A Short History
as recorded on the Macclesfield Community History website
The Mechanics Institute, part of a state-wide educational movement, originally held meetings in the schoolroom (now the RSL building). Its purpose was public instruction as well as social interaction, and it provided lectures on current events, literature and politics as well as a reading room and library.
It was from this small beginning that the enthusiasm came for the building of an Institute. Tenders were called for the Macclesfield Institute in October 1880. The successful builder was R.C. Trenouth of Strathalbyn with a basic price of £80 pounds. The building was designed at no cost by the Adelaide architect, F.W. Danker, a relation of the town’s storekeeper H. Danker.
The foundation stone of the Institute was a block of freestone with an inlaid marble panel, a gift from Mr Hugh Frazer, MP. On it was inscribed ‘Macclesfield Institute’. The stone was laid by A.H. Landseer MP, on December 16th 1880.
The Institute was formally opened on May 24, 1881, the Queen’s Birthday holiday. As reported in the local newspapers, Mr Landseer, after declaring the stone well and truly laid (loud cheers), said that he felt no doubt that the residents of Macclesfield would fully appreciate the advantages which such a building would give them, and now that they had men of culture settling amongst them, lectures for the benefit of the rising generation could be periodically given when the new Hall was open.
The opening day was marred by incessant rain which caused some modifications to the elaborate programme that had been planned. A large number of invitations had been sent out and at noon those who had arrived were warned to assemble for the opening ceremony by the firing of carronades. The Mount Barker Brass Band played in front of the building as the visitors assembled. Then Mr J.L. Stirling MP received the key from the Reverend J McMichael, said a few words to the assembly, opened the hall door and proceeded to the stage where the Institute Committee joined him. Several further speeches were made.
The Reverend McMichael outlined the financial situation thus: the purchase of the property and the total cost of the building was £850; £90 had been paid for a piano and the cost of furnishing the hall had been about £60 making a total of £1,000. The receipts had been subsidised pound for pound by the Government and a mortgage of £500 had been secured.
An adjournment was made to the Davenport Arms where a public luncheon was provided. The local correspondent noted that a pleasing feature here was the presence of lady visitors.
Later in the day, a reduced programme of sports was held on (the cricket ground) Davenport Square, there was a public tea in the schoolroom, and a grand opening concert in the Institute Hall at night, followed by a Ball.
A building that abutted the Institute was renovated and used as a supper room, reading room, library, kitchen and eventually, as the Council Chamber.
The minutes of the Institute Committee reveal that for the next hundred years the people of the town have gained enormous value from their hall. It has been used for dancing, lectures, skating, bazaars, square dancing, movie pictures, table tennis, concerts and numerous public meetings that have shaped the welfare of the district.
In 1891 the Macclesfield District Council took over control of the Institute and supervised its use through the agency of an elected Institute Committee.