A cornerstone of study
Prize winner researches the secrets on how a century-old building has thrived
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