Statement of Significance
What is significant?
The former Leigh Shire Hall is a bluestone building located at Warrambine, an isolated rural location on Warrambine Creek, half way between Rokewood and Shelford. Next to it is a small timber toll house, which was originally located at Hesse, about 19 kms to the south. The former Leigh Shire Hall, designed by the Shire Engineer C Wilson, was built in 1871-2 at a cost of £455. Local government in Victoria originated from the early 1850s with the establishment of the local road boards. These were later replaced by local councils, which continued responsibility for the construction and maintenance of roads. The Shelford District Road Board was formed in 1861, its first meeting being held in 1862 in an inn at the Warrambine Creek crossing. The road district became the Leigh Shire in 1864 and the new shire hall was built opposite the inn in this central location within the shire. The toll house was built by the Council in 1870, on what later became the Hamilton Highway. At some time after tolls were discontinued in 1877 the toll house was moved to a site next to the shire hall, where it was used as a waiting room. The hall was used until 1968, when the shire offices were moved to Rokewood.
The former Leigh Shire Hall is a small symmetrical Gothic Revival style bluestone building with fretted bargeboards and verandah valance and with a corrugated iron roof. There is a projecting gabled entrance foyer and a verandah sheltering the doorway. Internally the hall has only one room, with a sloping timber ceiling and plastered walls. There is a fireplace with timber surrounds on the wall opposite the entrance and there are World War I, World War II and Shire Council Honour Boards. An early freestanding steel safe and a metal trunk with 'Shelford District Road Board' (implying a date of 1862-64) written on the side in Copperplate have been retained in the building. Adjacent to the hall is the former Toll House from Hesse, a small symmetrical timber building with a corrugated iron hipped roof and a with a skillion addition at the rear. The site is bordered by mature conifers.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Wathaurung people.
How is it significant?
The former Leigh Shire Hall andToll House are of architectural and historical significance to the state of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The former Leigh Shire Hall and Toll House are historically significant for their association with the beginnings of local government in Victoria. The shire hall is unusual in being located not in a major town but at a central though isolated location within the shire, minimising travel distances for members and residents, and reflects the difficulties of travel during the nineteenth century. The former Toll House is historically important as one of the last remaining nineteenth century toll houses in Victoria. The former shire hall and the toll house together reflect the association between the district road boards and their successors, the early shire councils, the main responsibility of both of which was the construction and maintenance of roads, funded partly by the collection of tolls. The metal trunk in the hall once owned by the Shelford District Road Board is a rare reminder of the early road boards, the short-lived precursors of local government in the state.
The former Leigh Shire Hall is architecturally significant as a fine example of a small bluestone shire hall in a Gothic Revival style, with fretted bargeboards unusual for this period. The toll house is architecturally significant as a now rare example of a building type which was once common, but of which only a few examples survive in Victoria.
FORMER LEIGH SHIRE HALL AND TOLL HOUSE - History
Local government in Victoria
Local government in Victoria began with the establishment in 1852 of a Central Roads Board, which had the power to establish local road boards, responsible for building and maintaining the roads in their district. The 1863 Road District and Shires Act provided for the continuation of the Roads Boards but enabled them to become shires and meant that they could borrow for permanent works, collect licence fees and administer certain minor acts. This act was replaced in 1869 by the Shires Statute, which abolished roads districts, converting them to shires. Many of the early shires covered vast areas, but the difficulty of attending council meetings resulted in the break-up of some of these large units.
The main function of the local councils, especially in county areas, remained the construction and maintenance of roads, as well as minor activities such as look after government reserves, impounds stray livestock, collect dog licences, supply water and remove night soil. Their income was limited and the only permanent indoor staff were the town clerk and the engineer, sometimes combined. So the typical accommodation required was a council chamber and two adjoining offices.
By 1878 Victoria had four local government areas classed as cities, seven as towns, 48 as boroughs and 111 as shires (classified according to population and rate revenue).
In 1851 Victoria became a separate colony, no longer, as previously, a part of New South Wales (NSW) and became responsible for its own building and maintenance of roads. The roads were so bad that in 1853, the Central Roads Board was established, responsible for making and improving Roads in the Colony of Victoria. In 1853 a Roads Act established toll-bars on roads throughout Victoria. The Act empowered District Road Boards to collect fees on their boundaries to be used for the upkeep of local council roads. The Board was also responsible for the calling of tenders, deciding the position of toll gates, appointment of toll keepers, levying of tolls and for prosecutions for the non payment of tolls. By the early 1870s, the toll-bar system was proving uneconomical and the number of toll bars declined until, in 1877, the Victorian Government discontinued the system of toll-collection. (http://www.onmydoorstep.com.au/heritage-listing/4059/maldon-road-toll-bar-house)
The toll charges were published in the Victorian Government Gazette in 1850:
For every wagon, wain or other vehicle, with four wheels, drawn by one or two horses or other animals....1 shilling
For every wagon, wain or other vehicle if drawn by three horses or other animals.....2 shillings.
For every wagon, wain or other vehicle if drawn by four horses or other animals.....2 shillings and sixpence and add three pence for each additional horse of other animal drawing.
For every cart, dray or waggon drawn by two bullocks or other animals.....1 shillings and sixpence and every additional bullock drawing gig or chase or other such carriage constructed to carry passengers, with two wheels and drawn by one horse or other animal and extra 6 pence.
For every wagon, wain or other vehicle if drawn by two of more horses or other animals add an extra 5 pence.
For every wagon, wain or other vehicle if drawn by more than 2 horses or other animals.....2 shillings.
Tolls payable one way only going and returning only on the same day.
Three fourths only of the above rates for any vehicle to be paid when the tires of the wheels of such vehicle are not less than four and a half inches wide and are perfectly flat and level throughout their whole width.
(By order) C. Gavan Duffy
President of the Lands Boards and Works (1850)
HISTORY OF PLACE
[Information mainly from Gladys Seaton, Gold Reef and Silver Tussock. A History of the Shire of Leigh, Shire of Leigh 1988.]
From the early days of settlement there was an inn, the Half Way house, at a crossing on the Warrambine Creek half way between Rokewood and Shelford, opposite the future site of the Shire Hall. The area was mostly a flat plain with Warrambine Creek a major feature. The main towns were Shelford and Inverleigh.
The first step towards local government in the area was the proclamation of the Shelford Road District in August 1861, with its first meeting held in September 1862 at the Halfway House. Following the Road District and Shires Act of 1863 the Leigh Shire was proclaimed on 22 March 1864.
The Shire Hall of local bluestone was built and furnished in 1871-72 at a cost of £455. It was built not in one of the main towns but at Warrambine, half way between the towns of Rokewood and Shelford. Its central location within the Shire and so made travel from various parts of the shire easier. It was designed by C Wilson, the Shire Engineer. Trees were planted and the site fenced in the same year.
Hesse was only a postal township, with a post office in a local farmer's house serving the local area. It was located 12 miles south of Warrambine, at another crossing of the Warrambine Creek, half way between Inverleigh and Cressy on what is now the Hamilton Highway, where a hotel had been built in 1862. The Council decided in mid-1870 to build a toll gate at the site, and tenders were called the same year for a 12 x 24 foot timber toll house. The keeper David Cations lived there with his wife and three sons, who were born there between 1871 and 1875.
The system of toll roads was discontinued in 1877, and in February 1877 Council resolved to remove all toll gates. The income from tolls had also probably declined after the construction of the Geelong to Colac railway line. After the toll house at Hesse became redundant, at an unknown date, it was moved to a site next to the Shire Hall. Contractors whose presence was required at Council meetings used the former toll house as a waiting room.
At Warrambine was the inn, very few houses and the shire hall. Vision and Realisation notes that a small non-vested school opened at Warrambine in 1871, State School no 1322 opened in 1874 in a hut 'quite unfit for the purpose', and was replaced by a portable in 1876. The school closed in September 1876, to be replaced by SS 1793 Warrambine in October 1876 in 'a portable school with quarters provided'. It operated half time with SS 1376 Hesse (also known as Barunah Plains), but closed in 1882. Vision and Realization does not record the location of these schools.
In the 1950s the Wurrock South area was subdivided for soldier settlement. By 1957 the local population had increased and a new school opened with thirteen pupils in an annexe to the Leigh Shire hall. In 1959 the school moved into the disused Duverney school building had been moved to a site adjacent to the hall, but this closed in the 1970s and the building was removed.
The shire offices at Warrambine were vacated in 1968 and new offices were built in Rokewood. After Council amalgamations the Leigh Shire became part of Golden Plains.
FORMER LEIGH SHIRE HALL AND TOLL HOUSE - Assessment Against Criteria
a. Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history
The former Leigh Shire Hall and toll house are historically significant for their association with the beginnings of local government in Victoria. The shire hall is unusual in being located not in a major town but at a central though isolated location within the shire, reflecting the difficulties of travel during the nineteenth century. The former Hesse Toll House is historically important as one of the last remaining nineteenth century toll houses in Victoria. The former shire hall and the toll house together reflect the association between the district road boards and their successors, the early shire councils, the main responsibility of both of which was the construction and maintenance of roads, funded partly by the collection of tolls.
b. Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria's cultural history.
The toll house is a now rare example of a building type which was once common, but of which only a few examples now survive in Victoria.
c. Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria's cultural history.
d. Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places or environments.
The former Leigh Shire Hall is a fine example of a small bluestone Shire Hall in a Gothic Revival style, with fretted bargeboards unusual for this period. The former toll house is a good example of the small utilitarian structures once used for this purpose.
e. Importance in exhibiting particular aesthetic characteristics.
f. Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.
g. Strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons. This includes the significance of a place to Indigenous peoples as part of their continuing and developing cultural traditions.
h. Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria's history.
FORMER LEIGH SHIRE HALL AND TOLL HOUSE - Plaque Citation
This hall was designed by the Shire Engineer C Wilson and built in 1870-71 at this central location in the Shire. The toll house was built by the Shire in 1870 at Hesse on the Hamilton Highway and moved here after 1877.
FORMER LEIGH SHIRE HALL AND TOLL HOUSE - Permit ExemptionsGeneral Conditions: 1. All exempted alterations are to be planned and carried out in a manner which prevents damage to the fabric of the registered place or object. General Conditions: 2. Should it become apparent during further inspection or the carrying out of works that original or previously hidden or inaccessible details of the place or object are revealed which relate to the significance of the place or object, then the exemption covering such works shall cease and Heritage Victoria shall be notified as soon as possible. General Conditions: 3. If there is a conservation policy and plan all works shall be in accordance with it. Note: A Conservation Management Plan or a Heritage Action Plan provides guidance for the management of the heritage values associated with the site. It may not be necessary to obtain a heritage permit for certain works specified in the management plan. General Conditions: 4. Nothing in this determination prevents the Executive Director from amending or rescinding all or any of the permit exemptions. General Conditions: 5. Nothing in this determination exempts owners or their agents from the responsibility to seek relevant planning or building permits from the responsible authorities where applicable. Minor Works : Note: Any Minor Works that in the opinion of the Executive Director will not adversely affect the heritage significance of the place may be exempt from the permit requirements of the Heritage Act. A person proposing to undertake minor works must submit a proposal to the Executive Director. If the Executive Director is satisfied that the proposed works will not adversely affect the heritage values of the site, the applicant may be exempted from the requirement to obtain a heritage permit. If an applicant is uncertain whether a heritage permit is required, it is recommended that the permits co-ordinator be contacted.
FORMER LEIGH SHIRE HALL AND TOLL HOUSE - Permit Exemption Policy
The purpose of the Permit Policy is to assist when considering or making decisions regarding works to the place. It is recommended that any proposed works be discussed with an officer of Heritage Victoria prior to making a permit application. Discussing any proposed works will assist in answering any questions the owner may have and aid any decisions regarding works to the place. It is recommended that a Conservation Management Plan is undertaken to assist with the future management of the cultural significance of the place.
The significance of the place lies in the rarity and intactness of both the former shire hall and the former toll house. The extent of registration protects the whole site. The addition of new buildings to the site may impact upon the cultural heritage significance of the place and requires a permit. The purpose of this requirement is not to prevent any further development on this site, but to enable control of possible adverse impacts on heritage significance during that process. All of the registered building is integral to the significance of the place and any external or internal alterations are subject to permit application.