The Municipal District of Musclebrook was established on 13th April 1870 (NSW Government Gazette No. 83, Wednesday, 13/4/1870). Although commonly known as the Municipality of “Muswellbrook”, the Council was officially named the Municipality of “Musclebrook”. It was not until 25th February, 1949 that the name was officially changed to “Muswellbrook” (Government Gazette No.27).
Originally Located in the Current Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre
In early times, the Municipal Office was situated at the rear of the School of Arts Building, situated on the north-eastern corner of the intersection of Bridge Street and William Street, Muswellbrook. The School of Arts Committee handed over the building to the Municipal Council in 1950. The Council converted the School of Arts building to Muswellbrook Town Hall. The Muswellbrook Town Hall was converted to the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre in 2000. Considerable damage occurred to the School of Arts Building in a fire that took place in 1926. Planning began for a new building.
Council Office moved to the New QEII Building in 1937
Following a fire in 1926, planning began for a new building to be built on the Town Hall Reserve (now known as Simpson Park, named after former Town Clerk Mr. H. E. Simpson). The Municipal Council Chambers was opened on 7th August, 1937. The area in front of the Municipal Offices was named Queen Elizabeth II Square in honour of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
In 1961 the building was extended. Further extensions and renovation were completed in 1970. These improvements were officially opened on the 13th April, 1970 by the Hon. P. H. Morton MLA, Minister for Local Government and Highways, to commemorate the Municipal Council’s Centenary and Captain Cook Bi-Centenary.
The Former Shire of Denman
The former Shire of Denman had a number of name changes following constitution as the Shire of Wybong in 1906. The first change occurred on the 6th March, 1907 when the name was altered to the Shire of Muswellbrook. A subsequent decision to transfer the Shire headquarters to Denman saw the name changed to the Shire of Denman on 19th April, 1968.
The first meeting of the temporary Council of the Shire of Wybong was held in the Muswellbrook Court House on the 14th June, 1906 with Messrs. E.Bowman, R.T.Keys, J.C.White and H.W.Bell being present. The role of the temporary Council was to oversee the running of the elections for a new council and other administrative functions.
Mr.W.R.Nowland was appointed temporary clerk of the Council on the 21st June, 1906 at a salary of one pound per week and occupied this temporary position until the 20th February, 1907 when he was appointed to the permanent position of Shire Clerk at an annual salary of 200 pounds. It is interesting to note that Mr.Nowland continued to serve the Council in this capacity until 1949.
1906 Council's First Elections
The first poll of electors for the Shire of Wybong was held on the 24th November, 1906 when the following nominees were elected to the office of Councillor-A Riding, E.Bowman and J.C.White; B Riding, T.Blunt and R.T.Keys; C Riding, B.Cowan and E.R.White (Note Riding is the name of a subdivision of the Council’s area. In this case the Shire was divided into 3 ridings with two representatives for each riding. Ridings still exist in local government today 2010. Divisions in City and Municipal Councils are called Wards). The newly elected Council met on the 8th December, 1906 and elected Mr.E.Bowman as Shire President.
Meetings of the Council continued to be held at the Muswellbrook Court House until 20th February, 1907 when the Council occupied rented offices at the Muswellbrook Masonic Hall.
Occupation of these premises continued until 1923 when Council resolved to acquire land in Hunter Terrace, Muswellbrook, for 80 pounds and let a contract to D.Jordan of Muswellbrook for construction of a Council Office in an amount of 1311 pounds.
Consequent upon the decision to move the Shire Headquarters to Denman, new Council Chambers were erected in Ogilvie Street and were officially opened by the Member for Upper Hunter, Mr.F.L.O’Keefe MLA on the 19th May, 1967. (Note Following the amalgamation and move to Muswellbrook, the former Denman Shire building was used as a receipting centre for Council and housed the Denman branch of the Upper Hunter branch of the Upper HunterRegional Library).
Denman and Muswellbrook Amalgamate in 1979
Following an amalgamation of the Shire of Denman and Municipality of Muswellbrook on the 1st July, 1979, the new Council resolved to adopt the name as the Shire of Muswellbrook. The Shire has an area of 3,401 square kilometres and a population of 15,300 (in 2009).
From the amalgamation in July 1979 until August 1986, the Muswellbrook Shire Council operated from the former Municipal Council offices in QEII Square, Muswellbrook.
In the early 1980s it was necessary to convert the Council Chamber into a computer room and offices. A transportable office unit was added to the rear of the building for additional office accommodation. The former Library Building in William Street, which was built in 1958 as part of the Town Hall complex, was renovated and used as the Council meeting room for several years.
Work on Council's New Administration Centre Commences in 1985
In 1983, Council acquired the former “Transfield Site” comprising 6 hectares for $175,000. In September, 1984 Council appointed Mr. Ian McKay of North Sydney to design a new building. Work on the Administration Centre commenced on 12th June, 1985. The building was expected to be completed by March, 1986 but wet weather and industrial disputation delayed the handover until 15th July, 1986.
The cost of the project (building, furniture, landscaping, roads and parking areas) was estimated at $2,750,000. The Council was in the fortunate position of being able to meet this capital cost without placing a direct impost on ratepayers. The project was financed mainly from Infrastructure funds and profits from Council’s very successful land subdivision programme.
The building was officially opened on Saturday 29th August, 1986 by the Hon. Janice Crosio MP, Minister for Local Government.
Information based on the booklet “Souvenir of Official Opening” Muswellbrook Shire Council Administration Centre 29th August 1986. Author not acknowledged. Updated and additional material by Bill Spicer, Executive Officer, Muswellbrook Shire Council, November, 2009