Torquay Improvement Association (TIA)

After traversing the sandy hills on his regular fishing trips to Spring Creek, Harry Rudd urged the government to survey the crown land for the first land sales of the area. The sales occurred on 14th September, 1886 with Rudd being amongst the keen purchasers. Sick of setting up his tent on weekends when he came to Spring Creek to fish he was keen to have a permanent residence so he built his home within three weeks of the purchase. It was of an ‘iron construction’. Others followed, many of them professional men from Geelong who were used to getting things done.

Harry Rudd wanting more done to improve access to Spring Creek called for a meeting to discuss the ratepayers needs of a better road from Geelong. On Thursday 24 January 1889 a meeting took place at the office of J.L. Price resulting in the formation of the ‘Spring Creek Improvement Association’ with the goal of improving the roads carried out by Barrabool Shire Council in the approaches to Spring Creek. Mr. J. L. Price occupied the chair and was unanimously elected to fill that position for the following year. Mr. Rudd was elected Hon. Sec. and Treasurer. Other members of the committee were Messrs Fischer, Calder, W.B. Wilton, W. Beales, H. Taylor and J.W. Taylor. Membership fees were set and money collected helped pay for improvements to Spring Creek Road.

What followed over the years were constant and persistent requests, suggestions and work as a community to build Torquay infrastructure to cater for permanent residents and visitors.

Keen to get things done it was no surprise that the Spring Creek Improvement Association, just eight weeks after its establishment of the Association were thanking council for the repairs being done to Spring Creek Road and drawing attention to the sand hill about 12 miles from Geelong on the road. Council informed the Association that most funds of the Coast Riding had been used for the current budget. At the same time, in another letter the Association requested cooperation of the council in obtaining a permanent reservation of the racecourse and camping ground at Spring Creek. The Association proposed to vest the land in trustees, comprising three of its members, Mayor of Geelong, and three of the councilors of the Barrabool Shire. Council decided to postpone discussion on the matter until they heard from the Government in reference to the land.

At the September meeting, with 27 members in attendance it was decided to apply to the Lands Department for the permanent reservation of the racecourse. Also to request the Postal department to establish a daily mail service between Geelong and Spring Creek using Mr. J. Follett’s coaches. Approaching Barrabool Shire Council over the condition of the main road to Spring Creek also had plenty of discussion and in particular at the Sand Hill and Deep Creek. Council responded by asking for a report on what was needed and the cost. The President made mention that it was unlikely that Council could afford to carry out all the requests from the Association.

By December the Association believed Barrabool Council were slow in responding to their request for Council to repair the toad to Torquay. They decided to write again urging that the worst portions of the road be attended to. JL Price also suggested that maybe they field a candidate at the next Council elections.

In August 1890 the Spring Creek Improvement Association wrote to the Public Works department stating they approved of the alteration in the boundaries where the township of Puebla become part of the shire of South Barwon, and the Spring Creek road be the boundary between the two shires. They then proceeded to ask both Council to share the costs with them in improving the main road which both councils agreed to even though the cost was going to be more than originally thought. Tenders were called.

Twelve months later (December 1891) they are still concerned about the state of the road reporting that many of the necessary improvements to the road leading to the creek had been made by Mr. Follett, proprietor of the Coffee Palace. Concerned about confusion of the name Spring Creek used by other towns, resulting in the delay of mail for several weeks, they resolved to recommend to the shire council that an application be made to the government to change the name of Spring Creek to Torquay after Torquay in England. The initial land sales in 1886 created the gazetted township of Puebla from Bell to Anderson Street, the rest being known as Spring Creek. This proposal will encompass the whole area as Torquay.

At the same time they applied to the Postmaster General for the establishment of a daily mail service between Geelong and Spring Creek, having already arranged with Mr. Follett to carry the mail free of charge for three months. It wasn’t until 29 September, 1892 that the deputy Postmaster General (The Hon. J.H. Connor) agreed to the new name. It then took sixty years before the township of Torquay was proclaimed in the 13 February, 1952 Victorian Gazette.

At the 25 November (1892) meeting there was agreement to alter the name of the association to Torquay Improvement Association. The same meeting arranged for members to be appointed to act with representatives of both shire councils on the deputation to the Minister of Public Works with the aim of erecting a bridge over Deep Creek on the toad to Torquay.

After plans and specifications for a recreation hall were submitted to the meeting by Mr Bell, the meeting agreed that a company should be formed to build a recreation hall in Torquay. It was estimated that the building costs would be £250 so £300 was suggested for the total project. Funding was secured through shares and bank finance.

 

Half the shares required for the company were allotted among those present at the meeting. Messers W. Bell, W.Pride, H.Taylor and W.Wilton were elected a committee to select a site for the hall. Within a month a contract had been accepted by the Public Hall Company Ltd. for the erection of a hall for religious education and recreation purposes. Mr. Durran was the architect and Messrs Taylor and Son the contractors. The hall was 40 x 25 feet with two rooms at the rear. The opening was scheduled for 26 January, 1893.

The depression of the nineties made it difficult for the Torquay Public Hall Company to make repayments on the bank loan so the bank foreclosed putting the hall up for auction. On May 27, 1898 the Torquay Public Hall Company was wound up.

John William Taylor purchased the hall for the residents and the TIA took on the task of clearing the debt by running dances, concerts and later pictures which were run by Arthur (Pop) Taylor, John’s brother.

Torquay & District Historical Society Collection

During 1899 school was conducted in the hall until the school was built in the early 1900’s.

The TIA was the focal point of activities and the base for many community groups in the growing town servicing the needs of the community well until it was destroyed in the 13 March, 1940 bushfire that wiped out half the town.

By the end of the year, in time for the holiday season, a new replacement hall had been constructed. The new hall was opened by the then Premier, Hon. Albert Dunstan.

As the community grew and the hall was not able to meet all the needs discussion took place in 1985 over renovations. The TIA recommended to the Shire in 1986 a new hall for the Surf Coast Plaza which would require substantial contribution from the TIA. Selling assets raised $100,000 which the TIA contributed to the new hall which was estimated to cost $200,000.

 

 

Sources:
Torquay Improvement Association Minutes
Torquay Improvement Association Inc. (1989), One Hundred Years…. A short history
Geelong Advertiser
Government Gazette

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