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Arthur cast wide Webb with buildings his legacy

IMPRESSIVE: Murwillumbah High School was completed in 1929 by A F Webb.
IMPRESSIVE: Murwillumbah High School was completed in 1929 by A F Webb. Contributed

WHAT do a government building, a pub and a high school have in common?

In the case of Murwillumbah's former council chambers in the town's main street, the Imperial Hotel just a short way along in the same street and the original brick Murwillumbah High School building, the answer is these important town structures were built by building contractor Mr A F Webb.

Arthur Frederick Webb was born in the Wollongong district in 1880 and was the second of nine children of Daniel and Mary Ann Webb. In 1912 Arthur married Ida McKenzie Hicks in Sydney and went to live in Ida's home town of Thirroul.

By 1917 Webb was engaged in building the District Hospital at Wellington west of Dubbo. Although living at Thirroul, Webb worked wherever he won contracts.

In May 1925 he began work at the North Coast Girls School in Ballina and this was followed by the construction of a new trades school at Wollongong for the NSW Education Department, completed by August 1927.

Webb came to Murwillumbah to work on the construction of the town's first high school and by January 1929 was advertising for painters to complete the painting of the new high school with the "lowest tender not necessarily accepted".

The official opening of Murwillumbah's "magnificent new high school" took place on September 21 1929 with the opening ceremony performed by Parents and Citizens President Mr John Cedric Price. Jack Price was also the editor of Murwillumbah's Tweed Daily newspaper.

In the early 1890s Thomas Moore was operating the Imperial Hotel in Murwillumbah. A few years later it was taken over by Albert Osborne and in 1895 by Thomas Higgins.

Thomas built a new Imperial Hotel directly opposite the post office in the town's main street. On November 7 1929 the two storey wooden building built predominantly of cedar and teak and now owned by Toohey's Ltd of Sydney was destroyed by fire in the early hours of the morning.

By July 1930 the hotel site was cleared and the construction of a new Imperial Hotel costing over 20,000 pounds was started. Arthur Webb was the building contractor of the new hotel which was "of semi-Spanish design finished in pleasing colours with terra cotta tile roofing".

The modern hotel comprised 60 rooms of which 37 were bedrooms. In the centre of the building was a courtyard with a lawn and flower beds. The building was designed to be fire proof and the fibro and plasterwork throughout was carried out by Ray Granger of Lismore.

The new Imperial Hotel was completed by June 1931. In May of the same year Webb was awarded the contract to build an extra storey on the Murwillumbah Municipal Council Chambers. The accepted 1435 pound tender was one of two submitted for the upper-storey addition that comprised four rooms. The work was completed by the end of October 1931and created a beautifully balanced building.

During the time Webb was working in Murwillumbah his residential address was Tessa St in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood. He returned to Sydney where he took up major contracts. In 1934 he built a two storey building for the infants department of Lane Cove Public School as well as a new building for Neutral Bay Girls School.

For many years Arthur Webb was a member of the Master Builders Federation of Australia and at the 1943 annual meeting of the Master Builders Association of NSW he was elected a vice-president. Webb was elected president in September 1949 and served in that role until 1951.

Arthur Frederick and Ida McKenzie Webb died in Sydney in 1967. The respected master builder left behind a building legacy in towns and cities around NSW.

Topics:  arthur frederick webb, history, murwillumbah


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