The Town Hall

The grand old lady sitting pride of place near the top of Bow Street celebrated her 90th birthday a couple of years ago with little fanfare.

From the first pouring of concrete in 1929, the Raglan Town Hall has seen many iterations in her lifetime but she continues to be a well-used community building.

Raglan Town Hall committee believes the hall is a huge asset to the community.

“We work so hard to maintain and enhance it, and would like to reach out to the community to take a deeper sense of ownership, belonging and care towards it.”

The hall committee is calling out for new committee members and a new maintenance manager (this is a paid position).  

“Keeping the hall as a community-run facility is important, it gives us ownership, guardianship and a deeper sense of pride” 

She is and was a labour of love, with stories told of the community pouring the hand-mixed concrete up makeshift ramps by the wheelbarrow load to lay the first foundations.

Like many buildings of her era, the town hall was built in Art Deco-style to follow the latest of trends of the time.

She may have been all glamour out the front but out the back the toilets were cleared weekly by a night cart contractor– you can still see the night cart hole if you look below Raglan Radio. Those keen enough to climb through the night cart hole snuck into the movies free of charge.

Back then, local government all over the country took a strong role in building public entertainment venues.

Raglan Town Hall was no different, she was a main source of entertainment for the locals up until the 1970s.

They may have been months, if not years, out-of-date but the movies shown would have provided escape from day-to-day life and a chance to catch up with friends and family.

The hall still has the projector room above the main entrance, which is now used for storage, and the ticket booth is now the broom cupboard to the left of the main entrance.

By the 1980s, she was all but derelict.  The windows were all broken, piles failing and the only occupants were nesting birds.

Due to the hall’s poor condition Waikato District Council meetings were held at the fire station.

The initial maintenance work was led by Pablo Rickard and done by the local health and fitness trust.  The vision was to create a much-needed gym for the rugby boys to train. 

Armed with brawn and a bit of know-how, they re-piled and reinforced the floor, with help from other community members to paint and fix the interior.  

In 1994, the community claimed back the town hall management from the WDC and established a hall committee, as subcommittee of the Raglan Community Board. 

Local creative Rosie Worsp designed the iconic colour scheme for the hall in the 90s.  

Many locals have dedicated hours of work towards the hall’s upkeep and development – Wayne Morris, Steve Soanes, Pablo Rickard, Leo Power, Clint Baddeley, Jocelyn Hartstone, Patti Mitchley and Kay Warren to name a few.  

The grand old lady gets plenty of use these days and according to the WDC she is one of the most sustainable halls in the district.

There are weekly afterschool activities, dancing, boxing, plus health and fitness in the gym downstairs, Nia, community meetings, funerals, weddings, workshops, live music gigs, theatre and arts events.  

The hall committee initiated a targeted rate for the hall and the Raglan Old School Arts Centre to provide funds for maintenance and enhancement of the building.  

Over the past four years, local Gavin Melgren has repainted the entire hall to highlight the Art Deco design. The interior has had a full repaint in a new colour scheme, bringing more attention to the stage and enhancing the design details.  

The next project on the committee’s agenda is to refurbish the women’s toilets area. 

Pop into the Raglan Library and chat to staff about how you can be part of the Raglan Town Hall committee.

Images thanks to Molly McCabe – Honey Studios.