Carilla Hall

Carilla Hall

Research by Gordon Freegard

14th December 1924 Sunday Times
The matter of the erection of a public hall on the Pickering Brook recreation reserve was discussed at the last meeting of the Darling Range Road Board. Members expressed their approval of the proposition, and in addition to a sum previously approved, unanimously it decided to add a further amount making 25 pound ($50). Pickering Brook is the centre of a growing district and the need of a hall has been severely felt for a long time. Much of the work will be done by local residents, among whom considerable enthusiasm exists in respect to the provision of this long-needed facility. It was stated that arrangements had been completed whereby the material for the erection of the hall would be provided, and it was expected an early start will be made on the construction. A meeting of residents was held recently at Pickering Brook, and a hall committee elected. The action taken had the approval of the Board.

21st December 1924 Sunday Times
Mr. B. Bevan, Hon. Sec. of the Pickering Brook District Hall Committee writes:-
“In your issue of December 14th appears a par anent a proposed public hall for Pickering Brook, for which the Darling Range Road Board has granted 25 pounds ($50). As both hall and grant are in direct opposition to the expressed desire of the residents of Pickering Brook district, I trust you will allow me to explain the reasons for the residents’ attitude on this question.

Briefly, the facts are as follows:- Two years ago Mr. Weston sought to interest the residents of Pickering Brook district in the matter of a public hall. Mr. Frank Weston, J.P., as a member of the Darling Range Road Board, secured a block of land on the water catchment area upon which it was proposed to erect the hall. At that period the majority of settlers (soldier settlers) were too busy working seven days a week, clearing their blocks, to take much interest in halls or sites, and the project fell through. On October 26th the question was resuscitated, when Mr. Mark Hayes convened a public meeting to discuss the advisability of building a hall. This meeting was held in the Pickering Brook School, and attendance was a record for any meeting held in the district. The question of a site was an open one, and was thoroughly discussed in every detail, and it was decided by practically an unanimous vote that the site on the recreation reserve was an undesirable one.

The principal reasons for this decision were –
(1) The recreation reserve site being on the water catchment area militated against its permanency;
(2) That as the greater portion of the residents resided in the vicinity of No. 1 (Mill) (1 1/2 miles from Pickering Brook, and as all future settlement must inevitably radiate from that centre, the hall would best serve the majority by being built in that vicinity.
(3) That the surveyors had recognised the second reason by surveying the only townsite in the district at No 1.
(4) The site decided on adjoining the Pickering Brook School, besides providing a much-needed recreation ground for the school children, was a natural geographical meeting place of the residents, for at this centre all roads and gullies along which the settlers have their holding coverage.

This question having been settled, the following Committee was elected – Chairman, Mr, Mark Hayes; Treasurer, Mr. J. Shaw; Secretary, Mr. Bert Bevan; Committee, Messrs. G. Weston, A. Palmer, J. Howard, H. Neave and T. Hayward.

“To the ordinary fair-minded individual this decision of the people would have been sufficient, but we hadn’t reckoned with Mr. F. Weston, J.P., our Road Board Member, who never attended the meeting, nor a subsequent one to which I invited him as the leading resident of the district. Mr. F. Weston was wedded to the Pickering Brook site, and he evidently intends building a hall there whether the people want it or not, for at a later date (November 26th) he convened another public meeting for the purpose of electing another Committee. This meeting was held on a Wednesday Night, a time most inconvenient for a good attendance, but the roll-up was not to the liking of Mr. F. Weston. It was too large and too enthusiastic at the finish – against his proposal. If there is one thing that I deplore it is dissension amongst settlers in these small locations, and I used every endeavour at that meeting to induce Mr. Weston to abandon his evident desire to flout the will of the majority of the people concerned as to the site for a hall, and pledged my Committee to work for the consummation of the project., whichever way it went, but Mr. Weston refused to take a vote. He said he would make the matter an issue of the next Road Board election or would take a vote of the ratepayers of the Heidelberg Ward, but refused to allow the people materially concerned to have a say in the matter. He then proceeded to elect a Committee. He nominated himself as Chairman, and for the Committee his brother (Mr. H. Weston), his brother-in-law (Mr. S. Eatts), his partner (Mr. S. Smailes), and someone nominated Mr. Shadforth. When this Committee was submitted to the vote of the meeting it was defeated by a 3 to 1 majority, but notwithstanding this vote Mr. Weston declared his alleged Committee elected and induced the members of the Road Board to grant the 25 pounds mentioned.

I don’t know what statements have been circulated about this matter, and as the diggers around here object to dictators of this kind, they have asked me to place the matter before you. I have gone into the matter as fully as possible, and as proof conclusive of the bona fides of these statements I am submitting for your perusal a copy of a petition which I intend sending to the next Road Board meeting. The list is incomplete, but there are sufficient names (56) to indicate the feeling of the people, and the total already represents three-quarters of the population in this immediate district.

The people of the district built the hall in 1925, timber cutters, sleeper cutters, mill hands and a limited number of primary producers laid down jarrah planks, which later became the floor of the hall when the roof and walls were constructed some two years later. To protect their precious open aired dance floor, the people poured a 10 cm layer of sawdust over the floor after each gathering. This protected the floor from the rain and the sun.

Rare Photo of Carilla Hall Taken in 1950. Baby Jill Weston in the Pram

Despite the lack of a roof and walls, dances were held weekly and other functions on a regular basis such as engagements, wedding receptions and twenty first birthdays. The hall was the social centre for the area and surrounding towns and settlements, people traveled many miles to enjoy the social gatherings.

The History of Kalamunda by John Slee and Bill Shaw (pub. Kalamunda Council 1979)

Money was scarce. Most of the orchard builders had taken up Government loans under the soldier settlement scheme the Act of 1918. They had to clear virgin bush and jarrah forest, build homes and plant their crops. Entertainment beyond the district was out of the question. Social life had its centre at the Carilla hall.

“Practically everyone used to turn up for the dances. Babes in arms would stay in arms or in prams, scamps of boys and girls would occupy themselves usefully by sliding up and down the dance floor between dances on Hessian bags, serving the dual purpose of amusing themselves and keeping the jarrah floorboards slippery”.

“The Queen never slept there. And the national Trust had never heard of it, but the folk of Pickering Brook treasured the memories of the Carilla Hall”.

Through the Depression and the often tragic situations, the Carilla Hall was a sturdy prop to flagging spirits. Many a romance bloomed on the open-air floorboards. This is where young hearts fluttered under the starlight skies.

The players of the original orchestra were Mrs. Bevan, Claude French who was a fireman on the spur line to Barton’s Mill and August Keyser. The master of ceremonies was a sleeper cutter Mark Hayes, with a booming voice. He would announce the dances such as the Barn Dance, the Gay Gordon, the Maxina and the Pride of Erin, but was most dubious about the new craze called Jazz.

Alice Beard played the piano at many of the regular various functions held in the hall over numerous years, helped by her husband Bert, and Bill McCorkill. She was a very generous woman and did a lot of “gratis” work for school balls, concerts, etc.

“When Alice played you HAD TO DANCE”. said Greg Weston.


The Carilla hall stood as a monument to the pioneers of the district and it was a sad decision and a sad day when the Kalamunda Shire on the 24th June 1985 decided to dismantle the hall and sell it to a good contender. It was finally demolished and taken away late August through to early September 1985.

Reference: Article: Cala Munnda A Home in the Forest
Daily Advertiser
Sunday Times

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 15 Kalamunda Library
8, 10 Gordon Freegard
5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14 Pickering Brook Heritage Group
16, 17 Lee Evans
18 Julie Seymour

A Bush Ball

Published in the Sunday Times Sunday 10th September 1933 and the Western Mail Thursday 7th September 1933

There is no need of the Police Patrol to speed to the average country dance. Particularly the balls situated in the heart of the big timber country, where homeliness and a bush bonhomie exists that tolerates larrikinism in no shape or form whatever.
Last week a representative of this paper made one of a party of city visitors to a plain and fancy dress ball in the Carilla Hall, Pickering Brook, a picturesquely situated centre of terpsichorean ability and agility. Proceeds were in aid of the Anzac House building fund.
City residents accustomed to reading newspaper stories of the metropolitan and suburban kick-ups where hooligans play pinky pranks, demanding the presence of a police patrol, are astonished to find these rural dances models of decorum and decency, the robust youth of the district, male and female, being too proud of the good name of their particular locality to allow it to be smudged by larrikinism.
Broad-shouldered young men, with honest sunburn on their hands and faces, damsels and young women of the deep bosomed, healthy type who are the promise of a study future generation, combine in these gatherings to give the lie to the assertion of the degeneration of the British race.
Coming from farm and orchard work, timber mills and general outdoor toil in the sweet-scented forest, the young women of the type seen in dairies, homely kitchens and timber-getters’ camps are true mates of the shy but reliant young men who are their future husbands and the fathers of a new and promising posterity.
An orchestra, more remarkable for loudness and vibrancy than of delicate mellifluousness, enables these devotees of dancing to “chase the glowing hours with flying feet,” and bring into their lives that spice of variety without which their lives would be dull and uninteresting.
Last week a large attendance from Kalamunda, Karragullen, Barton’s Mill, Welshpool and Perth, had an enjoyable evening. A free bus service from Kalamunda attracted two full loads, and by 9 p.m. the Carilla Hall, Pickering Brook, was full to capacity with bright eager young men and women, intent on nothing else than the clean old fashioned quadrilles, waltzes, polkas, schottisches, lancers etc., interspersed with the newer jazz, tango, etc. The hall, a large one for the seemingly sparse population, was tastefully decorated with streamers, ribbons, flags, etc., the light being also a local product, a patent vapor oil giving ample illumination. A splendid supper was supplied by the ladies of the district. The music was rendered by Clarrie O’Keefe’s orchestra, from Subiaco, and was enjoyed by everyone.
Some of the fancy costumes would have gained applause and prizes in a metropolis, the whole of the material and make-up being grown or woven, sewn and otherwise put together by indigenous experts.
The guest of honour was Mr. R. S. Sampson. M.L.A., the member for the district, who, in conjunction with Mrs. Fulgrabe and Mr. O’Keefe, sen., acted as judges for the costumes. The costumes worn by some of the dancers were most original, and the judges had quite a difficult task of awarding the prizes. A particularly striking double was that of “Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday” (Messrs. Beard and Thorpe), while the most original, a “Farmer Cocky” (Mr. Ellery), was a triumph of realism and ingenuity, real live parrots perching on his shoulder, with an equally-agile possum in his arms.
The best poster lady, “The Sunday Times’ Crossword,” was won by Miss Eversden, of Kalamunda; the best characters (“No flies on Auntie”), Mrs. Beard and Miss Ashe; neatest dress, Miss Roads; best dressed lady, Miss Glover; and two special prizes, Mrs Beard and Miss Ashe. Two other well-sustained character were “Father TIme” (Mr. Cabassie), and “Lifebouy Soap” (Mr. Fernie).
Altogether the Carilla dance was a remarkably fine function and reflected credit, not only on its participants but on those responsible for its carrying out, Mesdames Crocus, Padgett, Williams, Mann, Wendt and Weston. Mr. Jesse Moore was Master of Ceremony.

Reference: Article: The Sunday Times and the Western Mail