New life for old St John's halls

The Gwen and Edna Jones Foundation philanthropic group is to embark upon one of its most ambitious projects and turn the old St John’s Presbyterian Church halls into a community resource.

Foundation director James Tait said the foundation aimed to renovate the halls to turn them into a meeting place, rehearsal and performance venue.

Kept for the community: Gwen and Edna Jones Foundation director James Tait outside the St John's halls, which the foundation plans to develop for use by community groups. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Kept for the community: Gwen and Edna Jones Foundation director James Tait outside the St John's halls, which the foundation plans to develop for use by community groups. Picture: Rob Gunstone

St John’s Presbyterian Church is building a new hall adjacent to its historic church in Spence Street and had put the three halls, which are linked together, up for sale.

We were keen to ensure the halls remained a community resource.

James Tait

Mr Tait said the foundation was keen for the historical buildings, which have a central location at the corner of Manifold and Princess streets, to be retained for community use and bought the property earlier this year.

He said the new centre would address the shortage of places where community groups could meet or rehearse.

Some community groups had already expressed an interest in using the halls, he said.

Mr Tait said the halls needed repair and the foundation had asked an architect to provide an assessment of what work was required.

He doubted the halls would be open for occupancy “much before Christmas.”

The halls’ kitchen, which has been recently modernised, is currently used by the Tasty Plate catering business and the halls are used by two dance groups.

Mr Tait said Tasty Plate would relocate from the kitchen at a later stage.

The property comprises three connected halls, each of which have high ceilings, wooden floors and Gothic-style windows.

The hall located to the south-east of the block was the first to be built. It was constructed in 1878 and is called the Main Hall and has a stage.

The Middle Hall was built in the 1890s while the Diamond Jubilee Hall at the corner of Princess and Manifold street was opened in 1909 and commemorates the diamond jubilee of St John’s.

The Diamond Jubilee Hall was built for the St John’s Men‘s Association when the church was the focus of numerous sporting groups. 

The Middle Hall has a stained glass window honouring former St John’s minister Stuart Robertson Bruce who was murdered in China in 1902 during anti-colonial uprisings. It will be transferred to St John’s.