Bathurst Old School of Arts Library Collection | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Bathurst Old School of Arts Library Collection

Item details

Name of item: Bathurst Old School of Arts Library Collection
Other name/s: School of Arts book collection, Bathurst Books
Type of item: Movable / Collection
Group/Collection: Collections
Category: Recreation & Entertainment Objects
Location: Lat: -33.422793 Long: 149.579345
Primary address: Bathurst City Library 70-78 Keppel Street, Bathurst, NSW 2795
Local govt. area: Bathurst Regional
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Bathurst
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT2 DP1076086


The SHR curtilage boundary is limited to the item itself and does not include the land it is located on or the structure it is housed within.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Bathurst City Library 70-78 Keppel StreetBathurstBathurst Regional  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Bathurst City LibraryLocal Government19 Oct 05

Statement of significance:

This moveable heritage collection of an estimated 2000 books is of State significance as the core collection of reference and historic books held by the Bathurst School of Arts between 1855 and 1956. The collection, dating from 1700 and with an emphasis on nineteenth century texts about Australia, includes rare and valuable volumes but also provides historic insights into the information available to the inhabitants of this major regional centre. The collection has research potential for scholars studying regional Australian history of the period, the School of Arts movement in NSW and the historical workings of local libraries.
Date significance updated: 12 Oct 04
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: Various authors and publishers.
Construction years: 1855-1950
Physical description: The Old Bathurst School of Arts Collection numbers approximately 2000 books or about 7% of the estimated 30,000 books held by the library in its heyday. The collection is currently stored in a compactus (accessed through another compactus) within the staff-only area of the Bathurst City Public library.

The nominated collection includes books dating from 1700 with predominantly nineteenth century non-fiction / reference texts offering an emphasis on Australiana, indicative of the earlier, educational role performed by School of Arts institutions. The collection is currently being increased again under a policy of returning books from the Bathurst City Library that had earlier been culled. These books tend to be mid twentieth century fiction.

The collection includes a useful variety of catalogues created at various periods throughout its history, that for example detail the titles held in 1899 (called the 'Main' collection) and those added between 1900 and 1907 (called the 'Supplementary' collection). A stocktake of the collection after culling from 1982 also details the titles held (although this was found not to be an entirely accurate record of book now on the shelves).

The collection contains a number of valuable and important items in their own right including:
1792 publication featuring scenes of old Sydney Town by "Captain Hunter".

Important supporting documents found within the collection:
Catalogue of the Bathurst Mechanic’s School of Arts 1899: A dictionary of Authors, Subjects and Classes.
Supplementary Catalogue of the Bathurst School of Arts for the Years 1899 to 1907 (inclusive) : Authors’ names and names of books in alphabetical order.
Original Bathurst School of Arts Minute Book (documenting the creation of the School of Arts and its library).
Ledger of periodicals, magazines and reviews bound into volume. Commencing in 1895, final entry appears to be 1915.
Stock Book No.3 Earliest entry is 1948. This book indicates the starting number for each section of the collection. Giving an indication of the size of the collection in the mid 1900s.
School of Arts Visitors Book 1899-1913.
Fees register (lists names of members of the Bathurst School of Arts).
At the front of the 1899 catalogue there is a section on the Rules of the Bathurst School of Arts Library. Within these rules there are sections headed 'Librarian', 'Books and Records', 'Stock list', 'Lost books', 'Fines' 'Worn-out Books' and 'New Books'. There is also a chapter on Library By-Laws. These rules and by-laws together with the remaining minute book provide us with a guide to the way the library operated the principles behind the library.

Classification and arrangement of collection
A-Travel &c.
E-Poetry and Drama
F-Miscellaneous essays, Sports &c.
Ref Lib-Reference Library
(Source: Catalogue of the Bathurst Mechanic’s School of Arts, 1899.)

Within each section a running number was allocated as books were added to the system.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The books are in good condition. The climactic conditions have worked to the benefit of the collection. The district does not have a high humidity and the air conditioning is kept on 24 hours a day resulting in the collection being maintained at a constant temperature. The library already has a pest control strategy operating. The area has poor lighting and is well away from natural light.
The Interim CMS advises that the coherence of the collection should be conserved and it should not be expanded with any further acquisitions, that none of its books should be made available for loan, and that items should only be provided to the public under supervision. The CMS recommends preservation measures such as de-acidification and housing under controlled environmental conditions to maximise its lifespan.
Date condition updated:17 May 04
Modifications and dates: The School of Arts library was reported as numbering some 19,746 volumes in the financial year of 1913-1914, with 28,277 loans recorded in that year (Cumberford, 2004). The collection in 1956 when acquired by Bathurst City Library was probably even larger than this, so the present collection represents trhe results of a culling undertaken by the Bathurst City Library during the 1950s.
Further information: Preservation measures such as de-acidification and housing under controlled environmental conditions would ensure the collection’s maximum lifespan. The collection should be catalogued onto the Bathurst City Library’s database using standard AACRII and MARC cataloguing procedures. Cataloguing the collection will enable access and give a broader view of the collection as a whole.
Current use: Rare books collection
Former use: Reference and lending collection


Historical notes: Aboriginal people and colonisation.
Aboriginal occupation of the Blue Mountains area dates back at least 12,000 years and appears to have intensified some 3000-4000 years ago. In pre-colonial times the area now known as Bathurst was inhabited by Aboriginal people of the Wiradjuri linguistic group. The clan associated with Bathurst occupied on a seasonal basis most of the Macquarie River area. They moved regularly in small groups but prefered the open land and used the waterways for a variety of food. There are numerous river flats where debris from recurrent camps accumulated over a long period. European settlement in this region after the first documented white expedition west of the Blue Mountains in 1813 was tentative because of apprehensions about resistance from Aboriginal people. There was some contact, witnessed by sporadic hostility and by the quantity of surviving artefacts manufactured by the Aborigines from European glass. By 1840 there was widespread dislocation of Aboriginal culture, aggravated after 1850 by the goldrush to the region (HO and DUAP, 1996, 88).

Prior to European settlement in Australia, the Wiradjuri Aboriginal group lived in the upper Macquarie Valley. Bathurst was proclaimed a town by Lachlan Macquarie on 7 May 1815, named after Lord Bathurst, Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies (Barker 1992:25). Bathurst is Australia's oldest inland township. It was proclaimed a town in 1815 with the discovery of gold.

Governor Macquarie chose the site of the future town of Bathurst on 7 May 1815 during his tour over the Blue Mountains, on the road already completed by convict labour supervised by William Cox. Macquarie marked out the boundaries near the depot established by surveyor George Evans and reserved a site for a government house and domain. Reluctant to open the rich Bathurst Plains to a large settlement, Macquarie authorised few grants there initially, one of the first being 1000 acres to William Lawson, one of the three European explorers who crossed the mountains in 1813. The road-maker William Cox was another early grantee but later had to move his establishment to Kelso on the non-government side of the Macquarie River (GAO, 2005, 8).

A modest release of land in February 1818 occurred when ten men were chosen to take up 50 acre farms and 2 acre town allotments across the river from the government buildings. When corruption by government supervisor Richard Lewis and acting Commandant William Cox caused their dismissal, they were replaced by Lieutenant William Lawson who became Commandant of the settlement in 1818 (ibid, 8).

Macquarie continued to restrict Bathurst settlement and reserved all land on the south side of the Macquarie River for government buildings and stock, a situation that prevailed until 1826. In December 1819 Bathurst had a population of only 120 people in 30 houses, two thirds being in the township of Kelso on the eastern side of the river and the remainder scattered on rural landholdings nearby. The official report in 1820 numbered Bathurst settlers at 114, including only 14 women and 15 children. The government buildings comprised a brick house for the commandant, brick barracks for the military detachment and houses for the stock keeper, and log houses for the 50 convicts who worked the government farm. Never successful, the government farm was closed by Governor Darling in 1828 (ibid, 8).

Governor Darling, arriving in Sydney in 1825, promptly commenced a review of colonial administration and subsequently introduced vigorous reforms. On advice from Viscount Goderich, Darling divided colonial expenditure into two parts: one to cover civil administration, funded by New South Wales; the other for the convict system, funded by Britain (ibid, 10).

By this time, J.McBrien and Robert Hoddle had surveyed the existing grants in the vicinity. Surveyor James Bym Richards began work on the south side of the river in 1826. But the town was apparently designed by Thomas Mitchell in 1830 and did not open until late 1833 after Richards had completed the layout of the streets with their two-road allotments. The first sales were held in 1831 before the survey was complete (ibid, 10).

In 1832 the new Governor, Major General Sir Richard Bourke, visited Bathurst in October. He instructed the Surveyor General Major Thomas L. Mitchell to make arrangements for 'opening the town of Bathurst without delay' and he in turn instructed the Assistant Surveyor at Bathurst J.B. Richards to lay out the blocks and streets. This was done in September 1833. It is believed that Major Mitchell named the streets, with George Street being named after King George III.

The Bathurst School of Arts
In 1855 the Bathurst School of Arts and Mechanic's Institute was established, offering the beginnings of scientific and technical education in Bathurst (Greaves, 1961). A grant of land to the School of Arts resulted in premises being built by 1861 on the corner of Howick and William Streets on land adjoining the Church of England's All Saints Cathedral. It was a two storey building designed by local architect, M.H. Sadlier. A long-desired public hall was completed in 1874, helping boost the membership to 324 people (Bialowas, 2000, 35, 39-40).

During the 1870s the School of Arts received an annual grant from the Government on the understanding that 'the institution should tend to the intellectual advancement of the people'. Early accounts of the lectures and discussions suggest that entertainments were many and varied, including: lectures, tea-drinkings, readings, soirees, bazaars, an occasional circus, 'biological-phenomena', mesmerism, and phrenology. The courses of lectures were on occasion ambitious and expensive (Greaves, 1961).

In 1873 the committee of the School of Arts advocated the opening of a working-man's college. For some years during the early 1880s, funds made available by the Government for technical training were controlled by the School of Arts, but by the late 1880s the management of technical education was transferred from the School of Arts committee to a board appointed by the NSW Government (Greaves, 1961). In 1889 the NSW Department of Education became responsible for such education and in 1894 the School of Arts sold its unused land in William Street to the Department of Public Instruction for the construction of a college. The college in William Street, designed by the Colonia Architect W.L. Vernon, was completed in 1898 (Bialowas, 2000,36).

The Bathurst School of Arts Library Collection
The Old Bathurst School of Arts Library Collection was probably begun soon after the establishment of the Bathurst School of Arts in 1855. In the financial year 1913-1914, the School of Arts Library Collection was measured at nearly 20,000 volumes (Cumerford, 2004). In the 1940s at least the collection was still housed on the first floor of the 1862 School of Arts building on the corner of William and Howick Streets (Bialowas, 2000). Bathurst City Council acquired the collection in 1956 when it took over the Old School of Arts building. The estimated 2000 books now held in this collection were probably separated out from the Bathurst City Library's general holdings soon after acquisition, and have stored together away from public access. They have never been available for lending, although they has been viewed by members of the public from time to time under supervision (Cumberford, 2004).

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Migration-Activities and processes associated with the resettling of people from one place to another (international, interstate, intrastate) and the impacts of such movements Settling in country towns-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Communicating by the printed word-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages Developing civic infrastructure and amenity-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour Working in local government-
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. Maintaining libraries and museums for educational purposes-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation Going to the library-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Social institutions-Activities and organisational arrangements for the provision of social activities Developing and maintaining a local library-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
This collection of an estimated 2000 books is of State significance as the core collection of reference and historic books held by the Bathurst School of Arts between 1855 and 1956. The collection, dating from 1700 and with an emphasis on nineteenth century texts about Australia, includes rare and valuable volumes but also provides historic insights into the information available to the inhabitants of this major regional centre.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The collection has local significance for its associations with local citizens who founded and maintained the Bathurst School of Arts and its library collection. It also has local significance in relation to inscriptions and book plates associated with local citizens to be found on some of the volumes.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The collection has high local aesthetic significance for containing a number of valuable and important books.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The collection's high level of local social significance is evidenced by its nomination during the consultation undertaken during the State Heritage Listing project for the Central West.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The collection is of State significance for its research potential for scholars researching regional Australian history of the period, the School of Arts movement in NSW and the historical workings of local libraries.
SHR Criteria f)
The collection is of State significance for its rarity as a surviving collection of historic books from a major regional School of Arts library. Two other surviving School of Arts libraries found to be still operating in NSW in 2004 were the Sydney Mechanics Institute and the Casino School of Arts, which held predominantly recent, late twentieth century editions of fiction. The Carlton School of Arts disposed of its library collection in 1996. The old library collection of the Newtown School of Arts was found to be still stored on site but locked in a room with unknown contents. By comparison this is a rare collection of predominantly non-fiction / reference texts with an emphasis on Australiana, indicative of the earlier, educational role performed by School of Arts institutions.
SHR Criteria g)
The collection is of State significance for its value as a surviving collection of books from a regional School of Arts library, which, enhanced by its various catalogues, is representative of the range of non-fiction and reference texts that were historically available in a major regional centre in NSW.
Integrity/Intactness: The books are generally in good condition and housed under excellent conditions (low humidity, low levels of natural light, constant temperature) but some of the more rare and valuable items require more specific conservation work.
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 0171222 Oct 04 1668181

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Central West Pilot Program SHRP2001 Heritage Office SHRP  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Bathurst Old School of Arts Library Collection View detail
WrittenElizabeth Robertson, Heritage Office Librarian2004Report on observations of the Bathurst Old School of Arts Library Collection
WrittenGovernment Architect's Office2005Bathurst Hospital Conservation Management Plan
WrittenHO & DUAP (NSW Heritage Office and NSW Department of Urban Affairs and Planning) HO & DUAP (NSW Heritage Office and the NSW Department of Urban Affairs and Planning1996Regional Histories of NSW

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: 5053088
File number: EF14/4360; H04/77

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