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  Issue No 84 Official Organ of LaborNet 16 February 2001  




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Trades Hall – The Royal Connection

By Neale Towart

Republic, who needs it when we have the Trades Hall decreed by Royal Imprimatur? So tug your forelock as work commences to restore the building.


Yes that's right. The grant was for land to provide a site for a Trades Hall and Literary Institute at Sydney for the use of artificers and operatives. The area was thirty-eight perches and seventeen one-hundredths of a perch. It was part of an area of 15 acres, three roods and four perches originally granted to John Dickson.

"Victoria By the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen Defender of the Faith and So Forth" (or her NSW underling in the person of the Right Trusty and Well Beloved Councillor Sir William Frederick Spencer Loftus (commonly called Lord Augustus Loftus) Knight Grand Cross of Our Most Honourable Order of the Bath Governor and Commander in Chief of Our Colony of New South Wales and its Dependencies), made the Land Grant for the Trades Hall site on the "thirteenth day of October in the forty-ninth year of our reign and in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-five."

The grant was made to Henry Copeland (MLA)of Newtown, Jacob Garrard (MLA) of Balmain, William Ferrier of Balmain (a stonemason), John Edward West of Woolloomooloo (a plumber and gasfitter), John Richard Talbot of Sydney (iron moulder), John Atkinson of Balmain (a boilermaker), Thomas candy of Surry Hills (a draper), and Richard Mooney of Woolloomooloo (a Journeyman Tailor). They were designated as the Trustees.

The trustees were required to "hold and use or allow the said land hereby granted and the buildings to be erected thereon to be at all times hereafter maintained and used as and for a Trades Hall and Literary Institute for the use of the Artificers and Operatives of Sydney aforesaid and others under and in accordance with such Regulations as shall from time to time be made by the Governor".

The building of the Hall was a drawn out saga, starting from the time of the original proposal to establish a Trades Hall in 1872. Henry Newland, Secretary of the Trades Hall, detailed the story in his speech at the opening ceremony.

In 1883 17 societies formed the nucleus of a fund, and a request was made to the Stuart government for a grant of land. This was refused, and upon receipt of the ultimatum a contingent motion was presented to Parliament by Henry Copeland having for its object the voting of £6000 for the purpose. The motion was carried by 27 votes to seven. After two years of waiting the voted funds were made available and the site was purchased.

A limited liability company was formed with a capital of £15000 in 15000 shares

In 1888 the Foundation Stone of the Hall was laid by another of Victoria's underlings, Lord Carrington.

The basement was completed but after that a lack of funds made it impossible to finish the work. A temporary building was erected and was used for a time.

Then the Eight Hour Day Demonstration Committee decided to invest its annual surplus in shares in the Hall, and from this source was received in three years £1574.

Through the Dibb government (Dibb had actually voted against the original vote of money) a bill was passed enabling the trustees to borrow money on grant

Not much more was done until June 1894 when afresh start to the building was made under the supervision of Mr J Kirkpatrick, who was also the architect.

The opening ceremony was performed on 26 January 1895, without royalty this time. Jacob Gerrard, one of the Trustees, was by this time Minister for Education and Labour, and he did the honours.

He gave a very heartfelt address to the crowd at the opening, saying how glad he personally was that the trade unions now had a home, a legal home. He reserved special praise for the late Mr Frank Dixson. "If any life had been given to the cause of his fellows his had."

He had "great pleasure in declaring that the Trades Hall was now open for the transaction of business, hoping and praying - he had no need to be ashamed of that word - that the building would be a home for trades-unions; that wise counsels would prevail in all meetings assembled there from time to time; that their decisions would be conducive to the best interests, not only of the workers of NSW, but of the whole of the Australian continent".

Mr McIntyre, president of the Builders and Contractors Association also spoke and amongst other things, pointed to the fact that there had been no contracting or sub-contracting in the building of the Hall. Every man employed had been a unionist, and had received the full rate of pay ordered by the associated trades."

Party Time

The opening was great reason for a banquet, and 200 representatives from various labour organisations accepted invitations from the land trustees. It was held in the main hall of the new building. His Excellency the Governor was unable to attend as he had to attend the Anniversary regatta events at Moss Vale. Speakers from all sides of NSW politics were there, but avoided any confrontations

Mr Talbot, a trustee, proposed a toast to the guests for the evening. The Mayor, Alderman S.E. Lees, MLA responded in part by saying "he was no stranger to them, and his sympathies and feelings were largely with them...They were all dependent more or less upon each other. All the ramifications of our varied organisations meant cohesion for the good of the whole. Justice, Liberty - not license - but that freedom which came from the British earth. They must stick to their liberty and never let it merge into license. If they stood by these two - justice and liberty - then prosperity must necessarily follow. (Loud Applause)

The assembly dispersed at 11.30pm, after having spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, January 1895; and the NSW Land Grant Register Book, vol, 761, Folio 123


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 84 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Life After Wartime
After ten years representing the interests of the labour movement in Parliament, Jeff Shaw is back at the bar. And loving it.
*  Legal: Why the Freeloaders Should Pay
Michael Costa explains why service fees are not only fair - they are economically rational.
*  Organising: Young Activists Bask in Union Summer
Sydney students have spent three weeks of their summer holidays experiencing on-the-ground work with unions.
*  Unions: Things Are Looking Up On The Dock
After six years as a call centre worker, Marios Ellas has joined the union movement. Here's his first impressions.
*  History: Trades Hall – The Royal Connection
Republic, who needs it when we have the Trades Hall decreed by Royal Imprimatur? So tug your forelock as work commences to restore the building.
*  International: Greetings from Hong Kong
Chan Wai-Keung from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions outlined the challenges facing Hong Kong workers.
*  Politics: One Nation - The Old Labor Link
The resurgence in One Nation in the WA election has the pundits again reaching for the tea-leaves. But are they pouring from the wrong pot?
*  Review: Elect the Ambassador
Labor frontbencher Duncan Kerr unveils his vision for a new international democracy.
*  Satire: Man Buys Big Issue for the Articles
A Melbourne businessman claims his recent purchase of the "Big Issue" was due to his interest in the magazine's editorial content.

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»  The Soapbox
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

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