. Parkes looked beyond the current crisis to an extended term in office in which new achievements would crown his career.

In 1882 Edward Whereat retired and proposed Parkes as Member for Tenterfield. At the official nomination Whereat spoke warmly of ' the good likely to accure to the district from being represented by a man of such ability, power and influence as Sir Henry Parkes'. Tenterfield's mayor, David Corney, seconded the nomination and to enthusiastic cheers Parkes was elected unopposed.

A banquet in the School of Arts was held in February 1883 to honor Parkes' first trip to Tenterfield. In 1884 Parkes finished his term as Member for Tenterfield.

In 1935 A. D. Donnelly commenced his effort to protect and recognise the importance of the School of Arts. In 1937 Messers McMaster and Potts of Wallangarra, owners of the Lyric Theatre, attempted to take over the 'School of Arts Talkies' from the Literary Institute. In 1938 the Literary Institute temporarily stopped the take over by the Lyric Theatre. In April, 1938 the Lyric Theatre discontinued screening at the School of Arts.

In 1942 The World War II was in full swing, the Military Authorities took over the School of Arts Main Hall. The Military vacated the Main Hall in 1944.

A plaque was erected in 1946 by the Governor General H.R.H The Duke of Gloucester, to commemorate that Sir Henry Parkes had made his 'famous Tenterfield Speech' there.

In 1952 the controversy over the condition and use of the School of Arts began again. The Lyric Theatre and Motion Picture Exhibitor's Association joined the controversy and tried to have the licence to screen film revoked. In 1953 the Chief Secretary's Department cancelled the licence to screen films. The big name appeal committee formed to protect the School of Arts after the constant persistence of A.D. Donnnelly. Pleas were heard in 1954 - 58 by the Chief Secretary for panic lighting and safety inspection.

In 1957 the National Trust of Australia (NSW) acquired its first property, the Tenterfield School of Arts, which was transferred by an Act of Parliament (Le Seuer, 2015, 6).

In 1957 Tax deductibility for donations made to the National Trust funded the commencement of restoration. After refurbishment was carried out in 1960 the Main Public Hall was leased to Tenterfield Municipal Council for 30 years. Restoration and maintenance was completed during the 1960s.

In 1996 a council meeting was held to discuss the opportunity of Federation of Centenary. In 1997 a Conservation Management Plan commenced. (Perry, 1998: 15 - 17)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Accommodation-Activities associated with the provision of accommodation, and particular types of accommodation – does not include architectural styles – use the theme of Creative Endeavour for such activities. Adapted heritage building or structure-
7. Governing-Governing Defence-Activities associated with defending places from hostile takeover and occupation Involvement with the Second World War-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. Federating Australia-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to the pictures/movies-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Belonging to an historical society or heritage organisation-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Lt. Edward Charles Close, founder of Morpeth-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, Governor General 1945-47-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Sir Henry Parkes Memorial School of Arts is of historic significance as the venue for the now famous 'Tenterfield Oration' delivered by Sir Henry Parkes on 24th October 1889. The Tenterfield Municipal Library operates in the School of Arts today having maintained continuous occupancy of the site with this function since its predecessor, the Literary institute, was first established there in 1871. The halls within the complex continue their historical function as the main meeting place of the town. The school is the first building to be held in custodianship by the National Trust of Australia (NSW). (Perry, 1998: 108)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The School of Arts has a landmark presence in the Town. The building is constructed of four aesthetically significant styles: Firstly, the original part comprising of a Hall and Reading Rooms built in 1876. Followed by the building in 1884 in mixed Victorian Rustic Gothic/ Romanesque style. Thirdly in 1903 a Federation Free Classical Style was completed with the addition of a number 2 Hall to the east, and Finally, the Billiard Room was completed in 1913, comprising of a Federation style design. (Perry, 1998: 109)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The 1875 School of Arts was executed in a function and rudimentary style and the culmination of efforts to fashion and a cultural centre in a pioneer town. The town still represents a community meeting place for the people of Tenterfield. The Main Hall is a memorial to the men from Tenterfield who lost their lives in the Boer War, which ushered in Australia's independent nationhood. This (memorial) Hall is considerably significant through having been created by some of Australia's earliest and best soldiers who grew out of the Upper Clarence Light Horse, established in 1885. The Billiard Room is of moderate significance. It became, as well as its intended use as gathering place for the men of the town to play billiards, a gathering place for the names of the 117 young men of the town who were absent in the Great European War of then indeterminate duration. (Perry, 1998 : 113)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
Tenterfield's School of Arts depicts the evolution of the School of Arts movement in the stages of its development. Its Original Hall and Reading Rooms represents a humble balance between entertainment and education objectives while later extension demonstrate a drift in emphasis towards entertainment (the Main Hall ) and recreation (the Billiard Room). The phased development leaves a legible testimony to the rise and fall in the importance of the School of Arts. (Perry, 1998: 111)
Integrity/Intactness: The local community and The National Trust in recognising the significance of the site and maintaining, its original characteristics have maintained the integrity of the building.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0150601 Mar 02 541451
Local Environmental PlanSchedule 2 03 May 96 55 
National Trust of Australia register  5442   
Royal Australian Institute of Architects register     
Register of the National Estate 1987423 Jan 01   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Tenterfield School of Arts View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Tenterfield School of Arts View detail
WrittenLe Seuer, Angela2015'National Trust celebrates its 70th anniversary'
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)20082008 Annual Report
WrittenNational Trust of Australia (NSW)2000State Heritage Inventory nomination form
WrittenRobert Perry1998Conservation Management Plan : School of Arts - Tenterfield
WrittenThe National Trust of Australia (NSW)1992Calssification Card

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5051266
File number: H02/00261/1

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