Museum builds on chambers history
THE Tweed River Regional Museum is custodian to a great deal of the Tweed’s history and it is fitting that it should have its home in a 95-year-old building that is itself an integral part of local history.
The former Tweed Shire Council Chambers on the corner of Bent Street and Queensland Road had its foundation stone laid on Thursday, July 8, 1915 by Tweed Shire Council President Cr William Brasnett who was presented with a pearl-handled silver trowel for the task.
Tweed Shire Council met in the new chambers on Thursday, November 4 and after the minutes of the previous meeting were read the councillors got down to business.
Pam Rivett, formerly Pam Twitchett, and Ken Forster are the last two remaining of the former council employees who worked at the old council chambers.
Ken, born in 1929, is the baby of the two while Pam was born in 1925.
Between them they have a wealth of information about the days when the Tweed Shire was governed from the Queensland Road address.
Pam began work at the council chambers in November 1940 and continued to work there until February 1946 when she left to be married.
Once married she moved to Brisbane with her new husband and there she raised their four children.
Pam worked for Shire Engineer Arthur Horniman and she considered her weekly wage of 30 shillings to be an “absolute fortune for a 16½-year-old girl.”
Pam worked with other staff at a large table in the main room where monthly council meetings were held. On a desk running the centre of the main office the rates register was kept. Pam and the other girls wrote up the books as payments were received and receipts issued.
A small room at the back (now used for museum committee meetings) was where outside council workers handed in their time sheets and Pam remembers that it was always dirty.
After the war the NSW Department of Local Government took steps to amalgamate the Tweed Shire and Murwillumbah Municipality into one local government body to be known as Tweed Shire Council.
By proclamation of the NSW Government Gazette of Friday, December 20, 1946 the union was accomplished.
The new Shire of Tweed was constituted with four ridings and a provisional council of 12 was appointed by the NSW Governor.
The merger came into effect on January 1, 1947 with Cr C E Cox of Tweed Heads elected president at council’s inaugural meeting.
Following the consideration of staff appointments, Mr Horniman’s appointment as shire engineer was extended until December 31, 1947 and Charles Webster was appointed health and building inspector.
Ken Forster remembers that at the time of the Tweed amalgamation the only other NSW region to be merged was Shoalhaven.
In 1946, with the impending Tweed amalgamation, Ken was approached to join the administration staff to assist the rates clerk in his duties and to assist Mr Webster.
Ken, who went on to become Tweed Shire Council’s Health and Building Inspector, remembers that the council chambers provided separate office space for three senior officers, a public enquiry and rates payment area, council meeting room, strong room and a small wash, tea and storage room.
After the old Municipal Council chambers on the corner of Murwillumbah Street and Queensland Road were upgraded and became the new Tweed Shire Council chambers, the old shire chambers was used by Ray Freeman as a Department of Motor Transport Office.
The brick building was later converted into two flats for council staff and in 1981 it was occupied by State Emergency Services until the service relocated next to the Murwillumbah Civic Centre in Tumbulgum Road.
In 1988 the then Murwillumbah Historical Society set up a museum in the building and since that time the accumulation and display of Tweed history has kept the society and its volunteers busy.
The creation of such an enormous collection has made the acquisition of more space a priority and the planned new extension behind the present museum will allow for a proper display of the region’s past.