Mt Benson Hall remains community asset after 100 years

Mount Benson Hall celebrates centenary

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CELEBRATION: Mount Benson's James and Laura Holme, Brian Ling, Lachie Holme and Jeanette Emery get ready to celebrate the hall's centenary.

CELEBRATION: Mount Benson's James and Laura Holme, Brian Ling, Lachie Holme and Jeanette Emery get ready to celebrate the hall's centenary.

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Rural SA is dotted with crumbling, disused halls from a bygone era, but the hall at Mount Benson is still well and truly in use 100 years after the final stone was laid.

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Rural SA is dotted with crumbling, disused halls from a bygone era, but the hall at Mount Benson is still well and truly in use 100 years after the final stone was laid.

Many travellers on the highway between Kingston and Robe might have seen the Mount Benson Hall flash by out the window without giving it a second thought.

But to the locals, the well-maintained hall, built of local limestone, remains the pride of the district.

Many of their big life events have been celebrated there, from 21st birthdays to engagement parties, and 100 years on the hall is still in use by the CFS as a training centre and several other community groups.

In the past century it has been used as a school, a multi-denominational church, a meeting place for both the women's and men's ag bureaus and during the late 1990s and 2000s it was a cellar door, offering some of the wine region's top drops.

EARLY YEARS: An early photo of the Mount Benson Hall from 1922, including school teacher Miss Derby, second from right. The hall was used for school lessons until 1952.

EARLY YEARS: An early photo of the Mount Benson Hall from 1922, including school teacher Miss Derby, second from right. The hall was used for school lessons until 1952.

On March 12 the hall committee will hold the first of the year's centenary celebrations, being one of the locations for the Festival of Small Halls Tour.

The night will feature Scottish ensemble The Paul McKenna Band and emerging Australian singer-songwriter Alana Wilkinson, as well as Robe local Verity Quinlan-Watson who will play the bagpipes.

Lachie Holme has fond memories of card parties every Friday night and old style dances once a month in the 1950s, but says the hall has had many more uses.

He is a distant cousin to the stone mason Doug Holme who, with the help of local volunteers, erected the building on land donated by George Nunan.

Soon after its opening, Lachie says it was leased to the Education Department and used as a school until 1952.

Another local Brian Ling, who attended school across the road, remembers the end of term concerts and school plays still held in the hall.

"None of us kids ever went to John Martins (department store) in Adelaide so it was the only place you would see Father Christmas," he said.

Lachie and Brian say there has been a "bit of luck" along the way for the hall with a number of grants and the state government donating the old school grounds back to the community in the 1980s.

This land was sold and has helped fund the upkeep of the hall.

Jeanette Emery says the hall is a "real asset", keeping the community connected.

She says the turning point came in the mid 2000s when the hall was re-developed with locals volunteering many hours to make the grant go further.

"That opened up a lot of community pride and more activities to use the hall, prior to that it was becoming a little bit tired," she said.

The next generation of residents, James and Laura Holme also appreciate the hall's historical significance and want to see it flourish for many years to come.

"Living out here is different to living in town even though Kingston is only a small town. You are more connected to everyone out here - the last Christmas do everyone brought a plate, it was great," she said.

Late last year the hall committee received a $2500 grant from the Robe District Council to replace a section of the roof and they are applying for other grants to complete the project.

  • Tickets for the Festival of Small Halls Tour are available for $25 at both the Robe and Kingston Visitor Information Centres or online through the Mount Benson Hall Facebook page HERE
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