Monday, 14 March 2016

Former Bellerive Institute Building

The Bellerive Institute was built in 1867 and is largely the result of the philanthropy of one man. Until it's construction, most public gatherings had to be accommodated at one of the local pubs and there had been long held feeling in the district that there was a need for a more suitable venue which could be used for lectures and social meetings.

Thomas Westbrook generously offered to erect a building at his own expense, if the community could obtain a suitable piece of land, sources a suitable supply of furniture and fittings and provide a good library of books. Garrett Maum generously donated a parcel of land and within a matter of a few months a very nice and spacious building had been erected.

The Institute was formally opened in May 1867 with a lecture followed by a selection of vocal & instrumental music. For the convenience of visitors who had journeyed across from Hobart, arrangements were made for the steamer, Kangaroo, to make a special trip back from Bellerive to Hobart at 10pm that evening. Attendees were informed that the object of the Institute was to promote the dissemination of useful knowledge and to improve the moral & intellectual well-being of Bellerive's residents. There was a call for the donation of books to allow the library to be formed but only quality works would be considered. - "The light trash with which ordinary library shelves are currently crowded are not required"  Westbrook handed over the deed of conveyance to a board of trustees and his exceptional generosity was recognized with three hearty cheers and proceedings were closed with the singing of the National Anthem.

In addition to lectures, dramatic reading and musical entertainment, the Institute was used by community groups such as the rowing clubs and the brass band. the library was ultimately established and subscriptions were maintained as low as possible so as not to create a barrier to those seeking instruction, education & amusement.

The Institute became Bellerive's main venue for public meetings until the Clarence Council constructed their town hall in 1928. In a effort to increase their membership, the library was moved to a more central location in 1930 and the Institute building was leased and later sold to the Clarence sub-branch of the Returned Servicemen's League. Today the building still stands, is in very good condition and is used by a religious organisation as a church.

Main Text & Information Source - 
"The Story of Bellerive - Street By Street" - Donald Howatson 2015

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