History – Part 2

This donated lot behind Main Street was offered, with Kingston as the inspiration, for a farmer’s market and a hall. It was, in effect, a civic centre … market stalls, an engine hall for fire engines with hose tower, council chambers, a clerk’s residence and an upstairs public hall.

Part of our farming heritage

Our hall’s a part of our farming heritage”

There was first a farmer’s market in Picton since 1833, but no hall. By 1878 a survey shows the area, named Market Square, with a town hall, as well as a market building, called the Butter Market and a weigh scale

We have an early 20th century memory of the Farmer’s market market from a Picton resident. She went there with her aunt and describes an open-air section, not unlike the 1910 photograph [below]. Also a two-storey enclosed building.

“Downstairs was the meat-market on scrubbed tables…all kinds of freshly butchered meats: pork, beef, veal, mutton, lamb and poultry … smoked hams, bacon and great rounds of cheddar cheese. The upstairs tables were filled with rows of market baskets, lined with spotless towels … fat rolls of butter, colour varied with this season and variety of breed of cattle.”

She describes prices from her aunt’s 1910 accounts book.

  • 1 double loaf of bread 5 cents
  • 1/2 doz. sweet rolls 5 cents
  • 2lb. roll of butter 50 cents
  • 1lb potted head cheese 8 cents
  • 1 doz fresh eggs (large) 10 cents

And there was a farmer’s market here again in the 1980’s and 2000’s.

Part of serving the community

The Hall has served the community well.

Many different community groups have bustled through these hall doors. In its first year, upstairs rentals totalled $80 (or $670 today.) An amendment passed that there should be no rental charged for non-commercial ventures, recognizing their need for affordable space.”

The very first petition from Picton citizens to use the upstairs hall, in 1867, came from the Lodge of the Good Templars of Picton, a prohibition group.

From its beginning, its been used in lots of ways charity fundraisers, lectures, badminton, a temporary schoolroom, Tai Chi, bridge, Scottish piping.

And dancing. Line dancing, ballet dancing, Scottish dancing, contemporary dancing. In the 1870’s dancing was prohibited then allowed, but only with council paying a policeman to oversee.

Community initiatives for youth and family, like the popular Firelight Lantern Festival were able to get their start because of the hall. They needed affordable, spacious quarters for workshops.

© Ramesh Pooran / Wellington Times

Another community group, Food Not Bombs, has been able, over the years, to offer free community meals and fun, important in a region with a severe food security problem.

This community effort is at the other end of a long tradition. In 1867 Walter Ross’s daughter sang with friends and neighbours at a fundraising concert from which proceeds were “allocated to purchase food and fuel for the poor“.

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