Oddfellows’ Hall, 35 High Street, Willunga

A branch of the Manchester Unity Oddfellows Lodge was opened in Willunga in 1856. The foundation stone for their Hall was laid in September 1863 on land donated by Edward Rowlands, proprietor of the Bush Inn, who had died a few days earlier. According to the Register of 8 September 1863, the Hall was to be in the Grecian style and “will consist of a hall 43 feet by 25, and two committee rooms 12 by 10. The total cost, including fittings, is estimated between 400 and 500 pounds. It is well situated on the slope of the hill, and fronts the main street, and will when completed be a very prominent object on the landscape“. Harrison Powell (a prominent citizen) laid the foundation stone and remarked that the building would be “of vast benefit not only to the lodge but also to the community generally”.

The Hall was officially opened on Thursday 17th December 1863 by Sir Dominick Daly, Governor of South Australia who made his first visit to Willunga driving a four-in-hand coach. His Excellency arrived several hours earlier than expected, to a main street empty of the welcoming crowds and Volunteer Force guard of honour which had been arranged. His party repaired to the Old Bush Inn and emerged for the ceremony at the appointed time.

As the town’s first cultural centre the Oddfellows Hall was a popular venue for lectures, concerts, recitals, soirees, public meetings and Willunga Shows. Choirs, brass bands, a Literary Society and dramatic performers all provided culture and entertainment. By 1855 a public reading room and library was providing magazines, books and newspapers for children and adults (until moving to the Agricultural Hall in 1922). The District Council met in the small back room for a while from 1864. A singing class met here around 1869. The porch, added in the early 1920s, was built of stone available from the demolition of the first (1848) St Stephen’s Church on Aldinga Road.

The building was badly damaged by fire in 1923 and the Oddfellows Lodge records were destroyed. It was rebuilt by John George Stirzaker who then sold the building back to the Lodge which owned it until the late 1950s.

The Hall has been privately owned for many years, but has continued to be an occasional venue for art and photographic exhibitions.

This building is on the City of Onkaparinga’s local heritage list (SA Heritage Places database #5484)

References:

1863 ‘ODDFELLOWS’ HALL, WILLUNGA‘, Adelaide Observer 12 September, p. 3. , viewed 03 Mar 2024,
1863 ‘GENERAL NEWS‘, The Adelaide Express 16 December, p. 2. , viewed 03 Mar 2024,
Ruth Baxendale and Faye Lush, Willunga Walks, Willunga National Trust 1989.
The Oddfellows Hall: Crowds I have known, G. Kennelly and K. Beitz 2014.
Photo at State Library of SA, B 43361.

Search Our Web Pages