Roma's State Butchery and Courth House

By Chronofus - 6/12/2001

This is only the start of this rather long document. More will be added as time permits

State Butchers- 75 Arthur St

Roma town Council holds very little information on the State Butchers. We hold a copy of the gazettal for a Reserve for State Enterprise Purposes. It comes from the Government Gazette of the 2nd of August 1919, page 337. It refers only to sub 1, lot 8 on section 33, though from all records I can find the adjoining sub 2 has always been associated with the butcher, and even has part of the structure upon it.

Unfortunately the digital council rate records only extend up to 1920, so the occupation history of the block is not in an easily retrievable form. Building records show there were 2 extensions within the period we have indexed records for, both being done under the ownership of Evans Butchery. These works were nominally carried out just after the 19th May 1970 and 2nd June 1980. Between 1919 and 1964 there is no way of knowing if any other works were carried out.

Prior to the construction of the Butchers, the land was vacant, and had changed hands a number of times. Being owned for most of the time by CH Hoffman who took over the land in 1896. Prior it had seen a number of occupiers including a blacksmith. The block is currently owned by Wayne "George" Ladbrook, and was previously owned and occupied by Evan's Butchers in recent times.

The sketch associated with these notes is from the 1920's insurance sketches, and shows the building in its earliest form. Worth noting is the collection of out buildings, and the attached extensions for the condenser and boilers. Unfortunately these plans do not show internal walls. Judging by this plan and the current building, it has not changed except for a few minor extensions.

The Western Star of the 26th February 1919 mentions the building:
"The decision by the local butchers, Mr E Donald and Mrs Lannam, to relinquish businesses at the end of the present month has apparently forced the hands of the State Government in the matter of opening a State Butchery at Roma. Some few weeks ago the Government acquired a site for a shop in Arthur St and evidently did not intend to enter upon business until suitable premises had been erected. In the meantime, the local butchers had been notified that considerable expenditure would be required to bring their shops and slaughter yards up to the standard required by the Government Inspectors., and, with State competition threatening them in the near future, they decided to relinquish business rather than incur increased expenditure. In response to inquiries by the Town Council (which would probably appear in the minutes of the time), the Government despatched an officer of the State Enterprises Department (Mr Dwyer) to Roma on Saturday. Mr Dwyer has made arrangements to take over the present butcher's shops from the 1st of March pending the erection of the State premises, and supplies of fresh meat will be daily obtainable from the State meatworks at Charleville, being conveyed here in a cold storage truck. It is confidently anticipated that under State control there will be a substantial reduction in the price of beef and mutton from the 1st of March.

Roma Court House

Much is known already from the standard local history books and already perused by the Department on pervious visits. Rather than repeat this information, I have included a few extra pieces of information.

The land prior to the current arrangement was owned by both the council and the government, the 1867 Surveyor maps already showing the blocks set aside as the market garden, court house and gaol reserves. The eastern point of the land being a council owned market reserve which was first gazetted as such in 1871. Running directly through where the Court House building is now was originally the extension of Albert St. Originally Feather St was known as Alfred St, Soutter St was Albert St, and Spencer St was a continuation of May St. With the gazettal of the Albert St road closure on the 1st July 1899, Roma's triangle of law was soon to follow with the gazettal of the Reserve for Court House, and Reserve for Gaol proclaimed in the government gazette of the 24th of March 1900 on pages 957 & 958. After all the jiggery pokery of the legal paperwork, the land was all in state government hands except for a small triangle of land on the Queen/McDowall St corner which is still a council market reserve. How or why this portion survived in council's hand is not clear considering the reserve was nominally rescinded and handed over.

Council minutes for 1899 show the following in relation to the Court House:
"His worship the mayor stated that he had had an interview with the Colonial Architect and the Under Secretary for Works, and these gentlemen wished to know whether the Council would hand over the market reserve in front of the court house for the purpose of constructing a new court house there.
Moved Ald Murphy, sec Ald Enright.
That the council offer no objection to the government taking over the market reserve for the purpose of erecting a new court house.
Ald Hunter objected to the motion on the grounds that he thought the government would give the council some other land in exchange and if the resolution were carried it would preclude the council from asking for an exchange - he moved as an amendment
That the council is favourable to handing over the market reserve for the purposes named
Seconded Ald Rogers.
Ald Murphy ?? (like questioned, but that's not what it looks like) that this was not an amendment
His worship the mayor ruled in favour of the amendment, which was carried. Ald Murphy & Enright dissenting."

In a separate entry: "Ald Spencer stated that he had seen the plans for the new court house to be built on the market reserve and the Police Magistrate had been inquiring whether the council would object to having that part of Albert St lying between McDowall and Queen St being closed.
Ald Alford retired (no reason stated)
The motion was moved by Ald Spencer, sec by Ald Hunter.
That a letter be written to the Police Magistrate stating that in view of a new court house being erected on the market reserve the council had no objection to the closing of that part of Albert St so lying between McDowall and Queen St immediately in front of the present court house, as it will not affect the traffic.
Carried"

In the Western Star following on the 10th of June 1899, some comment was made on the proposal for the new building.
"The new Roma Court House, when erected, will be a real ornament to the town. A plan has been prepared, and a site selected and approved by both the Commissioner of Police and the Police Magistrate. The site upon which the court house is to be built is that piece of land just opposite the present court house, and a great advantage has been secured by the council agreeing to close that small road in front of the court house, between McDowall and Queen Sts. All the buildings connected with the court house and police quarters will now be on one block. The new building will face McDowall St, is to be 8' longer and 5' wider than the present one. The offices of the Police Magistrate and the C.P.S. are much better designed than the present offices and much more comfortable. The judge and attorney general will have separate chambers, and there is also a separate room for solicitors to the right of the vestibule. There is a waiting room for female witnesses, with the lavatory to the left of the vestibule. The arrangement of the interior if the court house also shows an improvement. The dais is at the end of the room, with the table for the CPS in front. The dock is a few feets within the railing which fences the public off, and the table for the solicitors lies between the dock and the C.P.S. table. On the right are the jury benches, while the left side is occupied by the witness box near the judge, the press tables, and the seat for the witnesses that have been examined. There is a verandah on each side of the main building, and one the whole length of the end of the building, with a store room at the other end and a bathroom at the other. It is evidently intended to make the Court House a comfortable place in winter as there are eight fireplaces in it. The estimated cost for the structure is £2850 (note the actual tendered price further below), but by the time it is furnished and fitted properly the cost will probably be £1000 more. We trust that tenders will be invited at once, and the work commenced as soon as possible."

The Western Star of the 15th of May 1901 reports on the progress of works:
"The work of constructing the new court house is progressing satisfactorily indeed. The principal parts of the structure have been roofed, the material used being tiled iron, which has not heretofore been used in buildings in Roma. There are altogether some eighteen artisans employed, and from the rapidity and carefulness with which their labour is executed it is evident that each takes a pride in work allocated to them. Several skilled plasterers are at present occupied upon the upper part of the walls, and the mouldings are really works of art. All the joinery connected with the structure has, we are informed, been executed on the premises. So far the greatest difficulty the contractor (Mr Renwick) has met with has been the engagement of competent and suitable house carpenters. Men have been brought from the larger towns to fill necessary vacancies, but few have come up to the required standard of efficiency. The interior of the building is yet in an unfinished condition, but a visitor can see from the large amount of moulding and other ornamental work that is required, when finished, the court room will merit the admiration of the most competent critic. Mr H.P. Johnson, the Government Inspector who is superintending the operations, speaks in the highest terms of the work that has been done, and declares that no other building in the State has more delicate and scientific labour been expended. It is expected in about three weeks a start will be made upon the interior of the structure. Altogether the work has reached a most interesting stage."

The Western Star of the 4th of December 1901 reports on the progress of works:
"Completion of the contract to be handed over on Friday.
After a period of some sixteen months - the time occupied in its erection - the finishing touches are now being added to the new Court House in Roma. It will be remembered that the Works Department invited tenders in May 1900, and from eight estimates put in, that of Mr Renwick at £6015 was accepted. Work was commenced almost immediately and by September had so far progressed that everything was in readiness for the laying of the foundation stone. This interesting ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Roma for that year (Alderman JM Hunter) on the 4th of September (for which I am assuming there is a report as yet undiscovered in the Western Star) Since that time the contractor has kept his men continuously employed, with the result that now nothing needs to be done except to formally hand over the structure to the representative of the Works Department. The Chief Government Architect is expected to arrive in Roma on Thursday, and will take possession of the building on the following day.
The fulfilment of the contract has been left in the hands of Mr A Renwick, the direction and supervision of work having been entrusted to Mr PH Johnson, Government Inspector.
The building occupies a prominent site in McDowall St West (this area still referred to at the time as the Western Suburbs) upon an allotment adjoining that upon which the old court house stands. The principal external features have already been described in our columns. The interior presents an appearance of marble, though, ??ality (in reality??), the material used is Keen's ??nt (cement??). The mouldings, castings, Ionic & ??(Doric?) columns are all beautifully sculpted. Mr Johnson gives every credit to the plasterers for the excellence of the work. The men thus employed ??..?? most scientific to be ??..?? and worked under the ??..?? (plasterer??) John Weir, of Toowoomba. All the joinery work connected ?? (with the??) Court House has been done ?? foreman in this branch being ??. Some idea of the amount of work required may be estimated by the fact that no less than 14,000 ?? were used. The plumbing was ?? (laid??) by Mr George Watson, of ??. The rooms of the building ?? (are painted??) with selected colours, the court room proper being a light green. Apparently the best material has been used in the building, even the steps at the entrances are composed of granite chippings (which cost £3 per yard landed in Roma), covered with slate. Generally speaking the new Court House is one of the best finished structures in these States, and reflects the greatest credit upon all who were connected with its erection.
Tenders have been invited by the Government for the necessary furniture for the interior, and it is expected the Court House will be formally opened in February next, on the occasion of the District Court sittings."
Due to major damage to many of the early Western Stars, some of the text has been reasonably reconstructed. Where it is unrecoverable it is left as ??. Where there is a reasonable assumption, I have included it in italics. Where the text is obvious, I have simply filled it in.

It is quite amusing to note that with the court house built in 1901, and operating in 1902, that in 1903 the Western Star was reporting that the Roma Gaol was to be closed, with the associated officers being retrenched with 2 months paid leave, it being assumed that the officers would be able to rejoin the force due to the high attrition rate at the time. This in essence made Roma a short term lockup for no longer than 30 days incarceration, which I believe is still the case. Part of the reasoning at the time was that there were markedly less long term prisoners at Roma than had historically been the case in times gone by. Previous permanent incarcerations had been in the mid thirties per day, but by this time it had fallen by at least 50% and declining. It was also reasoned by the locals that as the most of the supplies for the gaol were sent from Brisbane, the closure would have no real impact on the community at large.

The gaol buildings were not put up for tender to be removed until 1923, and apparently had fallen into such disrepair they were considered an eyesore.

Being a government building, Council has had no plans for this structure at any point in history. The only records we have is a drainage plan from when the building was renovated a number of years ago, and a general site layout from the 1960 surveys for the sewering of town.

Plans of it's original construction have since been furnsihed. When possible, some scans of the plans and current photography will be added.