Unlocking the Past: Japanese fair was one of many events held at Sharp's Hall, Abermain

STUNNING IMAGE: The Church of England held a Japanese-themed fair at Sharp's Hall, Abermain in 1910. The hall, also known as Garrett’s Hall and Buffalo Hall, was demolished in 1931. Picture: Cessnock City Library
STUNNING IMAGE: The Church of England held a Japanese-themed fair at Sharp's Hall, Abermain in 1910. The hall, also known as Garrett’s Hall and Buffalo Hall, was demolished in 1931. Picture: Cessnock City Library

The humble community hall was once one of the most important hubs in rural and regional Australia.

Within its walls communities of all kinds found a space to meet, to organise, to mourn and to celebrate.

The hall was a public space where all sectors of a community could come together and in doing so it was a place which helped build a sense of belonging to a region or a town.

One hall which no longer remains is Sharp’s Hall at Abermain. Located on the corner next to the Abermain Hotel, at Charles and William Street, it was a large wooden building which became a central meeting venue for Abermain’s citizens.

Opening in 1909 its name seems to indicate that it was built by the then-publican of the Abermain Hotel, Thomas Sharp. The local miners quickly found it a perfect place for their meetings and they patronised it so regularly that it was sometimes referred to as ‘the miner’s hall’.

It was the centre of social events for the whole community, some of which had a philanthropic purpose: to fund a library at the Abermain Public School and to raise money to fund the local fire brigade.

Sharp’s Hall was proudly non-denominational hosting social events for the Catholic, Methodist and Church of England churches. The women’s branch of the Political Labour League met there and at election time local and State government candidates addressed their constituents in meetings sometimes described as ‘fiery’.

Blows were traded in the hall, but not in the political arena. Boxing matches were held in Sharp’s Hall their popularity drawing large crowds and packing it to capacity. 

In November 1910 the Church of England held a beautiful event in the hall. A Japanese Fair saw stalls selling Japanese-themed goods and attended by women dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. There was a Geisha Tea Room, maypole dances, a violin recital and performances of song and the pianoforte.

In this photo the stall holders pose at the side of Sharp’s Hall, looking lovely and rightfully pleased with themselves, the fair was a financial success raising the princely sum of more than £26 for the Church of England fund.

For another two decades the hall continued to be an important meeting place for the community. It changed names a number of times becoming known as Garrett’s Hall and also Buffalo Hall before finally being demolished in October 1931.

Kimberly O’Sullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock City Library

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