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With thanks to Malmsbury Historical Society.
The site on which the Malmsbury Mechanics’ Institute hall now stands was once occupied by a Caroline Chisholm shelter shed.
In a letter to his parents in England in 1858, Kish Guy described the shelter shed in less-than-glowing terms. The long building had three sections: a bedroom for the people who ran it, and a kitchen/sitting room and dormitory to provide safe accommodation for families heading to the goldfields.
Travellers slept on the floor or paid extra to lie on one of the “strange-looking machines they call bedsteads” that flanked the room. “You soon find it is by no means the kind of thing to rest your bones upon, there being no bed – unless you call a canvas bag with a hatful of straw in it a bed,” Guy wrote.
The Mechanics’ Institute movement originated in Scotland in 1800 and provided free educational lectures for working men. In February 1862, Malmsbury Council was asked to hold a public meeting to consider “the desirability of establishing a Mechanics’ Institute” in the village. A committee was formed and approached the council for permission to use part of the shelter shed as a reading room and classroom.
The Malmsbury Mechanics’ Institute met for the first time two months later. They built the front portion of the current building in 1876 and added the Federal Hall in 1895.
✍️ Christine Barker, Secretary and Editor of Malmsbury Historical Society.
📘 The Elongated Dog Kennel: 150th Anniversary of Malmsbury Mechanics’ Institute, by Susan Walter (2012). Available from Malmsbury Historical Society, via email, for $20 plus postage.
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