Coogee Agricultural Hall

The Coogee Agricultural Hall was built in late 1896, with money raised by the local Agricultural Society combined with a grant from the State government of the day. It was on the road facing the Woodman Point Quarantine Station, where it stayed until the ill-fated Naval Base development forced it to move to its current site on the corner of Russell Road.

Building style and location

It was a ‘severely simple’ building, as the Agricultural Society was not wealthy, and had to cut down plans so much that they removed an ornamental porch from the original design for lack of funds. Nevertheless, it was solidly built of local limestone, and measured a modest 40 by 20 feet total. In all, it cost £300: the local market gardeners raised £35, the government gave £250, and the balance was owed to the bank.

Facing Woodman Point

Coogee agricultural show, 1904
It was originally set on land close to the Woodman Point Racecourse and Quarantine Station, as shown in a 1906 map of a proposed Clarence townsite that took in much of coastal Coogee, though the townsite itself never materialised.  The hall's original location was just south of modern-day Mayor Road, facing onto Cockburn Road.

Opening day drama

F.W. Burwell was the architect who drew up the final plans, and Fremantle builders Anderson and Whately built the hall. The opening day, in February 1897, was a mixed bag: there had been intense debate about where to build the hall, and those who had not gotten their way boycotted the opening and the Agricultural Society as a whole. A schism ensued, which was a blight on an otherwise happy day. 

A well-used community hall

For the next 20 years the hall was a focus for those settlers living further away from Fremantle. It held annual Agricultural shows for local residents to display their produce, animals, and craft. It was a polling place for local, state, and Federal elections, a place for political candidates like William Watson and Harry Bolton to make their cases to local residents, and a popular venue for birthdays, weddings, club meetings, and dances. For a few years it was also home to the Coogee State School, before the schoolroom was built a few hundred metres away in 1903. Coogee Primary School still stands on the same site. 

Naval Base plans

But plans for a new Naval Base threw everything into disarray. In 1913, a year before World War One, ground was broken on an ambitious new fleet base to be housed at Coogee. The Commonwealth government resumed large chunks of land around the area, and the base, though begun, was never completed. The hall was under threat for five years, until the land was finally resumed and the government paid a compensation fee of £750.

Relocation of original hall

In November 1918, the Hall was officially relocated and built anew, once again out of local stone and with local sheoak shingles for a roof. The new hall was larger, with two cloakrooms and a ‘first-class billiard room’. At the opening ceremony, returning soldiers quarantined at Woodman Point with the Spanish flu slipped out to attend the ball, where over 100 couples were dancing.

The new hall was located on ‘the new Rockingham Road’: the original hall had sat on what was once called Rockingham Road (modern-day Cockburn Road, running along the coastline), but with the advent of the base that road had been renamed Naval Base Road, and the new route through Spearwood to Rockingham took over its name. 

Decline in Coogee settlement

Agricultural shows were held in the new hall, with the 1920 show
Coogee Agricultural Show, 1901
attracting over 500 people. But as the Coogee district began to lose steam, it was overtaken by neighbouring Spearwood, which had better roads and more prospects and wasn’t threatened by Government resumptions. The 1929 show was held at the newly built Spearwood Agricultural Hall. It was the beginning of the end for Coogee.

In the 1930s people started calling it ‘the old Coogee Hall’, and the district began to be known as South Coogee, eventually becoming Munster. The hall was not so often in use as it had been: political candidates made speeches there, and it was one of the local polling places for elections, but the gamut of dances, agricultural shows, and social events had tapered off.

The neighbouring oval was used by the Spearwood Rovers in the early 1930s and 1940s as a training ground. The occasional social event was still held there - in 1937 Stella Anderson entertained 150 guests there for her 21st birthday, and it was used once or twice during the war years as a site for fundraising efforts and school performances, and as a ration book distribution centre - but the population of South Coogee was dwindling, and the hall was needed less and less.

In the 1950s and 60s the hall was used as a location for mobile chest x-ray units, which were being provided free to the adult population of Western Australia to prevent the spread of tuberculosis.

The hall was under the administration of the City of Cockburn until the 1990s, and is currently on a peppercorn rent to the Jervoise Bay Sea Scouts, who use it as a meeting hall.

References

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9 Coleville Crescent,
Spearwood 6163

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