A cor­ner­stone of study

Prize win­ner re­searches the se­crets on how a cen­tury-old build­ing has thrived

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Vera Ber­tola

MANY have faded into the pages of his­tory books, but the Rooty Hill School of Arts is a liv­ing – and thriv­ing – ex­am­ple of NSW’s early pas­sion with learn­ing.

The schools of art thrived in the 19th and early 20th cen­turies and, ac­cord­ing to am­a­teur his­to­rian Les­lie Tod, “they were the fore­run­ners of to­day’s com­mu­nity cen­tres, adult ed­u­ca­tion classes, tech­ni­cal col­leges and li­braries, all rolled into one”.

Mr Tod un­cov­ered the his­tory of the Rooty Hill School of Arts in his win­ning pa­per for the an­nual Black­town May­oral His­tory Prize.

The Rooty Hill build­ing, he said, was the only one of three school of arts in Black­town that had sur­vived.

It’s longevity was be­cause it was of the brick con­struc­tion – un­like the Black­town and Prospect build­ings.

“The bricks were quar­ried from the pad­dock be­hind it,” Mr Tod said.

“It was very typ­i­cal of the build­ings of the day, ba­sic. Black­town Coun­cil had its first meet­ing there.”

Mr Tod said the cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance of the schools of art around NSW had never prop­erly been recog­nised.

“They bore the imprint of those who estab­lished and pa­tro­n­ised them,” he wrote in his pa­per.

“In an era of short ed­u­ca­tion, they pro­vided to adults, work­ers and par­ents, a venue in which to con­tinue learn­ing through adult classes on a va­ri­ety of top­ics, and a li­brary, usu­ally of sev­eral thou­sand books, from which to learn .

“They also pro­vided the work­ing man with a quiet so­cial venue al­ter­na­tive to lo­cal ho­tels.

“It was a pic­ture show the­atre for many years, from the 1930s-60s, kinder- garten, preschool, li­brary … it was many things over the years. It was also used for ev­ery­thing else like dances and birth­days.”

They bore the imprint of those who estab­lished and pa­tro­n­ised them

Mr Tod’s fi­nal words on the school were an en­dorse­ment of its prac­ti­cal­ity.

“It is still in com­mu­nity use, although not for the pur­poses en­vis­aged back in the early 1900s … Yet it con­tin­ues to serve the com­mu­nity for which it was built more than a cen­tury later.”

Les­lie Tod won the Black­town May­oral His­tory Prize with a pa­per on the Rooty Hill School of Arts and (be­low) the build­ing’s foun­da­tion stone. Pic­ture: Justin San­son HIS­TORY UN­COV­ERED Rich and re­ward­ing

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